Dear friends and readers worldwide,
It is ages since I have written a Newsletter. There have been several blogs posted directly to my website, but no Newsletter. My sincere apologies for this; we have been experiencing technical difficulties with the site and some glitch or other was blocking mails going out. Grrr. Fingers crossed my wonderful webmaster, Bart, has now sorted the problem, and you will receive this.
I want to begin by saying that I sincerely hope you are in good health, that you have not been knocked for six by Covid, that you have not spent lonely months apart from your family, that you are not as I write in a conflagration zone fleeing fires.
What a stressful and distressing year it has been.
Personally, I lost one of my very dearest female friends. She was, years ago, an actress and then later an excellent film and television producer. I also lost my theatrical agent and a friend of many years. He had been retired for some time and I had joined another agency, but Ken and I still kept in touch and talked from time to time on the phone. His death was not caused by Covid; he had been in poor health for some time. Even so, it was the end of an era for me. He, it was, who had put me forward for the role of Helen in All Creatures Great and Small.
And in April we lost one of our dogs. Homer was born on the farm, New Year’s Eve fifteen and a half years ago so his absence leaves a big gap in our lives.
If you have been reading my blogs you will know that Michel and I spent the lockdown at our Olive Farm. We arrived about two in the morning on the 17th March. The confinement here in France went into force at midday on that same day. I remember well the date because it is Saint Patrick’s Day and in my Irish family it is a big day of celebration and street parties. This year, of course, everything has changed. Public events of such size just doesn’t exist at present.
No theatre, no literary festivals …
M and I were alone throughout and beyond the lockdown. His daughters were both with their respective partners and their children. I think it is accurate to say that this is the longest stretch of time Michel and I have spent together – without even a very short break – exclusively in one another’s company, since we first met thirty-four years ago! Our careers have so frequently sped us off in different directions. The outcome, I am happy to say, has been splendid. A time of such turbulence beyond our gates really has taught us to appreciate one another. The loss of friends too, of course, brought our own mortality right to the forefront.
I have enormously appreciated the silence and perfect enamel-blue skies; the lack of planes and cars. Birds calling, not motorbikes revving.
This autumn we have more butterflies on the land than I have seen since we bought the place. I have no idea whether or not so many earlier months of lessened pollution has made a difference. This weekend from my library, I watched two butterflies mating. Yesterday, I stood for ages marvelling at three large brown-and-white ones – a variety I haven’t noticed before. They seemed to be dancing and kissing. (I am not going mad, I promise!) Clearly, it was a joyous moment shared between them. And really made me smile as I observed them.
There are dragonflies by the dozen zipping over the pool. Electric blue ones and others, a smaller less ostentatious kind.
We have used these months to work hard on the land. We have achieved masses of planting – M did the bulk of it while I managed to complete the final redraft of my next novel, which is at the printers now and will be titled AN ACT OF LOVE. Proofs should be with me shortly and then there’s a book with all those pages in between your hands and you wonder when and how it all happened and will you ever find the strength and mental stamina to write another one!
I am waiting to see jacket ideas. This is a moment I love because my work on this one is more or less completed and I can begin to see how my story has fired the imagination of all my colleagues working at the publishing house whose job it is to give the novel a physical form. It is very exciting. I think it is fair to say that we have all had a good time working on this one.
And now, of course, I am at work on the next one. Very early stages.
We have just returned from Greece, Kastellorizo, a tiny island which I have visited several times before because Michel is the internation Director of the island’s documentary film festival. Beyond Borders is a festival screening films that highlight history and social events. It was a breath of fresh air to travel after so long of staying put and there was a very exciting choice of documentary films on offer from all over the world. It makes me realise the importance of location in my novels.
AN ACT OF LOVE is predominately located in the Lower Alps behind Nice during WWII. Based on a true story with fictional characters, it is a story of courage and loss and love. If I had shot it as a documantary film, it might have fitted well into the remit of the Beyond Borders festival. The courage and hardships of real people; what we will endure to support and be close to those we love, to keep them from danger. In this year of loss it feels extra relevant. The novel will be published next April. I will be shouting about it before then, but please do look out for it.
Most importantly, I want to say with this letter: keep safe and healthy. Please wear a mask and consider others. Cherish the days. I have been very saddened by the loss of the actress Diana Rigg this week. I barely crossed paths with her. Not since many years. She was a rising star at the National Theatre when I was a little nobody dreaming of my acting career. She was a natural beauty, so full of life and a fine actress. It’s hard for me to believe that she had reached the age of eighty-two and that she has gone. R.I.P.
Let us live every day to the full and care for our planet. There seem to be so many leaders who are not taking care of this cherished gift we have. It is heartbreaking and fristrating trying to find ways to improve the situation.
It is such a trite remark to say, take the time to smell the roses, but this year has certainly shown me how joyous and rich life in the slow lane can be. And how grateful I am to be alive and to have at my side a man I love and respect.
My love to you all,
Here is a little ensemble of photos from our farm taken at various stages during lockdown. Colours to make your heart sing. Cx