I have an idyllic life for a writer, with the man I love on a remote Cornish farm, so my fellowship seemed under-deserved. I likened the process of moving my writing base from Land’s End to Civitella to moving apartments in Heaven. What I hadn’t reckoned on was the joy of sharing time with such an inspiring bunch of people – Fellows and partners alike – not simply novelists but screenwriters, filmmakers, artists and musicians. Certainly I finished my novel and began a new screenplay and in stunning surroundings and am left with a warm pool of memories, but what Civitella really gave me were new friends, wonderful creative contacts and the courage to start blurring the distinctions between my discipline and the ones around it.
From Rough Music, the novel I finished while at Civitella.
She rang the prison at once and gave Mervyn the hotel’s number then she lay on her bed hugging herself and waited. Had one of John’s thick jerseys or Bill’s old leather jacket been to hand she would have pulled it on for comfort; either would have done since it was the comfort she required, not the man. Instead, she lay on the bed, pulled up the quilt and hugged herself, taking in the pictures of fishing boats, the pastel-dyed dried flower arrangement, the skimpy nylon curtains, the powerful scent of fly killer. The hotel was as oppressive as the bungalow in its way; very much a family hotel and not a place designed for romantic afternoon liaisons nor, for that matter, distraught adulteresses. The excitement when she arrived by police car was palpable.
John rang her that evening to say they had got home safely and to see how she was. She snapped at him, “How do you think I am?” and he rang off soon afterwards. She slipped out to an off-license and bought a large bar of chocolate and a bottle of wine which she smuggled back to her room. She wolfed the chocolate then drank herself to sleep. The police rang in the early evening to say there was no news then called again, half way through the next morning, to say they were sending a car for her.
His motorbike was not found at once because he had hidden it. He had driven half an hour’s distance up the coast to Trebarwith where a long beach bounded by high granite cliffs and a grim quarry faced the open sea. It was chosen, the police imagined, because it was the first beach to the north from Polcamel Strand that was accessible by road and was well away from the complex currents of the Camel estuary mouth. The motorbike lay at the very back of the largest of several caves that plunged up into the cliff face. Had he wished to retrieve it later, he had fatally misjudged the hiding place. At low tide, when he would have arrived there had he come directly from Polcamel, by police reckoning, a broad expanse of golden sand would have been presented in the moonlight. At high tide, however, a few hours later, the entire beach vanished and the caves were scoured out by booming surf. Its engine sluiced with salt water and sand-clogged, its bodywork brutally dented by the repeated battering it had taken against the rocks, the motorbike had finally become wedged on its side behind a boulder and left half buried in sand by the receding tide. Children had found it and played on it for hours before an adult had come across them and alerted the police. The American registration number would be checked for confirmation in a day or two. Meanwhile Frances made her identification in a corner of the station car park where the motorbike lay on a trailer. There was dried seaweed caked on the handlebars and twined about the cables. No other trace of Bill had been found, the policeman told her, or of his typewriter. The poetic explanation was made that he had picked a beach facing the open Atlantic to reduce the risk of being washed up then used the typewriter to weight his body before swimming out and drowning himself.