The cottage is small, with whitewashed walls and a thatched roof. The door and window frames are painted green, a green slightly more vibrant than olive. Inside, the floors are warm and made of long planks of wood, burnished through time and use. The kitchen counter runs along one wall, with a window above the sink, the ledge lined with pots of herbs and small plants, and another on the wall perpendicular. A table for four, used for writing and eating, sits in the middle of the room and a printer and fax machine sit in the corner, out of the way on a small table. A deep red sofa backs onto the kitchen, facing into the centre of the house, towards a large fireplace. The walls flanking the fireplace are hidden completely by bookshelves, books stacked thickly. To the right of the fireplace is a doorway with a hallway leading to two bedrooms. The walls inside the cottage are painted a softer, duskier green than the outside trim, with a few black and white photographs and a few vibrant, Moroccan style prints hanging where there are no bookshelves.
Outside, daisies, foxglove, Kerry lilies, Irish orchids, and tall grasses grow up around the walls of the cottage and along the walkway leading from the house to the small bit of gravel where an old, blue Peugeot is parked. On the far side of the cottage, I have planted fruit and vegetables. The driveway rises up steeply away from the house, to the top of a small, grassy hill. From that vantage point, behind the cottage, more hills rise higher and higher, in a patchwork of jewel-green, to meet the sky. But the really breathtaking view can be seen if you turn back towards the cottage and look out past it, beyond the slope of its little hill and the rocky cliffs below that, out to the sea. Ballinskelligs Bay, deep blue today, opens in the distance out into the Atlantic Ocean. It is an equally spectacular view when seen from the kitchen window.
This is the cottage I live in. It is my little writer’s cottage, hidden in obscurity with few houses nearby. I first saw it in 1997 when I was visiting Ireland for the first time, driving around, exploring the countryside with my mother. We had just driven across a perilously-perched stretch of road, both of us focusing on the view rather than on our fear of heights, until a herd of sheep milling about on the pavement stopped us dead. While we waited for them to move, we looked around – up at the green hills, down across the blue water of the bay. And that was when we saw the sign, “Cottage for sale,” hand printed, with a phone number. A year later, when I returned to Ireland on my own having graduated from university and with all my hopes and dreams of becoming a writer in the west of Ireland, I made my way from the airport by bus back to this remote, beautiful part of Ireland. And there the cottage sat, still for sale. A perfect writer’s dream.
Sixteen years later, I still marvel at the beauty, the view, the impossibly green greenness, the sea. I’ve turned a dream into my reality. I have written ten books, books I have been happy with, and have been kept busy, and fed, by also writing for small, local papers. I’ve even begun writing pieces for a London paper, appealing to those locked in an urban life dreaming of the green grass on the rural side of the proverbial fence.
This life hasn’t been easy, but it is what I had hoped for. I have a daughter, Sage, who is now twelve. She runs wild across the fields, swims in the icy cold waves at the little beach where my mother and I once gathered smooth stones the soft, dusky colours of the mauve sunset, and rides her bike along the winding, quiet road to school, 4 miles away. We have a large, bounding golden retriever, Penny, and two tabby cats, George and Tennyson.
I spend my days writing mostly, either at my kitchen table or, more often, wandering with a notebook and pen along the roads bordered by fuschia growing thick upon the high hedgerows, searching for the right place to sit and contemplate, to wait for inspiration among the hills and fields, or on a stone wall. Sometimes I make my way down to the coastline to pick my way among the lichen-covered ragged rocks, to watch the liquid silver of the waves rolling in. This route is usually something I save for the bleak, emptiness of winter, though – during the summer, it is overpopulated, boisterous and not particularly inspirational, as much as I love watching the children shriek and splash and laugh.
This is a start at a piece which could become anything – a short story or something longer – or I may just edit it a few times and leave it as is. It is inspired by the plans I had when I was in university and travelling Ireland with my mother. Comments and suggestions welcome!