When it got to Christmas 2014 I realised that I needed a break. I know to some people the entire life of a writer may seem like one long holiday but nevertheless I felt I needed a complete change of scene.
The fact that rural Derbyshire had just disappeared under six inches of snow might have had something to do with it, too, although as a skier I like the white stuff.
So, when the friend-of-a-friend offered me three weeks’ cat-sitting in a villa in Tuscany, how could I turn it down?
The cat in question is a rather beautiful big vocal white animal, who I was warned could be rather stand-offish, but has been glued to me since I got here. She’s smiley-faced and absolutely gorgeous.
The villa is fairly gorgeous too. It’s perched on top of a hill in a small town of tiny narrow streets surrounding the central castello, where only those little three-wheel trucks or Fiat Pandas minus their door mirrors can squeeze between the houses.
Arriving with no Italian whatsoever, I’ve learned to say, “Scusi, parlo molto poco Italiano.” (“Excuse me, I speak very little Italian.”) And how to ask for my café latte in a cup rather than a glass. The locals are friendly and accommodating of my feeble linguistic efforts, but I am aware of being very much on my own here.
Still, it has given me the ideal opportunity to ease myself back into writing, and time to plan what’s on the cards for the year ahead – or at least the first part of it. At the moment I can’t see much beyond the next few weeks, never mind the next few months.
But at least I’m looking forwards instead of looking back, and finally feeling like doors are opening rather than slamming shut.
This week’s Word of the Week is feuilleton, meaning a story published in instalments. It originated when French newspapers began to include separate sections devoted to literature, art, fashion or even fiction, a practice quite normal today but innovative at the time. The word is a diminutive of feuillet, French for sheet of paper, derived from Latin folium, leaf, which we are familiar with as folio, a leaf or page of a book.