Last night it rained for most of the night and now in the morning everything in the garden is soaked through and spring-fresh, the colours as intense as stained glass. I love the garden at these times. Being outside in the wet reminds me of how the prisoners I once worked with longed to go for a walk in the rain.
It rained a lot in the West Country where I grew up and I like weather to be weather – let it rain, or storm or shine but not be indifferent. As a young reader fed on Thomas Hardy’s novels I loved both weather and place in my stories. So it’s perhaps no surprise that now as a writer I find place and weather inspiring, and both feature large in my writing…
The Sweet Track is set in the unique landscape of the Somerset Levels and the city of London, the story is told in a year as the seasons turn and the summer becomes the hottest since records began.Blood Tide, my recent crime novel, is set in the northern city of Newcastle in the depths of winter.
THE ORCHID HOUSE being no exception, is set in the confines of a great garden. Inspired by a visit to Cornwall’s Lost Gardens of Heligan it charts the seasons and the gardening year. Here is something of the garden and rain as seen through the eyes of two of the main characters; Madeline and Roma
Madeline ‘stood on the terrace, beneath the umbrella of the hornbeam looking out, through the grey pencil strokes of a spring shower, over the Long Garden and towards the sea. The peonies were flowering in the borders bursting from their blind buds. Eyes of apricot and pink had spilled into flounces of thirsty blossom. She waited for them each year, anticipating the extravagance of cutting them for the table; filling glass bowls and watching a circle of petals grow like a wreath to love. Peonies belonged to the summer. Like Harry they flowered early but were cut down too soon….’
‘The rain enticed Roma from work. It was tropical in its intensity, falling as it did with the promise of sun to come and a greener garden. She stepped out into the courtyard and stood by the tulip pots letting the rain fall on her, wearing no protection until her shirt and her hair were soaked…’
When the rain stopped Roma took her camera out into the garden … ‘In the Orchard the dark wood of the trees had swollen black with rain. Their knotted arms disappeared into clouds of pink and white blossom, weighted with water and dipping into the long grass where flower cups lay stranded in a veil of Queen Anne’s lace…’
A USEFUL WRITING TIP – if you want to keep weather threaded into your novel keep a weather diary. I wrote the first draft of Blood Tide – set in a cold northern winter – during two months in the South of France but I used my weather diary, made the previous winter, of daily notes reflecting on the weather – it only takes 5-10 mins but gives you genuine observation and some great lines.
Enjoy the rain! Sing! It’s good for the garden