The Adventures of a Closet Writer

October 17, 2017 | By | 1 Reply More

Whenever I mentioned that writing was my hobby, it was usually met with a raised eyebrow. As if somehow I was a little bit odd. That was fine, I’d never had time to take it seriously. I was a mother of three who worked part-time. How was I supposed to find time to write? Any spare time was for catching up on sleep. What about the washing, the ironing and the shopping,who’d make the beds, clean the bathroom, hoover, and cook the meals? Writing was an indulgence, squeezed in when no one was around.

I was a closet writer.

In 2013 we decided on a grand adventure to mark my husband’s early retirement. We shocked our family by announcing our plans to travel around Europe in a motorhome. Probably because we’d never owned a motorhome and had never even been camping before. And six months later, with a second-hand motorhome duly christened the Burkemobile, we headed off to catch the ferry from Dover. And that was the extent of our planning. Once on French soil we intended to go wherever the fancy took us. Both of us looking forward to the freedom of life without demands.

My husband was looking forward to swimming, walking and cycling. While I was itching to sit at my laptop and write, guilt free. It was bliss!! I wrote about the places we’d visited and the people we’d met, about the trials and many tribulations of life on the road. Such as denting the roof of the Burkemobile while trying to squeeze it under a deceptive tunnel,in Limoux, France. Our wheels, sinking in the sand on a Portuguese beach. It took six fishermen to push us free. Having the motorhome’s roof trim replaced in Spain, after a tiny fracas with a hidden metal hoarding. Which put us off the road for three weeks. And how, while hopelessly lost in Germany, we were escorted by the Polizei to the nearest camping store to refill our dwindling, gas bottle.

We swam every day for a month in Lake Garda, Italy. Treated ourselves to a coach trip to the enchanting city of Saltsburg. We visited the Eagles nest in the snow covered Bavarian Alps. We cycled Portugal’s wild Ria Formosa coast. And discovered the majestic chateaus in the mediaeval villages of France. All great writing fodder. Encouraged by the feedback from my blog, I looked for more news worthy material. I’m sure Richard, my husband, got fed up with me bleating ‘this’ll be great for the blog’’ while he was bailing us out of yet another tricky situation. As well as writing the blog, I started to polish up my children’s book, which, had lain forgotten on my computer for over 5 years. A project I’d secretly tapped away at in the spare room, when no one was around. Now, with the only pressure being whether or not to go for a swim or for a bike ride, I happily sat in the sun tapping away at my laptop for hours.

Wi-Fi permitting, it was easy to keep in touch with family via WhatsApp and Skype. They’d also visited us in France and Spain for a holiday And at Christmas we rented a two-bed, two-bathroom apartment in Spain, so our daughter could join us. A spacious, luxurious treat compared to the cramped Burkemobile, for practically the same price as parking on a campsite.

The time flew by, and we discovered that travelling in a motorhome was the best way to experience the non-commercial aspects of a country. We could go off the beaten track and find the heart of the community, such as the markets, bars, Restaurants and beaches favoured by the locals.

At the end of the year ,neither of us wanted to go home. We’d discovered a whole new world, it wasn’t always easy but the freedom it offered was intoxicating. Besides, I was now an emerging writer.

Our house was rented, and the tenants had expressed an interest to stay. Should we dare carry on with travelling for a second year? After much thought, the constraints of home life were less attractive than the lure of the open road. And so, with our minds made up, we were off again!!

By the end of the second year, our adventures had taken us through France, Germany, Austria, Italy, Andorra, Luxembourg, Spain, Gibraltar, and Portugal. And now, nearing the end of our trip, we were heading for Morocco! Which, although not in Europe, was to be our grand finale!!

Morocco was a culture shock after leaving Spain. As if the ferry from Algeciras had delivered us to another planet. The sheer chaos of the donkeys and carts weaving in and out of the busy traffic, the bustling markets, the heady smell of spices, and the regular calls to prayer. The cows grazing in the rubbish strewn streets. Children begging around the sparsely stocked shops. Shepherds, as young as four and five years old, herding sheep by the roadside. Women, carrying huge baskets of straw on their backs some, while cradling a baby. Camels, wandering freely along the beach. And families, loaded on to open-back lorries with all their worldly goods. A mad, mad world that clashed with the serenity of the stunning, snow-capped, Mountains, that surrounded it.

Morocco, however, was a treat for the new, serious emerging writer in me. Laptop ready, I wrote about us whirling recklessly around in the Burkemobile, trying to find a way out of a Medina, in Marrakesh. Richard, buying chicken in the market and watching horrified, as the poulterer wrung the live chicken’s neck. About the heavy rainfall, and the resulting torrent that rushed down the mountainside. And of our dash to push our bikes to the other side of the river before the water reached us. I wrote about the camel trek across the Sahara Desert. The magnificent sunset that turned the towering, sand dunes, every colour of the rainbow. And sadly, the death of a camel, after being attacked by a stray camel during the night.

Our trip ended in June 2015, and on my return home I received an email from Olympia Publishers, requesting the full manuscript for ‘Billy’s Search for the Healing Well’. My secret book, that I’d started to write in spare time. Travelling in a motorhome was a great life experience. Not only are you seeing the world, you’re getting the opportunity to jump in and live in that moment. For a wanna be writer, there can be no better inspiration. Gone was the closet writer who wrote when no one was around.

Although settled at home for now… due to the guilt of not seeing my Grandchildren,I’m out of the writing closet and working openly on the sequel to my book.

An adventure book !! for children aged 8 to 12 years, ‘Billy’s Search for the Healing Well’ was published by Olympia, in February, this year.

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Category: Contemporary Women Writers, On Writing

Comments (1)

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  1. Thank you Barbara, and for allowing me to tell my story. It’s a huge compliment to be published by you.

    Since writing this ‘Billy’s Search for the Healing Well’ was shortlisted for best Junior Book by the Carousel Aware prize in Dublin. Unfortunately, I didn’t win but it was worth the trip for the personal feedback from the judge of my category, the award winning author Benji Bennett.

    Wishing all writers every success and many happy hours of writing.
    Helen x

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