Why I can’t live in the UK.

Sometimes in order to fully appreciate something one needs to go without it for a while. That’s how it is with me and my home. I’m talking about Romney Marsh. Six years I’ve lived abroad and I’m finally coming round to the idea that the place I left has a lot going for it. (That’s probably just as much a reflection of Istanbul as it is anything.) Regarding home, I think that familiarity bred, not contempt, but something approaching it. Shame on me. And so it is with no small amount of sadness and irony that I say, even though I quite like it here these days I don’t think I can live here again.

My ‘About Me’ page on this blog says: When I lived in the UK, I tried a couple of times to write, but with the responsibility of property and family and work and the distractions of television and radio and newspapers and people I never got anywhere with it. Nothing’s changed, I’ve found. I’m here on holiday at the moment. Been here just over two weeks. A couple to go. And I haven’t stopped. Mostly, I haven’t stopped enjoying myself. Having a four year old who loves the outdoors helps. If we’re not enjoying the miles of Dymchurch’s golden sands we’re down the local park or on the RHDR or in a rowing boat on the Royal Military Canal or in the garden playing a ball game. We spent a fantastic today at Port Lympne wildlife reserve. Tomorrow he’s having a party.

I’m playing tennis. (I got to go to Wimbledon this year – as a spectator.) I play football once a week and then we hit the pub afterwards. Tomorrow I’m digging out the push-bike for a cycle. I run on the beach. Too many evenings I’m spending working my way through five seasons of Breaking Bad and bottled ale.

I’m cooking because I want to. I’m eating for pleasure. I’m enjoying some decent booze. I can’t remember the last time I shaved or wore a pair of long trousers. As a retirement present I bought myself that watch I was looking at a few months ago. (No one else was going to buy it for me and I reckoned that the time I put in at the chalk face deserved something special by way of commemoration.) I’ve stopped wearing it. Who cares what the time is when you’re on holiday and enjoying life?

I’m also gutting a flat in preparation for refurbishment. I’m enjoying that physical graft too.

About the only thing I don’t have time for is writing. And these days, after jacking in the day job, I’m supposed to be writing for a living. I repeat: I don’t think I can live back home again – too many distractions.

I have read two books since I’ve been back. To be precise, I’ve read the same book twice. It’s called Particular Stupidities. It’s my next release in the Romney and Marsh Files, just in case you’re new to this blog. Each read-through led to a number of revisions – mostly just ‘better’ ways to put things. I’ve also lost a few hundred words more. Two days ago, after having done the formatting and got it Kindle-ready, I decided that two read-throughs was enough and I uploaded it to Amazon. (In all honesty I believe that if I read it another ten times I’d find things to change every time.)

It was quite a relief to get it off my hands, especially with Amazon’s deadline for the submission fast approaching. (The book is out on the 30th July but Amazon wanted the final copy ten days before that date: no later than the 20th July. If you miss their deadline you forfeit the right to make use of the pre-order facility for a year. Yikes! I quite understand why Amazon can’t afford to be buggered about by publishers, self or traditional, but they sure made me anxious as the date approached – they were emailing reminders more frequently and the language was becoming a little more… insistent with each email. Or that may have been my imagination.)

This is the first title of mine that I have made available for pre-order. Until publication day a copy can be snapped up for 99p. Then it’ll go up to £1.99 like the others. I think that the current price has been a major factor that has kept the book hovering around the top twenty of the British Detective chart. Whatever, it’s had plenty of visibility, which has to be a good thing. I don’t know how many copies have been pre-ordered because Amazon doesn’t seem to make that information available on my sales account page until the day of release. I’m guessing that on release day, when everyone who has pre-ordered gets their copy the grand total will be revealed to me.

I like to catch up on some reading during the summer. I made a start on that resolution today by opening up a copy of A Touch of Frost by RF Wingfield. (A few readers of my books have mentioned the Frosts as good reads with some laughs.) I’m a hundred pages in and it’s OK. Of its time (1990) I think it would be fair to say. (Some of my more critical readers have expressed disapproval for aspects of DI Romney’s character and behaviour, especially  towards women. If you haven’t read any Frost books, take my word for it – Frost makes Romney look like a feminist. Even I’m cringing at some of the things he says and ‘thinks’. [I do understand that twenty-five years ago things would have been a lot different and that Frost is probably representative of the policing and cultural times.])

It’s twelve days until release day of Particular Stupidities. Like each of the other books I’ve put out, as publication day looms I’m experiencing a creeping nervousness over whether the book will please readers of the R&M Files. Reflecting on the book led me to consider what I hope to deliver to my readers with this one. My answer is this: a murder mystery, a few laughs, a worthy addition to the Romney and Marsh Files and maybe a bit of food for thought. Ambitious? We’ll see.

I hope that everyone is having a great summer.

6 thoughts on “Why I can’t live in the UK.

  1. I think you probably needed a change, of scenery and activity, to give the cogs a chance to cool down, but even though you are not writing, a visit to home shores counts as research. Although I know you are well acquainted with the geography of the area you write about, I bet you find something new in the scenery when you do return to the UK, or something which you are very familiar with will kickstart a new train of thought or give birth to a new idea.
    Don’t be anxious about the fact that you are not physically writing, you really need to recharge, just like anyone else. Your work will be better for it in the long run.

    Take care and enjoy your holiday. Remember that before you know it, your 4 year old to whom you are currently a hero, will be 24, costing you even more than he does right now and reminding you of your faults daily!


    • Hi Dawn
      Many thanks for your comment, which resonated on several levels and was much appreciated.
      I’ve been here before and you are absolutely right about the necessary recharge and the visit to familiar territory throwing up new things to draw upon. I see stories everywhere and can’t wait to get cracking on them when I return to my les interesting life. You mention the word ‘research’ and I know that you mean through osmosis by dint of just being here but I’ve also had a couple of deliberate research experiences. More on those in my next post.
      Your wise words regarding the future of my parental role are also spot on – oddly enough I have a twenty-four year old son who is just as you describe. By the time the latest gets to that age I’ll either be in the ground or past caring.
      Best to you too. 🙂

  2. Having a great summer here in Andalucia thanks Oliver, except that this year it has been far too hot. One of the drawbacks of being English is that the weather is never just right, or if when it is, it passes us by. Anyway this year it has been too hot to do anything but sit in the shade and read but I am running out of good books.
    I just had to ditch the first Jo Nesbo book that I have ever read, namely, The Snowman and before even half way through, it left me cold. Michael Connelly says on the back cover, ‘Jo Nesbo is my favorite thriller writer and Hairy Hole my new hero’
    Who can you trust? Not someone who spells favourite incorrectly that’s for sure! Oh dear, look at me I can’t even spell Harry now.
    I’m currently reading Ms George Elliot’s Middlemarch and so far loving it, so your new Romney and Marsh novel is going to be out just in time for me.
    Continue to enjoy the beaches and marshes.

    • Hi Russell
      I’ve always wanted to holiday in that part of Spain but I’m not sorry to be missing the heat. I do find that hard to deal with.
      Southern England’s climate is working out just fine for us this year – mostly sunny with a nice breeze during the day and cool enough for covers at nights. Perfect. But i do miss not being able to sit outside on a balmy evening with a cold one.
      The Snowman is the only Nesbo I’ve read and I agree with you. It didn’t move me to pick up another in a hurry.
      As for authors bigging each other up, I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve fallen for that. I think that it’s an in-publishing-house thing.
      I hope the new R&M doesn’t disappoint and look forward (from behind the sofa) to seeing what you make of it. I know you’ll shoot me straight.
      Beaches and marshes will be enjoyed until we leave.
      Cheers for now.

  3. Not having a great summer, but glad to hear someone is enjoying theirs.
    As for writing, I’ve not written anything for weeks, only my blog, but once a writer always a writer. I never stop seeing, hearing, and experiencing life, which is all grist to a writer’s mill. I’ve lived in Pakistan and Sweden, two very different countries and lifestyles, but found I just couldn’t write away from the country where I was born and bred. Perhaps it’s the fact I feel more comfortable at home these days: I am getting on a bit.
    We’re off on holiday in a couple of weeks, Wales, where they keep a welcome in the hillside. I will have your book by then so will be reading it whilst there. Enjoy the rest of your holiday.
    Best wishes.

    • Hi Pat
      I read your latest blog-post. My sympathies to you and the family. A sad and tragic loss.
      It seems you and I are polar opposites when it comes to writing locations. I do hope that I can turn things around there because we do want to move back to the UK in the not too distant future and if I can’t write I don’t know what I’ll do. (Not teaching, that’s for sure.)
      Enjoy Wales and I look forward to seeing how the latest grabs you.
      All the best to you and yours.

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