Last Monday, my husband and I returned from our long-awaited trip to England. While we were there, the most common question we were asked was, “Are you here for business or pleasure?” We answered truthfully, “both.”
My main purpose was to scout out locations and inspirations.
But there’s no harm in enjoying yourself at the same time, right? And we did enjoy ourselves.
- We stayed in some lovely inns, and those that weren’t exactly “lovely” were at least quirky and interesting—especially a 14th century inn where the advertised “shower-over-tub” was a handheld sprayer attached to the hot and cold water taps, and the tub was tucked under a low-sloping eave, making entry and exit a distinct and dangerous challenge.
- We dined at some wonderful pubs. Our favorite was The Peter Tavy Inn, a 15th-century pub in the pretty village of Peter Tavy on the western flanks of Dartmoor. Their website claims “the village feels remote but is easily reached.” Easily is a relative term in rural Devon.
- We drove on narrow country roads through the English counties of Hampshire, Devon, and Somerset, watching the sun set over the sea and encountering flocks of wayward sheep and even a stubborn herd of pigs who had no intention of giving way.
- We met interesting people, including a Cornish men’s choir on a boys-only getaway, intent on drinking and singing (in that order).
But what did I actually gain as an author?
That was my main purpose, after all.
Well, I’ve made a list–seven things I gained as an author:
- TOPPING UP MY MENTAL RESOURCE OF ALL THINGS BRITISH
Watching British TV and reading books by British authors isn’t enough. Even deep dives into Kate Fox’s amazing Watching the English: The Hidden Rules of English Behavior doesn’t do it. You really do have to be there.
- UNDERSTANDING THE DEVON DIALECT—not an easy task, even for other Brits.
The Devon dialect has been called “a mixture of Anglo-Saxon, Celtic, and Old French—all mixed up with a bit too much local cyder.” Think “pirate speech” and you’re close.
- FINDING LOCATIONS FOR MY NEXT BOOKS
The wildness of Dartmoor, the folding hills that swallow up tiny villages, the incredibly narrow single-track roads (complete with blind summits), the gray stone walls still standing from medieval times, the inlets and rocky coastline—all this I took in for future reference. I even found a potential location for Fouroaks, the country estate of Tom Mallory’s Uncle Nigel.
- LEARNING THROUGH MANY CONVERSATIONS HOW DEEPLY DIVIDED BRITAIN IS POLITICALLY
On just about every topic, from Covid guidelines to Brexit to immigration to the economy, healthcare, taxes, local politics, and football, the British are every bit as divided as the U.S.
- FINALLY LEARNING HOW TO IDENTIFY AND DISTINGUISH BRACKEN, GORSE, AND FURZE
One of the highlights of the trip was a day spent llama trekking on Dartmoor. Our llama, Leo, carried our lunch. Unfortunately, Leo had a predilection for the mildly poisonous bracken.
- AND OH YES—FOUR POUNDS. I gained four pounds. I blame those Full English Breakfasts.
How much as an author or a reader do you appreciate authenticity in setting?
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