Tuesday, 3 January 2012

French Leave: Connections Between Travel and Writing.


With presents tucked away and the shortest day not far behind, and with it being dark already at four o’clock and the lashing wind stopping us from stepping outside where to our thoughts turn to?

They turn to long days, bright skies and warm summer breezes. They turn to travel and holidays which will make the high points in the new year of 2012…’

- which was how I opened the Writing Game broadcast at noon on January 1st 2012.

For the January programme the plan had always been to make the connectioFrench Leave Frontn - in highly personal terms - between my own travel and my own writing and on the writing of others who are embarking on writing.  ‘… I love the way in which even people who don’t write are inspired to make journals and scrapbooks, pinning their journeys, their summer retreats there on the page to preserve that time forever…’

I had lots more to say, of course. But with a busy and people-stocked time over Christmas the January programme loomed up far too quickly for sanity so, beloved visitors gone,  I had  two very intense days to get the programme into shape.

The first time this connection between writing and travel had a fRENCH lEAVE bACKvisible impact on me was when I wrote a young adult novel called French Leave:

‘…Over fifteen years ago in Normandy, France I came across a small very well kept military graveyard attached to a farm. ..I doscovered that the young  soldiers – some as young as eighteen – were from villages within a few miles from where I live…I was in tears when I got into the car but I knew in my writer’s heart that some time this place, this feeling would be part of a story…’

So it was some years later that I wrote French Leave - about a boy of sixteen in the 1980s  who runs away from home, hooks up with his grandfather, and travels to Normandy. Together they travel to Normandy to visit this graveyard. The grandfather, as a boy of eighteen had fought in this military action and the two of them find the grave of his friend, also eighteen, who had died alongside him.

And years later my many stays in the Languedoc in the South IWF Cover West of France inspired a novel An Englishwoman in France which illuminates the ambiguity of time which for me pervades the ancient port town of Agde. In this novel two stories - one in 304 AD and one in 2010 AD - wind into one. I am sure that without my intense experiences in  travelling in this area I could not have written this novel or had the courage to express some of the challenging ideas about time which are at its heart

I have included a reading from this novel on the programme  to give readers the flavour,



Also featured on this January edition of  The Writing Game are:

- Historian Glynn Wales on The Grand Tour – Travel and writing in the 17th and 18th century on The Grand Tour – a trip taken by aristocratic  young men, for educational, cultural and other less respectable experiences.

- A conversation with Terry Ferdinand, who also loves France. Terry tells of his adventures in buying and refurbishing a house in the Lamousin district. His enthusiasm bubbles through the microphone. He also reads for us an article – previously published in the Limousin Times, about a visit to the historic town of Aubusson, famous for its fabulous carpets.

Writing Game and past editions now available in iTunes Store at


Writing Game podcast from Bishop FM: http://blogs.bishopfm.com/thewritinggame/category/podcasts/


  1. I imagine you have lots of stories in your writer's heart Stephen emerging from your many journeys. Do you write them down? w

  2. Can't wait to hear the programme Wendy - wasn't able to catch the broadcast - that's the beauty of the podcasts and i-tunes. I know how much hard work is involved in making the programmes but you must be delighted with the substantial number now available - some truly great broadcasting about the writing and reading life. Looking forward to more in 2012.

  3. Thanks Avril - hope you like it.w

  4. I can't remember where I found your blog but I put it on my google reader to read when I had time. I kept saying, "I know that name" and then I came back and realised I have read lots of your books.When I was looking for one I knew if it was yours I would always have a good read, so thank you for that and I will be catching up with the books I have missed.

  5. I always write a little book, or I must say notebook after my trips. Last year i wrote all about the Buenos Aires real estate I had stayed in when I was in Argentina.
    I will publish it some day!



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