It struck me this morning, as I drove back from the gym, that it is extremely hard to separate fact from fiction. Or is that just me? My fiction draws from my life experiences; I still have vivid recollections of the exotic places I’ve lived. Not necessarily of the tiny village in rural Leicestershire, or Slough (yes, that’s right) and seductive Sunningdale or even the rural chalk slopes of Wiltshire, steeped in ancient history as they are. No, my strongest memories are of the islands where I have lived off and on over the past sixty seven years.
From Cyprus, with its burnt landscape in September, the food I can still taste just thinking about it. Cyprus, where I ran wild and swam with the fishes in the transparent Mediterranean waters through each summer. Where I grew up and first heard Buddy Holly and where I fell in love.
To Bermuda, with its affluence, pretense and unrest, in spite of the pretty coloured houses. Where professional happily married couples played keys-in-the-middle at weekend parties, took in visiting stars at the Princess Hotel, and discoed at The Forty Thieves.
To Mauritius, ah volcanic Mauritius, I can smell the spices of your markets. I can see the lychee tree in the front garden and hear dogs yap at passing motorists through. I can hear the multiple tongues spoken by its people. And I shudder remembering how easy it was to get stoned when driving through villages of drunks.
And in all these memories, the strongest is the recollection that all I really wanted, was to go back home. I could have done more to distill the memories of the exotica: painted pictures, taken lots of photographs, kept a journal, but when you are the age I was then, life gets in the way. You want to drive the other side of the island because you’ve heard there is a consignment of tinned Walls sausages just in, or have your mini skirt taken up two more inches to keep up with the trend. You want to buy the latest LP on your Masters charge account, or you need to stay home because you’ve booked a phone call to the UK 3 days in advance.
But back to my original thought - you know, the one about drawing on life experiences in your writing - that’s what’s happening now, the more I set my fiction in these places, the more the memories come back, sharper and more colourful than they have been for years.
That’s what happens as you age I’m told. I hope I don’t remember too much too soon.