Last week I spent five and a half days in the rural Languedoc Roussillon region of France at the house my grandparents have spent 27 summers restoring from a ruin.
I spent 87% of the time worrying about having to come home. The post-holiday blues set in before I’d even left my flat for Stansted. It’s not that home’s bad. It’s just…you know. Work, responsibilities, life, life’s shitty little potholes, having to talk to people and pretend to be normal etc etc.
The area my grandparents chose to settle is an introvert’s dream. Rolling, golden fields as far as the eye can see. A small village across the valley, a scattering of neighbours (mainly farmers) down the hill. At home I live behind a Wetherspoons pub. Five nights a week I fall asleep to the bellowing yells of drunk students playing the twenty-sixth round of some complicated drinking game that involves, as far as I can tell, shouting as loudly as possible in an unpredictable fashion. The thick silence of the French night was heaven. Nothing but the rhythmic chirp of grasshoppers and the occasional car rolling by on the way to Toulouse.
Life in France is good. They know how to bake croissants properly. They also like wine. People in the market are interesting. They wear baggy trousers made from Indian silk and their hair is cool (dreadlocks/braids that kind of thing). Strangers smile and say Bonjour, which is nice because it’s the one of the only French words I know.
The air smells better. Fresh, herby, warm – a hint of garlic at meal times.
I wrote parts of my novel-in-progress in an armchair at the study window, which overlooks golden hills, Cyprus trees and the Montagne Noir (black mountains) – a sweep of grey-blue in the distance. I felt writerly. I felt like I could finish my whole novel sitting there at the window like that, with a cup of tea.
But then the inevitable happened. I had to go home. I had to force my unwilling body onto a plane that would take me back to my real life behind Wetherspoons. My real life with its shitty little potholes. And it made me think, if only a kind billionaire would write me a cheque. I’m not talking millions. Just enough for me to live on for a couple of years so I don’t have to go to an office every day. I can live on the road in my camper van with my puppy (and maybe Matt, if he wants). I can spend my time improving my writing, working towards the Man Booker Prize I promise myself every day that I will win, once I’ve stopped rewriting every stupid sentence of my stupid book three thousand times.
I’m not saying, by the way, that I don’t like my job. I do – I really like it actually, but I’d still rather be an author. Writing is a permanent holiday. Writing is being anybody you like. It’s living a thousand lives in one.
I know, I know. I’m being so ungrateful. But this isn’t one of those #LoveLife posts. This is an honest, self-absorbed, narcissistic sort of post that reflects my honest, self-absorbed, narcissistic sort of self.
Hopefully a billionaire will read this so I can stop whingeing.