Sarah Rees Brennan (sarahtales) wrote,
Sarah Rees Brennan

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Careening Around the Cotswolds: A Writer's Tale

So ladies and gentlemen of the audience, it so happens that I organised a trip to the Cotswolds. Not for my own idle pleasure, of course! In order to research! Just a nice, peaceful research trip, accompanied only by my trusty notebook with its pink plastic flower bookmark, into the nice, peaceful countryside. What could go wrong?

Habitual readers of this blog will not be surprised to hear: ALMOST EVERYTHING.

That, of course, is a lie. My flight was completely uneventful. Then I was on some trains, and the trains, well, they were delayed. This happens! I was not overly troubled, even though my phone was not working so well aboard the train, and I couldn't get in touch with the taxi I'd booked.

Thus, I wasn't terribly surprised to alight and find my taxi was not there. Not to worry, I told myself. I had the taxi company's phone number.

SARAH: calls
TAXI COMPANY: no answer
SARAH: That's okay! That's okay. Here upon the station door is a list of ten taxi companies!
SARAH: It's okay it's okay it's okay-
SARAH: Oh thank God! Yes, yes, hello, I need a taxi cab-
TAXI 10: Young lady.
SARAH: - stranded, train was late-
TAXI 10: Young LADY. I have been in bed for TWO HOURS.
SARAH: - taxi not here-
TAXI 10: In bed where YOU should be!
SARAH: But my bed is in another country?
PHONE: beep beep beep.

I don't know if I'm a godless heathen city type or what, but I am not used to finding it impossible to get a taxi at eleven o'clock at night.

I admit, I was now becoming a little worried, as I was in a strange place with much darkness and eldritch rustling sounds, with no idea how to get where I was going. Several rather young gentlemen suggested that I go somewhere and drink beer with them (my fuzzy rainbow jumper brings all the boys to the yard), but I declined their kind offer...

I called the lady who ran the guesthouse where I had booked a room, and she said doubtfully that she would see what she could do. Then I noticed a guy loitering in front of the darkened station. I advised him not to call any of the taxis.

THE GUY: Don't worry, I used to be a Marine.
SARAH: *instantly becomes rather worried*
THE EX-MARINE: So if something happens, I can protect you.
SARAH: Awesome...
THE EX-MARINE: Also, if I had my guitar, I could play us some songs.
SARAH: I do like entertainment when I am stranded somewhere!

George the ex-Marine and I ended up getting on quite well. He even explained to me why the trains were delayed.

GEORGE THE EX-MARINE: Someone stole the copper from the signal system. Copper goes for a lot over here.
SARAH: Eeeenteresting. *takes note for future life of crime*

Pam, otherwise known as the Wondrous Guesthouse Owner Of My Soul, got a taxi to us, and I shared the taxi with George the Ex-Marine because I do not believe in deserting those in need.

PAUL THE NOBLE TAXI DRIVER: When I heard there was a lady in trouble, I had to come out. Even though I get a bit scared driving at night.
SARAH: Because of the dark?
PAUL THE NOBLE TAXI DRIVER: No, because - you'll laugh.
PAUL THE NOBLE TAXI DRIVER: Because of vampires. I have a phobia. I was too scared to watch Twilight.
SARAH (sympathetically): I understand. I have a thing about seaweed.

I arrived at the Olive Branch, my lovely four-hundred-year-old guesthouse, perfectly safe though somewhat delayed, and toddled straight up to bed. Bit of a strange beginning to the trip, I thought, but tomorrow I was going to be rambling through the countryside. What could be more peaceful and charming?

SARAH: A field of lavender, awesome. *takes notes*
SARAH: A haunted river, even better. *takes notes*
SARAH: A little lamb, so cute with a little pink nose! *pets lamb* *takes notes*
SARAH: Why is the little lamb following me...
SARAH: A country pub. Well, I can't go in there, because I don't know if it allows lambs.
SARAH: Why is the drunk guy from the pub following me...
SARAH: I realise Mary had a little lamb, but she did not have a little drunkard. This is ridiculous!

I retraced my steps to the field where I picked up the lamb, and received a scolding for lambnapping by the farmer. As I walked from follies to orchards to woodland pools, I eventually tired out the drunk guy.

I was somewhat tired myself at this point, and I espied a lovely meadow. There were flowers, and a sunny bank, and a beech tree standing all alone.

I thought I would pop out the book I was reading (Sea Swept by Nora Roberts, about found family, adopted troubled brothers, and an Italian-American lady who is both a conscientious social worker and a total vixen, as recommended to me on this very journal and I recommend it myself!) and go sit on that sunny bank.

I had to climb a gate to do it. I admit it, it was all my own fault. Trespassing is wrong.

But it seemed so right. I was quite happy, for a little while, sitting and reading away. How peaceful this is! I thought. How serene!

Then the goat came.

I will not lie to my faithful readers. It was not a terrifying encounter, with a menacing, much-horned billy goat. He was in fact quite a small white goat. He had scarcely any horns at all.

But I had trespassed on his land. He was determined to avenge this insult, even if he had to gently headbutt me to death.

I don't know if you've ever had a very small goat try to kill you, readers. I found it very discombobulating. I ended up fending him off with my book as I scrambled gracelessly back over the fence.

If I ever meet Nora Roberts, I think I owe her a drink.

The rest of the day, and the next morning, was lovely and calm. French onion soup at the pub, a walk through the woods, cream tea with possibly the best lemonade in the world, and I found several places to commit murder. (Fictional murder. I'd just like to make that very clear. Fictional, fictional murder.)

That was just the calm before the storm.

Now, for my Research Purposes, I needed a manor, and I selected Stanway Manor as ideal. Getting there was a bit tricky, as it is much further from Stanton than internet maps would have you think. But I finally got there, and crawled all over it taking many notes.

SARAH: Can you see that family crest? On the tapestry? What kind of animal is that?
SARAH: Thank you!
AMERICAN TOURIST: Because that's not the family crest. That's a dog family tree.
SARAH: I knew that. And now - I must go.

After memorising the manor, it occurred to me that my ticket was for the manor and the grounds, so I walked about the grounds a little. I was a bit tired by this time, and I thought that I would stop and write some more notes by the lovely ornamental lake.

I should have known better. But I didn't.

I was absorbed, scribbling happily away. I wasn't thinking. When I felt the vibration in the ground below me, I thought 'Huh, an earthquake.'

Then I recalled that England doesn't really get earthquakes.

I was still happily scribbling, telling myself that perhaps I was simply imagining things, when the world exploded.

Readers, Stanway Manor has the highest vertical fountain in England.

Readers, I got very wet.

Everyone at Stanway was extremely kind, and brought towels. Some small children pointed and laughed. In all honesty, I cannot blame them.

The important thing is, I saved my notebook.

In more dignified writerly things, you may be interested in this guest blog on the Booksmugglers about Why We Read YA, in which I call Jack Nicholson an assbucket and talk about my deep love for Disney.

Also in Eve's Fan Garden, I will be doing two chats this week, one on the YA World, August 11th, with many authors including Lauren Oliver and Aprilynne Pike and one on creating fantasy worlds, August 13th, with authors including Robin Wasserman and Margaret Stohl..

Or you may simply want to stick with this post, and tell me what an idiot I am. ;)
Tags: adventures
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