I have always been fascinated by the idea of these writers’ retreats that are advertised in the various trade papers. You know the sort of thing: a basic yet cosy cottage miles from anywhere (i.e. removed from the temptation of displacement activities), where you stay either alone or with a community of like-minded writers, with mornings for writing, afternoons for healthy walks, and evenings for reading aloud to each other. Ghastly. The only element of it that I fancy is the undisturbed writing, so I have decided to give it a go and see if it works for me.
In our family we have a minute flat in Switzerland; banish immediately your visions of log fires, jacuzzis and picture windows overlooking majestic Alps, and replace them with images of an Ikea room set in a 1980s block, and you’re just about there. It’s far from luxury, but it’s also far from home and my familiar ways of putting off any actual writing (“I must just check that obscure fact in the University Library rare books collection, then call into Heffers in town and see how the book is selling, then read that other Regency romance to make sure that my jargon is right”). There’s no telephone, and I’m too tight to pay for mobile roaming. There is wifi, but only in the local tourist office. And there are only two telly channels with English language programmes, and one of those is wall-to-wall reruns of “Last of the Summer Wine” and “Heartbeat” – frankly, I’d rather write.
So my plan is this: from 25 June to 25 July I will be out in Switzerland, with a fridge full of meals for one and a diary full of deadlines. If it works (by which I mean, if I manage to write every day and produce something halfway decent), it may become a regular feature on my calendar. If it doesn’t, I’ll apply to “Mastermind” with the specialist subject of “Tragic UK telly series”.