I have been earning my living for almost 20 years as a heritage consultant. I have enjoyed the vast majority of my contracts, which have taken me all over the UK and Europe, and led to quirky activity such as writing a play about the success of Captain Scott’s Antarctic exhibition for the RGS or looking at the impact of slavery on museum collections. My need to write – and eventually Major Tom’s War – grew out of some of this story and collection-based work. Much of the more run-of-the-mill contract content was report-based, however, and that has become more and more demanding and formulaic as the years have gone by. I am half sick of planning, said the Lady of Shalott.
Although I will keep doing more of the fun stuff, I sincerely hope I have written my last big interpretive report.
To fill the gap, I am making lovely people some rather splendid breakfasts in our new AirBnB set-up called The Chanonry Bolthole. It is incredible to be able to base life around such a simple transaction. I use fruit and vegetables from my garden and eggs from local hens as much as I can. Il faut cultiver son jardin…
I provide a clean comfortable bed and a nice breakfast made with local ingredients and my guests depart with a smile on their face. It is as simple as that. Doing this (and doing it well) makes me absurdly happy. This feminist has even taken to enjoying the ironing, shock horror!
It is not dull or repetitive (I cannot say that about some of my interpretive plans). I enjoy my guests’ stories, of course, whether they are from Skegness or Ealing, the Basque region or Australia, the USA or France. Every single person who comes sees the Highlands with fresh eyes. I am able to find out what they like and nudge them in the direction of unusual things to see and do which I know they in particular will enjoy. The satisfaction is immense. I really do wish I had done this years ago!
Once my guests have gone, I am free to write knowing that my two spare rooms have bought me that precious writing time.
Of course it is a short season – and Brexit is bound to have an adverse impact on bookings next year – but I am very glad to have made this life change.
Next year I plan to host some writer stays here for folk who need a bit of one-to-one support or just peace to write/edit. Not a formal retreat, more of a creative sanctuary. Keep an eye on http://www.facebook.com/ChanonryBolthole for offers and updates!