It’s a ‘working’ holiday for me in August this year. I’m visiting Glasgow for the launch of The Cold Cold Sea, and of course I’ll be catching up with as many people as I possibly can, too. Holidays are great – they pull you out of the everyday routine, and they provide you with memories. I’ve been thinking about long-past holidays recently, and how the memories play their part in my writing.
The Cold Cold Sea is a ‘holiday’ book – when the story starts, one of the families involved is actually in the middle of a two week break in Cornwall. Much of the atmosphere in the book is based on my own childhood experiences on holiday near Newquay. My Cornish theme will have a blog post all to itself soon – but there are other holiday places which have sneaked into my writing.
My earliest holiday memories are of the Clyde Coast in Scotland. Beautiful sands, freezing cold water, ice cream cones with a daub of raspberry sauce, funfairs with those machines you dropped coins into. And the seaside ponies. My favourite was a black one called Pixie. I remember staying at different boarding houses and holiday flats in Ayr; one had a little courtyard at the back with flowers, and blistering black paint on the high wooden fence separating the garden from next door’s. We played cricket there, to the dismay of my mother and the detriment of the flowers. Remembering those days, it was the little things that brought the places to life – feeling the paint crack beneath my fingers; the smell of those flowers; hearing the jangly music of the roundabouts on the sea front. All useful memories to bring atmosphere to places in a story.
The Paradise Trees is set in Yorkshire, where we visited family in Ilkley. I remember walking to the Cow and Calf rocks, with the splendid view over the countryside. And we went to some kind of park once; there was a house, and woodland with tall trees and moss on the ground. The same kind of woods are in my book. I have less fond memories of the ‘iron water’ drinking fountain, but maybe it isn’t there anymore!
The novel I’m working on now is a real hotch-potch of memory places. Edinburgh, where I stayed with my godmother as a child and visited often as an adult. Bedfordshire, where friends used to live. The Isle of Arran, where I spent my teenage summers.
But for now, in the run-up to the launch of my second book, it’s the ocean I remember so vividly. Beautiful, strong, unstoppable and never-ending.
The Cold Cold Sea.