or back to the PC at least, from an all too brief holiday in the South of France where -unlike Scotland, for most of the time this summer - the sun was shining and it was warm. Have spent the days since our return trying to catch up on mainly writing associated tasks including drafting out a piece for the Financial Times weekend supplement about the beautiful mediaeval city of Carcassonne. Mind you - as anyone who has read Kate Mosse's Labyrinth will know, Carcassonne has a very checkered and somewhat brutal past. I knew about the place years before I saw it (for the first time, last year) because when I read Mediaeval Studies at Edinburgh University I had a friend who was obsessed with everything to do with the Cathars, the Albigensian Crusade and so on. She would bend the ear of anyone who would listen with stories of that time, and the horrific cruelties inflicted on the Cathars by the establishment, and all in the name of Christianity. It was fascinating and ever since, whenever the subject of Templars, Cathars etc has come up - quite often, since the Da Vinci code phenomenon - I have thought of Dorothy, sitting in our flat, clutching a glass of wine and regaling us with tales of mediaeval savagery. The last time I saw her, she was heading for Venice with all her worldly goods in an assortment of carrier bags. We stuffed her into a railway compartment with them - and never heard from her again.
I'm busy revising The Physic Garden which seems good in parts - and about to try to build on my recent commissions for the FT by trying to place more - many more - freelance articles. I seem to have discovered an unexpected talent for travel writing although I'm aware that it is a heavily over subscribed market. The other thing I know about and can write about in a popular way is, of course antiques and most particularly 'women's things' for want of a better term - textiles, embroidery, vintage and antique clothes, dolls, teddies, perfumes, jewellery. What really fascinates me is that whole area which antique dealers call 'provenance': the tales which are embedded in objects from the past. It's a fruitful source of inspiration for writing and I intend to try to tap into my own knowledge over the coming year.