Today, I’m welcoming David Matthews onto my blog. His book That They Might Lovely Be, has just been published by John Hunt Publishing. He’s telling me (and you!) about his ideal day.
An Ideal Day
I don’t know why there are so many semi-derelict houses in the villages in France. When we bought ours, for the price of a broom-cupboard in South London, it had been empty for eight years and on the market, steadily depreciating in value, for four. Whatever the cause, I am grateful that this is the case. It has meant that re-locating to south-west France can be more than a pipe-dream.
Our house was a wreck. As far as I was concerned, this was ideal. The scope for DIY-ing was considerable. Acquiring the house coincided with stopping teaching and focussing on writing so I found myself faced with a delicious tension – never being at a loss for something creative to do. I could fashion new stories out of words or renovate an old house into a new home.
My ideal day might start waking to a recollection of having heard the nightingales singing during the night. I had never heard a nightingale before spending time in France and I had to Google the song, on first hearing it, to make sure it really did match. Once up, the day would begin with some routine chores: short drive to the boulangerie or, in winter, raking out the ash and getting the wood-burning stove going to warm the rooms before others in the family were up. I might take a cup of tea into the garden and ponder, reading a hymn from my school-days’ copy of Songs of Praise and setting the day straight with prayer.
The next two hours would be devoted to writing, picking up the notes I’d left from the day before. On a good day, getting into the swing of writing would come easily; the sub-conscious would have been paving the way, processing ideas from the days before. The plot would unfold without any characters behaving in contrary ways. The dialogue would be natural but also further the story-line. The right words would spring effortlessly to mind with sets of vocabulary identifying themselves as thematically significant. Two hours hard at it and I’d be pleased with what I’d written whilst knowing that, if I carried on for much longer, what I produced would start to wobble and I’d end up scrapping much of it the next morning. It is far better, I have decided, to leave notes for the morrow and turn my hand to something else.
‘Something else’ in France means working on the house or garden. The more transformational the task the better. I’d rather build than decorate. I’d rather plant than weed. When a place has been neglected for nearly a decade, the scope for ‘doing’ is almost limitless.
I am aware that I have described an ideal day where nobody else features. This is probably still a reaction from nearly forty years of teaching. The legacy of all that time in a people-dominated career has been a craving for solitude. I am perfectly happy in my own company with no-one else’s agenda to accommodate. It is completely selfish and is probably not at all healthy. The thing is, I get jittery and nervously agitated (sometimes to the extent that I go into a manic overdrive cleaning or rearranging the contents of the shed) if I don’t carve out the space to write or create.
So if I find myself on my own for days and days and if I begin to suspect that an absence of human contact is turning me morose, then I can fall back on the people my imagination has concocted for my stories. They are a mixed bunch but make for fascinating company.
Thank you so much for that, David. I’m not too sure about all the renovating but a little getaway in France sounds perfect for writing.
The Blurb for That They Might Lovely Be
No—one thought Bertie Simmonds could speak. But , when he is heard singing an Easter hymn, this is not so much the miracle some think, but a bolt drawn back, releasing long–‐repressed emotions with potentially devastating consequences… A decade later, Bertie marries Anstace, a woman old enough to be his Mother, and another layer of mystery starts to peel away. Beginning in a village in Kent and set between the two World Wars, That They Might Lovely Be stretches from the hell of Flanders, to the liberating beauty of the Breton coast, recounting a love affair which transcends the conflicts of class and war.
About the author
David Matthews grew up in Lee-on-the-Solent, Hampshire. Following his degree at King’s College London and various jobs, including selling personalized matchboxes and working in a Covent Garden printing house, David became a teacher. He taught English for twenty-two years and was a head teacher for eleven. His play ‘Under the Shadow of Your Wings’ was professionally directed and performed in the summer of 2015, as part of Croydon’s heritage festival. He now divides his time between family life in Croydon and renovating a cottage in south-west France.
You can buy That They Might Lovely Be