I like to spend at least a little time in England every year if I can. I enjoy my time visiting friends and family, remembering that potato chips are really called ‘crisps’, and wandering around the narrow little streets in my home town of Billericay. I always visit Lake Meadows at least once, with its tall chestnut trees and rolling green slopes that lead down to the lake. I left England to move to Germany over twenty-five years ago, but the streets and the park seem almost unchanged by time.
It was May 2009, and this time I planned three weeks in England. I decided to spend one quiet week writing in Bury St Edmunds. A quick search online found the perfect old hotel – the ivy-clad Angel Inn. If it was good enough for Charles Dickins, it would certainly be good enough for me. I was a little surprised to find I was in room number ‘007’ ! I never thought of myself as James Bond, but at least it continued the literary theme.
I like Bury St Edmunds a lot. It has an interesting layout that just begs you to explore. The Angel Inn is just across the road from the Cathedral, and the well-kept gardens. There are several pubs nearby, and a really top-class Indian restaurant that I felt it my duty to dine in. You can hardly visit England and not eat Indian food.
Each day I would follow the same routine. After a (wonderful) cooked English breakfast, I would settle down in a comfortable armchair near the lobby, and scribble away in my notebook. I think writing is done best with pen and paper. Later I would type up my notes, correcting and changing things as I translated rough notes into text.
The story was progressing well, if slowly. Sparrow and Jimmy had found the second clue, and were heading for their first meeting with the ghostly black monk. The hotel staff didn’t seem to mind me spending hours writing away. Every now and then they would thoughtfully provide me with a fortifying cup of tea.
In the afternoons I would wander around the town. Close to the Angel Inn, a steep hill runs up to the high street, lined with quaint tea-shops and bakeries. These were always bustling with people, but I could generally find a small table where I could enjoy a pot of tea and a warm pastry.
I refuse to write in the evenings. I have tried to force myself once or twice, but I always end up staring in frustration at a blank sheet of paper. Far better to spend the evenings in the local pubs and restaurants, which were always crowded with a happy mix of locals and tourists.
The weeks in England went by too fast, and soon I had to fly back to Florida. As is often the case, I hadn’t written as much as I would have liked, but I was happy with the chapters I had written. Sparrow and Jimmy were getting closer to finding the treasure, and I was at least a little closer to finishing my first book!