Friday, 9 August 2013

Returning to Serena's roots

All I can see out of my window after our three hour drive west from Hampshire is a green-gold field sweeping ahead of me up to the sky, criss crossed with neat green hedges. The narrow road we drove up to get here leads on another mile or so to an adorable sandy cove with a cobb a little like Lyme Regis where Merryl Streep stood moodily waiting for her French Lieutenant. There's a shop, cream teas, and a pub. There's a beach to dig or walk on or sit on, and fresh air. So much fresh air.
   A couple of pin men are walking heartily across the horizon where that field meets the sky, all tooled up with rucksacks, sturdy boots and those special hikers' walking sticks which are nothing like the standard walking sticks disabled people use. I often wonder why hikers brandish them - perhaps someone could enlighten me? As someone with a dodgy leg who uses her walking stick very sparingly (except in Rome, where it got us waved through all sorts of secret doors and passages in the Vatican to short-circurt the endless queues) it seems odd that people who positively shove their rude health under our  noses as they conquer the Pennines, the Lake District or these kindly cliffs in South Devon, should have need of these sticks. Are they to enable them to make that last weary mile before the pub comes into sight? Is it to help negotiate the boulders and muddy tracks they will encounter in these undulating hills? Is it to show how committed they are to the art of rambling, and they've been to the shop and bought up the catalogue of equipment every serious minded hiker needs?  I THINK WE SHOULD BE TOLD.
    This place represents to me holidays and getting away from what my grandmother used to call 'the stern realities' of real life. My latest erotic novel The Silver Chain is about to come out in paperback and should be sold in Tesco, Morrisons and Smiths. It's incredibly exciting to have the potential of recognition within m grasp. But I'm knackered, in need of rejuvenation, and I always get that when I find myself near the sea. There isn't even a mobile signal here, although wi-fi, which if I was to have a complete break would also be banished.
Anyway, those hikers' maps will tell them and I already to know, because I've been to this part of the South Hams in Devon, England, once or twice a year for the last 20 years (since the very same year I started writing erotica, in fact)  that on the other side of that field is actually a cliff path, some rocks and boulders and then, picturesque as it might be, the sheer, fenceless, unprotected drop of the cliffs into the choppy English channel. Or is the Atlantic?
   And that is where my heroine, Serena Folkes, from my novel The Silver Chain, was brought up. She is a country girl, brought up in a cold, mean house on the cliffs which although contemporary in time and setting could come from a Bronte novel or a Daphne du Maurier.  All very well me loving the peace and quiet and the crash of the waves when I come here on holiday, which always give me inspiration, but I know it's only temporary and soon I will be driving back to the city. In my heroine's case her upbringing until she was able to escape by travelling and then inheriting her adoptive parents' money was utterly miserable. The dark side of living in the back of beyond. The reality of living permanently in a holiday destination which other people consider an aspirational beauty spot.
   In fact when we first meet her she is fidgeting with impatience on a train, waiting for it to carry her out of Devon and up to the bright lights of London where she will meet the love of her life.
   Serena is a red haired, pale skinned, pre-Raphaelite hued girl of wild beauty and spirit but nobody knows where that beauty came from. In romantic fairy tale tradition she was a foundling, left in a basket on the steps of a church, tripped over and taken in by a couple who turned out to be like something out of the worst of Dickens in that they were Christian and proper but had not one loving bone in their body. And so my heroine grows up starved of family life and love apart from her passion for horseriding and the visits by her adopted cousin Polly, until she discovers sex with her first boyfriend, Jake, who also provides a haven in his caravn for Serena to escape from the hideous house where her adopted parents are so disconcerted by her they even chop her red hair off whenever it gets too long and lustrous.
   We'll talk about how sex, once tasted, becomes pivotal in her life, but I think my next post will be as from Serena herself as she walks over the fields, down the lanes, across the cliffs, and into the pubs of her childhood. And plans her escape, her travels, and her career as a young photographer about to be discovered.

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