A Sense of Place

Saturday, 13 February 2016

Writing a little about finding Woodreeve's Cottage reminded me about how important particular houses have been in my writing. There's a childhood bungalow, a student flat, and two particular houses in Northumberland, all of which seem to have wheedled their way into the novel, one way or another. I've disguised them or moved them, but the details of a particular room or passageway, or perhaps part of the garden, somehow stick in the memory, and pop up again when they are needed. The characters are different from the people who actually lived in the houses, of course, but the places themselves seem to demand an accuracy.

The real sense of place in Mister Woodreeve's Reflection, however, is a bit wider - a cottage, a garden, a field, a river and a wooded valley. I've described it as a fictional corner of the real counry of Northumberland. Readers familiar with the area will think they recognise a stretch of the river,  part of the village, or even a specific building. But then the river flows the other way, the village gains a school or loses a railway station, and the building is not where it should be.

What happened to the real Woodreeve's Cottage, the derelict house I found in a wood all those years ago? The last time I went back there it had disappeared - the ground where it had been was almost completely flat, with only rubble to confirm that this was the right place. I noticed that the track along the side of the wood was much less muddy than I had remembered. It was full of bricks, flattened bricks, bulldozed into the earth. The whole house had been turned into a path for lorries to get further into the wood to take out the timber. Perhaps it was then that I had a notion to resurrect the cottage, turn the brickwork into stonework, and transport it a hundred miles further north....

....I'm delighted to have more supporters so quickly. Thank you to Steve, Jean, Peter, Jenny, Annie, Colin, Haper, Bob, Lesley, Philippa and Claire. It feels like a flying start! Please forgive me if I don't name everyone from now on - but at least I'll hope to write a little from the shed each week, and let you know how the campaign is going. Thanks again!

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