Wednesday, August 25, 2010


There has been an idea brewing for a long time in my head. Really, if I trace it back all the way, there probably is a little seed of it in Sirens. Anyway, the story needed a setting and eventually I settled on somewhere in Cornwall. It was either there or somewhere way up high in Scotland, and even though writing involves delving into the imagination I didn't feel comfortable massacring a Scottish accent or the scenery. Besides, I've been to Cornwall a fair few times, whereas I have never been to the coast of Scotland.

Meanwhile, there was another process of decision making going on: where should we go on summer holiday. Every summer Paris empties during the summer months. The roads are chock-a-block with overstuffed cars full of bored kids and distressed pets, as each family heads off to the same place they have been going to for years. I am not French and have created my own tradition of enjoying the peace and quiet of Paris in August, but this year it was not to be. Yet there was still a part of me that was baulking at the idea of being part of that French tradition. At one point I may even have stated extremely vehemently that we were not going to blooming Arcachon again. We even had a crazy idea of going to San Francisco. We did lots of research and even told people we may go there. And then the volcano blew.

No, no, it didn't stop us from travelling at all, but somewhere in all the extra info about the Eyjafjallajökull volcano I read that the last time it blew there was a spot of global warming over northern Europe and there was an unusually hot summer. Clutching at this straw, I suggested going to the UK for our hols. 

It was fitting that the day we drove onto the moors it was raining. It's not that it was often raining when I went to Dartmoor. In fact my memories are mainly sunny with one extremely foggy, snowy day. No, it was right because it fit the image I had in my head. An image that I had completely failed to express to the Frog. It was high up, flat, the flora was different, the trees were different, there are tors (which I had to explain) and ponies. It was beautiful and savage. But I knew there was something that I was completely missing in my pitiful descriptions. The colours, the smells of course, but there was something else. 

'Stop here,' I announced because there was a place to park and a herd of sheep and goats grazing. We got out the car, woke up the sausage and wrapped her up in her rain coat and began walking towards the Tor. On the way I took some pictures, laughed, waved my arms around at the moor, avoided the sheep, goat and cow poo, and slowly I realised what it was that I had missed. 

'That's what is so different! It's the ground!'

'The moss?' 

'No, yes! When you walk.' 

It's like walking in a pair of brand new Doc Martens. You know, that day when you walk around carefully avoiding all drawing pins (difficult in my profession) and you try to bound higher each step. And yet it is infinitely different, because no matter how wild or cold or covered in sheep droppings, the ground in Dartmoor invites you to lie down and roll around. It's like the most perfect mattress you could ever have. 

We didn't do it though, our toes got a little cold, and our ears began to tingle as the wind whistled by and we sought the refuge of the car. We climbed higher and higher and eventually the sun broke through revealing a beautiful view down to the Burrator reservoir and on our left we spotted a sign for Badger's Holt. 

'Cream Tea!'


Nicky S (Absolute Vanilla) said...

where were you when I was trying to use Dartmoor as one of my settings?!

verilion said...

Didn't I reply? I did, I remember writing stuff, but see, I forgot about the bouncy ground.


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