I was brought up in West Penwith in Cornwall from the 1960s and so was party to a culture that still spoke of piskies and smugglers and wreckers. Where quillets were still an integral part of the local fisherman’s life – the flowers, grown in the tiny patches of land that clung to the sides of coves, providing a winter income. Where tin mines were not yet museum pieces but a centrifugal force holding the fragile mining communities together. Where the wildness of the north Atlantic coast met the mellow, softer landscapes bordering the English channel. And it imbued my soul.
But it was the land that my father had taken us to. It had been his dream to live there, removing us from the chalk hills of the Chilterns, and so as soon as my son was old enough, we moved to North London. The land of the Fabian society, Spanish Civil War survivors and Heath residents. And although I haven’t lived there as long or as regularly as I would have liked, I consider this my home.
I started writing in Naples; sitting in a cafe bar when the idea came for The woman and the volcano. I had been working in Tuscany on an olive farm as a WWOOFer (Willing Worker on Organic Farms). It hadn’t been a great experience for one reason and another, but what I had appreciated was the rhythm of the day with a decent space for lunch. After the mad rush of London, where I worked as a Teacher of English as a Foreign Language grabbing a sandwich between classes, it was heaven. I was already past the point where I wanted a different lifestyle, but I hadn’t reached the moment where I knew what that included. Sitting there, in the writers’ haunt in a piazza close to the Bay of Naples I had a bit of an epiphany. It was time to write – and to take whatever the consequences of that decision might be.