I’m spending this week at a house in Newport-on-Tay in Fife. My main task is to feed the cat at regular intervals, and he otherwise comes and goes as he pleases, so I reckon I have a good deal.
The person who asked me to do this is a published novelist, so as you can imagine, there are a lot of books dotted around the place, on no particular theme. There are ancient volumes interspersed with modern publications, and fiction mixed with non-fiction. On the staircase shelves alone, I can see Gore Vidal just along from Bill Bryson, and a 1927 edition of The Forsyte Saga above the Roy Jenkins biography of Winston Churchill.
But more than that, the whole place evokes an atmosphere most conducive to writing.
The house itself seems to speak of its history: it dates from probably the 19th century, and has been altered and repaired in different ways. Most noticeable is the modern wiring in the attic and different shades of paint in each room. The walls are fitted with a combination of traditional and contemporary art.
Newport is easily accessible by car or bus, yet the road outside is quiet enough that I can hear birds clearly chirping all day while looking across the water to Dundee, specifically the Law hill.
Unfortunately, I won’t be able to enjoy the atmosphere to its fullest because I’m still working remotely at my day job during business hours, but I do hope to become better acquainted with the cat. He runs away – often outside – every time I go near him.
I think we might have made a breakthrough, though: for the last two mornings, he’s allowed me to stroke him as I serve his breakfast.