That's right-- this year the traditional Olympic games have been given an extra twist by brother #2, who (obviously bored in the office one day) has decreed that instead of being allocated countries, the teams will each be given a fancy dress theme. Daughter #1 is clad head to toe in lycra in the Superheroes (rather her than me), #2 has raided the dressing-up box and come up with a glamorous, swashbuckling ensemble for her place in the Pirate team, and #3 is cute as a button in denim and gingham for the Cowboys and Indians. Him Indoors had an alarmingly laid-back approach to putting together his look for the 70s Disco team, but very annoyingly managed to get everything in one quick swoop on the charity shops on Saturday afternoon. (Everything being hip-hugging ladies white flared trousers, black polyester shirt, cuban heeled boots, aviator shades and a loathsome gold medallion. The overall effect is John Travolta meets the Village People and is as camp as Christmas.) I am in The Victorians, so couldn't pass up such a golden opportunity to buy a corset. It's black, with fierce steel stud fastenings up the front and I'm utterly thrilled with it and its instant half-stone weight-loss effect. (Am currently wondering how I can incorporate it into my outfit for next month's glamorous Mills & Boon get together in London...) Quite how I shall manage to compete at table tennis and hula hooping in it remains a mystery. I predict another wooden spoon to add to my collection.
Anyway, in the midst of all this I'm also guiltily aware that I failed to deliver yesterday's promised look behind the scenes on location of Spanish Aristocrat Forced Bride, so here it is!(better late than never etc...)
The book opens at a glittering Costume Ball in the grounds of Stowell Castle (no women's polyester flares for Tristan though) and as I wrote this bit when school was out last summer, one of our favourite haunts brought the setting very vividly to life in my head. Cholmondeley Castle in Cheshire is the home of the Marchioness of Cholmondelely (famously and incomprehensibly pronounced Chumley) and the daughters and I spent a lot of time hanging around in the gardens, working out where you could land a helicopter and which would be the best place to put up marquees if you were having a party. This is my favourite view of the castle, from the lake where I built an imaginary folly on an island—Tristan’s secret retreat from the world.
By the time school went back and I tripped off down to London for the annual Mills & Boon Authors' Lunch I’d progressed to the part of the story which takes place at Lily’s home in London. As she’s a successful model I decided that she should definitely live in uber-chic, celebritytastic Primrose Hill, so Abby Green and I walked there from Euston (having stopped to pick up fortifying Krispy Kreme doughnuts on the way—it’s quite a distance, you know) to check it out. We bought a picnic lunch from a deli on Regents Park Road and ate it on the hill in the September sunshine, then wandered round looking for the kind of house that Lily might live in. We were really excited to come across the pretty little lilac-painted house in Chalcot Square which for a brief period had been the home of Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes. I did my university dissertation on Sylvia Plath so had to resist the urge to throw myself down on the pavement outside and lick the paving stones where she once walked, and instead decided that in tribute this would be Lily’s house in the book. (I’m sure Sylvia would be beyond thrilled to know this.)
The other important location in the book is Tristan’s home ground—Barcelona. Now, I love the internet, and its value as a research tool can’t be overstated, but there are some instances where it just seems ever so slightly inadequate— namely when I discovered this hotel tucked away in a tiny corner of the exquisitely pretty Placa de Sant Felipe (with its desperately sad history) and had a sudden and alarming urge to leave the kids with my mother and drag Him off that very weekend for some on-the-spot research. Perhaps fortunately the Hotel Neri was all booked up (no chance of them making space for me—unlike Tristan) so in the end I did have to fall back on the internet. This is the archway into the square...
Spookily this song was already on my playlist for the book when I discovered that the video was actually filmed in the square outside the church where Tristan and Lily get married. The children from the school, who get a mention in the book also make an appearance!
(And in spite of the woman dangerously writhing around on the scaffolding, I’d still love to go there… )
That seems a suitable note to leave on since next time I'm going to talk more about the music I was listening to when I wrote the book. I'll also get round to posting the question for the competition! (Shall try to think of something other than 'Where in the name of Cadbury are my $%*#! author copies'...)