Writing teachers invariably tell students, ‘Write about what you know.’ That’s, of course, what you have to do, but on the other hand, how do you know what you know until you’ve written it? Writing is knowing. E L Doctorow
‘As the plane taxis, charges, and then rises into the sky, I find that Aurelie is a businesswoman to the fingertips. The free way she talks about herself and asks me questions tells me she’s not English. It seems she’s a buyer for superior English shops, shipping all kinds of goods from France to England. ‘And you? What is it you do, Ruthie?’ she murmurs.
We finally dispose of the fact that I’m a writer and she’s never-heard-of-me-but-will-look-for-my-books-in-the-future, when the flight attendant comes with her trolley.
We have tea and – at Aurelie’s insistence – brandy. Then we sit back in our seats, assessing each other as people do. Aurelie is tall, anything between forty and sixty years old. She’s fine boned, with a delicate, intricate face. In her faintly accented English she begins to speak of her love for the English countryside and I find myself telling her about the Foxe’s house and my plan for writer’s retreat. ‘In the end,’ I say. ‘It didn’t quite come off.’