This post will also appear on my author page.
Late in 2015, we spent seven weeks road-tripping around the UK. By the end of November, we’d landed at a cottage on a farm just out of Chalford near Stroud in The Cotswolds. It was one of those last minute bookings that I’d made just two nights before when we were getting ready to leave Scotland. We had four nights to fill before we were due in at Devon and Westley Farm appeared on my search engine. As luck would have it they had a cottage available – Cockshutt Cottage – and I booked it on the spot
Although I was on holiday I was writing my third novel and, around the 50,000-word mark, had become stuck. I really had no idea where the story was going or if I even had a story. I also had no real sense of place. The minute we walked into Cockshutt cottage, though, I felt something stir inside of me.
That afternoon we lit the fire and when I should have been writing I sat at the kitchen table and browsed through the River Cottage cookbooks on the kitchen dresser. There were also books on gardening and seasonal produce and that something that had begun to stir inside me became the beginning of an idea.
The next afternoon we wandered up the road to The Jolly Nice Farmshop. It was like no other farm shop I’d seen. Although I’d always had a vague notion of seasonality, I’d never really been actually inspired by it until I laid eyes on the produce. I wanted to cook with it all, even the Brussels Sprouts – especially the Brussels Sprouts which I’d never seen presented like that before. The Brussels we see are in little plastic boxes and wrapped in yet more plastic. They’re not on stalks like these ones were.
Jolly Nice also had an entire back area devoted to Christmas goodies. Even though we’d been to countless Christmas markets by this time, seeing all of this food in this environment I was suddenly struck with the possibility of what Christmas could be. In my head, I could see tables laden with the food of my Christmas dreams, a fire burning in the grate, and layers and layers of textured warmth.
I also had the story that would become Wish You Were Here.
That evening, after a dinner at The Bell at nearby Sapperton, I went back to Cockshutt Cottage and sketched out my fictional Cotswolds town – Brookford. Cockshutt Cottage became Curlew Cottage – with a reasonable amount of artistic licence. If you’re interested, I wrote about it on my author page. You’ll find the link here. Over the next few nights, I wrote the first 10,000 words of Wish You Were Here.
I’m back in Brookford and Curlew Cottage, virtually speaking, for my current work in progress Christmas At Curlew Cottage.
It’s a story that’s been lurking in my head ever since we visited the Jolly Nice Farmshop on that grey late November afternoon in 2015 – and I’m having so much fun revisiting it through the words. We’ll be back there for real for Christmas this year – and I can’t wait.
Wish You Were Here is available on ebook and in paperback. You can read more about it and where to get it here.