I've just finished correcting the first round of copy edits for my newest novel. There will be a second round, from my American publishers, in a few weeks, and then proofs to correct, from BOTH publishers, but for this weekend I'm putting my feet up and taking it easy.
So, instead of posting something entertaining or profound, I thought I'd share with you some snapshots from my trip last month to Edinburgh, where I actually finished writing this new book, while doing on-site research for the next.
This was where I stayed: in a little flat at Gladstone's Land, the narrow house in the middle. It's a National Trust property on Edinburgh's Royal Mile, in the shadow of the castle, and the National Trust lets out holiday flats in some of their properties, which is a boon for a writer like me, who's setting a book in a house of this age, because even when I'm stuck indoors, I'm still technically doing research!
My flat had a kitchen and sitting room, bedroom and bathroom. I spent a lot of time in the kitchen making coffee, and absolutely fell in love with this kettle and toaster. Aren't they the cutest things? There was a bread box and microwave done in this same cream enamel. I'm now on the lookout for North American versions…
And this was my writing space, while I was there. The final downhill run at the end of writing every novel is, for me, an all-consuming and immersive time, when I come up for food and coffee but don't always take the time for other things, including sleep. With this book, I was also up against an immovable deadline, so I spent most of my Edinburgh week sitting here, to be honest.
It wasn't a bad place to be. Because this was my view. And being Edinburgh, the light and the sky changed dramatically, hour by hour, from sun to cloud to sun to rain to sun again, to dusk and finally darkness, with the warmly golden lights from other windows facing onto this old courtyard. And nearly every hour, small groups of tourists wandered through the courtyard with their guides, so I got extra education without even stirring from my chair.
On my first morning in the flat, a breakfast basket was left for me by the National Trust staff, on the step outside my door. The stairs, as you might be able to see here, were like the stairs in a castle–"turnkpike" stairs–very old and made of stone and more than a little challenging to navigate while bumping a suitcase behind you. But the breakfast basket was a lovely touch, and the croissants were fresh. They also left me a big bag of ground coffee and a box of shortbread biscuits in my kitchen. AND little bottles of whisky. (It's as if they knew me…)
Thanks to the time difference, I did manage to sneak out every now and then, while my editors at home were still asleep in bed and not trying to phone me to see whether I was finished with the book yet. I was able to do a small bit of the reading I'd planned to do, in the Historical Search Rooms of the archives, where the amazing Alison Lindsay always goes several steps above and beyond for me, pulling documents out of places I would have never thought to look, and setting everything out ready for me. And on my way home from the archives, I stopped at a pub on the corner and treated myself to a proper meal (not that croissants and whisky aren't proper, but even writers need variety). Naturally, I finished with my favourite Scottish gain-ten-pounds-by-looking-at-it treat: Sticky Toffee Pudding.
It was, all things considered, a good week.
What's your idea of the perfect place to hide away, for sightseeing or work? Have you ever stayed somewhere that felt like a second home?