Accidentally on purpose, I spent my summer on the trail of two great murderesses, Agatha Christie and Daphne du Maurier.
Holidays are always impossible to organise here – there are so many different factions, the action lovers, the lounge lizards, the supremely lazy (me) and those who aren’t altogether convinced that holidays are the answer anyway (also me). But this summer seemed a tiny smidge easier – with murder in mind.
After spending time at Gerarld Durrell’s house in Corfu last year (now a swanky restaurant with the most amazing views) I’ve definitely got a taste for pursuing my literary heroes. I’ve already told you how my daughters and I tracked the great Dame Agatha Christie down to Torquay for a really lovely break at the Imperial Hotel, the place she immortalised in several novels. And what could be finer than looking at various deadly plants in her poisons garden at Torre Abbey, in the brilliant English sunshine?
Then you can imagine how thrilled I was when my husband said he’d managed to book the English Heritage cottage at Frenchman’s Creek. This was partly because I wasn’t listening properly and for some time, almost to the moment we arrived, I thought it was actually Daphne du Maurier’s house. It wasn’t, it was just a tiny agricultural labourer’s cottage, built halfway up the vertiginous slope leading out of Frenchman’s Creek. But the creek itself was the setting of du Maurier’s novel of the same name so that sort of sufficed. Even the lack of a dishwasher, washing machine, WiFi or more than one loo was amply compensated for by views like this:
If you’ve been to an English Heritage holiday home before, you’ll know that they’re all got up like your great aunt’s parlour – slightly uncomfortable chairs, but real fires and the same lovely set of crockery in each house (Old Chelsea) so you can pretend at having proper tea parties with sugar in a matching bowl for once. Best of all, Frenchman’s Creek is so far off the beaten track (literally – you have to leave the car right up on the main road if it’s been raining as you’ll get stuck half way up the slope and have to be towed by an irate farmer) that I managed to write 17,000 words of my latest whodunit and, indeed, get the thing pretty well finished off.
When not writing I fell hopelessly in love with nearby Helford, the most beautiful village in the world, which looks as if it has been created solely to show off the latest Farrow & Ball colour chart. On the day we arrived it was having its annual regatta, complete with fireworks exploding into the bay against a backdrop of a true smuggler’s moon. We also went to a barn dance (yes, really) and an flower and produce show which really helped me make sense of the Archers’ annual plotline that has hitherto left me cold.
The summer already seems like an age away so it’s nice to keep flicking over the photos on my phone to prove it was once warm (just that little bit too warm, if you remember) and that we did actually go…
I wonder whose footsteps we’ll be treading in next year? If you can think of any mystery writers, preferably ones who liked six-week stays in five star hotels and combined lots of sportiness with total indolence, do let me know.