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My writing retreat begins the day after tomorrow.  I have told everyone.  I have cleared my work (the day job) as much as I can, by writing ahead, preparing ahead and warning all clients that I am about to disappear.  And I have even forced my poor husband to leave the country for three weeks.  So there is No Escape: come hell or high water, on Friday I must write.

In that superstitious way of so many of us, I am trying to recreate my successful writing retreat from last year.  I can’t do much about the location – then it was Swiss mountains, now it is Cambridge flatlands – but other things can be emulated.  I was relying on Swiss telly, and the only channel in English was called BBC Entertainment and showed endless reruns of gentle dramas like “The Darling Buds of May”, “Heartbeat” and “The Royal”.  I became ridiculously addicted to the last of these – set in a hospital in a Yorkshire seaside town in the 1960s – and allowed myself one soapy episode a day as long as I had written my required words.  By happy coincidence, “The Royal” is also being shown here in the UK at the moment, and I have been recording it in order to provide myself with the same reward.  In Switzerland they sell some marvellous paprika-flavoured crisps called Zweifels, and again, a bowl a day was on offer to any writer who could complete 2,000 words.  I can’t find them here, but I have located some other paprika-flavoured crunchies, so they will have to do.

With having the house to myself, I can set up and leave all of my writing requirements – laptop, index cards, notebooks, inspirational-mousemat-featuring-photos-of-Richard-Armitage-as-brooding-John-Thornton-from-“North and South”, etc. – on the dining table.  And if I need to put on the bedroom light in the middle of the night to jot down a Plankish piece of inspiration (fingers crossed these do materialise), then it will be only the cat blinking at me in displeasure.

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