My capacity for story-telling goes into overdrive on a long train journey. I start by harmlessly reading a book, then at some point I look up to glance out of the window and I’m hooked. A solitary cottage or ruined barn make obvious settings, places to describe in detail as they are now or as I imagine them to have been. Burnt-out buildings and boarded-up shops beg for their stories to be told. The real killers though, the ones that set the creative juices flowing faster than I can bottle them, are the half-glimpsed follies of a bygone age.
One that sticks in my memory is a viaduct that stopped abruptly and very neatly in the middle of a field (unless it was an illusion, the rest obscured by trees, but I don’t think so) – I only saw it for a second as the train rushed past, but within minutes I’d woven a story around it, and within weeks I’d written about someone coming across it and finding out the story for themselves. I’ve seen turretted houses, a cottage which appears to have a small medieval castle in the garden, tree-shrouded pillars and Grecian monuments. Every one triggers a tale, rarely the same one twice – even familiar journeys provide fresh inspiration. If I was ever in danger of running out of ideas, all I’d need is a day-rover.