Ritual and routine can play a big part in a writer’s life and has an extremely calming effect, especially when the mind is all over the place skittering hither and thither and ‘washing machine head’ is the dominant hegemony.

I am in Manchester this morning and staying in a hotel without a window. I am so disorientated I am not sure what to think and right now have no idea where this blog is headed. When I am staying at the writing retreat I wake to the sound of bird song; the sun is up around seven and light streams in through the big doors and it’s impossible to stay in bed. I leap up, open up the room and step outside into the courtyard greedily gulping the fresh air and breathe in the exotic smell of Portugal on a summer’s morning. The intense sensation of the sun’s heat on my face can’t help but prompt creativity; I am like one of my plants!
I keep looking up in this hotel room but all I can see is a wall and there is not a sound except a dripping shower. I also have no idea what the day has in store, the weather, nothing – dislocation is probably an understatement.

So it prompts me to think about what I do use to keep me grounded as I prepare to work each day. The first thing is weak black tea, I write with a mug, sometimes two, perched on the very small desk I use to for this purpose when I am outside on the terrace. My Pilot pen which is not negotiable and couldn’t use anything else for journal writing, not in all the time I have kept the journal will you find a page not written with the same kind of black ink – never.
I sit just at the top of the steps each morning and look over the village. There is a road that falls steeply down between the vineyards and I always look to it in the vain hope something might be happening there. Most mornings it’s a fat grey line that slashes through the landscape and remains unused. I love watching the progress of small figures as they gradually come into focus. In fact  I have used the road many times in short stories and it provides an exit and entrance for many characters: a soldier returning from the war in Angola being one of my favourites.

In the en suite, the tap keeps dripping reminding me of the sound of rain. When it pours in Portugal it’s a deluge and I enjoy watching from the terrace too as the roof is built in such a way it provides a canopy. The electric storms are vivid and exciting as they echo right round the valley, the retreat is hemmed in by mountains. The lightning can be dramatic. I suppose this means this lack of a window only serves to remind me how much nature invades my psyche when I am staying in the retreat. The doors and windows are always open, butterflies are always fluttering into the garden, the birds use the garden as their personal hunting ground and as I type I can see the flowers beds overflowing with a profusion of blooms in my mind’s eye. It’s an indelible image and if I had my paints I could represent it, image perfect it seems.
The china blue sky, which looks so very high in the summer is a comforting colour and when the sky looks like that, everything is so optimistic. I walked through driving rain in Manchester yesterday afternoon, what a contrast,  and I can’t wait to return to Portugal even though I have been in the UK for just 24 hours.

The Bouganvillia that grows across the rooftop of an abandoned building is just about to burst into a froth of pink; the walnuts and figs are swelling nicely and the grapes are beginning to transform themselves from small dots of green into something a little more substantial and thoughts of the back breaking grape harvests at the end of September.

It’s strange what images are carried in the mind – unlike those on my smartphone I cannot scroll through an, of course, have no idea how many are stored ready to be accessed at a second’s notice. That’s what this blog is about, the stimulus that prompts me to write, blogs, journals, stories whereas this hotel room makes me think about prison, introspection and the necessity and power of fantasy. I am typing this from my bed but my head is in another dimension. It’s strange how certain places are so embedded in your psyche you know they will never disappear.

My black journal is left on the table as there was no room in my tiny case and I feel extraordinarily guilty I have not written in it this morning. Still, it’s time to go out and explore Manchester stuffed full of contrasts, sounds, different accents and culture – ah, it has its compensations I guess! I just need five more minutes to take an imaginary wlak through the  courtyard in the retreat, dead heading flowers as I go, checking the lemons and the tiny tangerines that have formed and maybe just sit in my favourite chair listening to the birds before the business of the day gets underway.

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