Mavis's Shoe

Author of two novels and a creative memoir.

Friday, 6 April 2018

Lovely Layby Life

Yesterday was a belter of a day for me. After the lengthy but enlivening snow cover, we’ve had a lot of dull, overcast, wet and cold days. And thanks to the BBC weather department I knew in advance that the sun was likely to appear and the temperature rise, but for one day only.

So I set off in the campervan for the hills. Local ones, mind. An overnight still feels out of the question. Having set off, I could see my destination was in fact white with snow, whereas the countryside I was driving through was a rather pale, sleepy green, and mud brown, not forgetting the black arms of trees against the sky seeming to implore the weather god for something better, and soon. I did consider rerouting to greener pastures, but I know and love my chosen layby. Routine saves wasting time on unnecessary decisions, and therefore keeps the focus on writing.

My road into nowhere was only passable because forestry lorries, such a feature of Scottish country life just now, had been up and down all morning. But my layby was full of snow, and another car (shock! horror!) was parked at one side. No matter. I had important things to be getting on with.

So I got in the back and made tea (obviously) and considered my options. The sun was doing its best and where it was breaking through the clouds, the hillside was dazzling. So I decided to chance it and opened the back door, the better to afford a clear view of the hillside opposite, which I think you’ll agree is rather lovely with the snow picking out drainage features, rock structures, fields and enclosures. There was heat in that sun. It seemed wise, if not unavoidable, after my tea, to gather my strength by laying back and having a little snooze. I kid you not. I slept in the sun yesterday.

By the end of the day much of the layby’s snow had thawed to chilly puddles. Also by the end of the day I had written loads of words and more importantly, made numerous decisions about my story, sorted out some inconsistencies and moved it on by a couple of plot points.

As well as all this, and this is one of the real pleasures of layby life, I had three layby encounters, and no, not that kind. The kind where real things are said and no-one has anything to gain by faking it or showing off. First was a woman out walking with (perhaps) her husband. While he wandered on, she stopped to say hello and ask what I was up to. I waved Writing On The Road at her and I gave her a short tour of the van (it’s very small). It turns out she’s a poet. Naturally I offered her all the encouragement to escape and write in laybys as I could muster.

The next was the sheep farmer who works the land around my chosen layby. I’ve been going there for years and only ever seen him fly past on his buggy with his dog in a box (open) on the back. What a pleasure it was to meet him and get to ask about stuff that’s had me wondering for ages. There was also a walker with rather limited manners, but of course, he might appear in the next book. Nothing in layby life is ever wasted.

I'll be on Radio Scotland's Out for the Weekend program later on today (about 3pm) if you want to hear me talk about the joys of solo campervanning, what made me write the book and some of the things that have gone both wrong and right.

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