There are a million reasons not to write a book. For one it takes a lot of time. So it’s lucky that we are living in a farmhouse near the village of Queaux with no rent or bills to pay and enough money to last us the year. Suddenly there are no more excuses.
It’s nine o’clock in the morning and I’m sitting drinking coffee outside this 18th century farmhouse looking at the beige funnel-shaped water tower half a mile away. The valley is dominated by La Vienne. A brown muddy looking river, yet perfectly pleasant to swim in and wider than The Avon at Bristol or the Thames at Oxford. It attracts mainly kayakers and fishermen. As well as bungi jumpers who leap mindlessly from disused viaducts that span it. It’s valley is shallow and wide and in the early morning the fog bubbles up from below, rolling over the fields and enveloping the house like a veil.
It’s perfect for cycling. Smooth, carefree, carless country roads criss-crossing the leafy river basin from one ancient village to the next. It’s a dream. Grocery shopping, sightseeing, daydreaming on the back of a bicycle in the heart of rural France is for me as good as it gets. Such a contrast to the smoke filled metropolis of Lyon.
As you know I lived there for two years. In the core of the suffocating city. A couple of blocks up from the Marseille to Paris motorway. Each morning I used to open my windows to breathe in the fumes of ten million cars carrying ten million humans from one place to another for no apparent reason at all. My morning coffee was the only time of the day I regretted having given up smoking. Simply because it would have made the diesel taste better. The difference between here and there is too great to calculate. On the road to Queaux over by the water tower, if I look hard enough, I can sometimes see a car if I’m lucky.
The back story to all of this is that we wanted to move to the countryside to pursue our dreams. The house doesn’t belong to us naturally. We’re borrowing it for a year. House-sitting. We are being lent it. Like someone would lend us a pen or a pencil sharpener. There’s more risk involved of course, about half a million pounds worth, but the idea’s the same. Just give it back in one piece when you’ve finished with it.
I’m simplifying it a bit. It’s a housesit agreement we found on the internet from an English family who have been restoring the house over the past ten years and yet ironically can’t afford to live in it because they have mortgages back in the UK. So they need people to watch over it in case it floods, gets broken into, squatted by humans, rats, mice, wasps, owls, or any number of strange beasts we’ve seen since living here. It’s a win-win situation. They get piece of mind, we get a beautiful house for a year in which to fulfil our dreams in.
For minimal gardening duties and the understanding that we will stay here all the time, bar a week in Easter and two weeks in summer, we get the house for nothing. All 110 acres of it if we want. A chance to see how easy it is to live without spending a lot of money. To see how easy it is to live without being told what to do. To stand back and look in for a change instead of rushing round the city working, eating, drinking, working, eating, drinking. To stand back and write a novel.
I was born on 3rd May 1974. My deadline is 3rd May 2014. That’s the deal I’ve entered into with myself. Write a book before I’m forty and then cycle over the Pyrenees to Spain…