FIELD TRIP TWO – WARWICK

Thw White Swan
I had the best of intentions when heading out to Warwick, of descending upon old people’s homes and cold-calling people with the same surnames as the pioneers of the area I’ve been researching, but when I got to The White Swan and it’s hand-hewn sandstone walls, its magic took hold of me and all I wanted to do was sit on the verandah near the roses, breathing in their perfume and writing.

Hand-hewn sandstone

Hand-hewn sandstone

Just what I needed. When tackling a project as enormous as Dear Madman, I’m having to learn new ways of doing things. Not only the researching aspect, but the necessity of breaks – to contemplate, to let my mind find connections between all the disparate facts I’ve collected. To let the voices of my characters find me.

I took some drives and long walks in the countryside and absorbed the sounds and sights and smells. I tore off a willow branch and stripped it, felt the sting of it on my palm, to know what it had felt like for my dear madman, punished as a boy. I sat on bales of hay and imagined what it would have been like to sleep in a shed full of it. Inhaled the saltiness of cows.

Then I came back to The White Swan and watered the roses, and began to imagine a life spent primarily outdoors. Where the fields were more home than the barn you slept in. Where beasts of burden were comrades, not picturesque additions to a pastoral scene. I put my hand on the sandstone and felt the years between us fall away. Had these very pick marks been made by my madman?

This is a very different world I’m entering. How does a pampered twenty-first century woman, imagine life as a barely literate laborer over one hundred years ago.

I’m attempting to write my way into the past and make it, somehow, ring true and feel real.

he old cemetery and The White Swan

he old cemetery and The White Swan