My Favourite Places: Angela Clarke
Some people are just so flippin’ multi-talented. Angela Clarke has her first novel, Follow Me, out this month – I’ll be reading it over Christmas (in all that spare time I’ll have…) and I’ll let you know the skinny in January. Her memoir about the decade she spent working in the fashion industry, Confessions of a Fashionista, is a massive bestseller – attracting five stars here, there and everywhere. Her first play, The Legacy, had rave reviews (of course…) for its opening run this June. And she’s written for The Guardian, The Independent Magazine, The Daily Mail, and Cosmopolitan. Angela also joined the team at St Albans’ Radio Verulam last year on their weekly current affairs show Outspoken. Oh, and as if that wasn’t enough, she scooped the Young Stationers’ Prize for achievement and promise in writing and publishing earlier this year. Honestly. Good thing she’s thoroughly lovely, too.
I thought I’d see where someone who does all this likes to hang out, and I’ve asked her to share her favourite places with you lovelies. Some cracking choices, I have to say, but I wouldn’t expect anything less. So, over to Angela….
Retreats For You, Sheepwash, Devon
The idea of a writing retreat might sound a bit airy fairy: all terribly pretentious types musing and pontificating on their own belly button fluff. But in a world where writers are increasingly called upon to partake in festivals, blogs, social media, and all other manner of other fun but noisy and time-consuming pursuits, having somewhere where you can lock yourself away and immerse yourself in your work is increasingly vital. Retreats for You is run by Deb and Bob, and housed in a beautiful cob house, in the tiny Devon farming village of Sheepwash. Each writer has their own room, spacious but cosy, with a desk to write at. Meals can be taken downstairs with other guests, where I’ve enjoyed countless fascinating conversations and forged friendships. And then there’s the fireplace: a huge cavernous beauty filled with the snap, crackle and pop of a fire. That fire has kept me company while I’ve read, and thrown up a fair few flares of ideas. It’s a magical place.
Orchard Physiotherapy Clinic, St Albans
This may sound like a crazy addition to a list of favourite places, but bear with me! I have a rare degenerative connective tissue disorder, Ehlers Danlos III (EDS III), which among other things causes easy injury, multiple dislocations, tissue damage and chronic pain. I visit the unimposing contemporarybuilding that houses the Orchard Clinic two to three times a week. I’m intimately acquainted with the polystyrene tiles that chequerboard the ceiling, and the hydraulic bed upon which I’m stretched, poked, and occasionally pinned (the acupuncture kind). It is a place I sweat at, concentrate, wince, and sometimes yelp. The physiotherapists and staff who work there are an intrinsic part of my life. Without them I wouldn’t be able to walk, stand, sit, type. And that’s why it’s one of my favourite places, not because they offer me relief from pain (though trust me, that’s good), but because they allow me to work. They keep me writing. That low redbrick building is full of diamonds.
The Orient Express
I love trains. Not in a geeky, collecting numbers and sightings way. In an old school romantic way. I can always work on a train. There’s something soothing about the rock of the carriage, the click-clack over the tracks, the fields, sea and sky rolling past. As long as I have a seat, and there’s not a carriage full of excitable school kids, I’m happy on any train. But putting Great Western Coach B felt a bit anti-climactic. So my favourite place on rails is the Orient Express. I was lucky enough to take this glorious train from Bangkok to Singapore, via the jungle of Malaysia, and over the bridge of the River Kwai. The carriages are ornate art deco wood panelled, and there’s a dining car and a full cocktail bar on board. Seriously what more could anyone want? One of the best moments of my life was arriving in Kuala Lumper at 2am, my partner playing the piano in the bar with the pianist, and all the staff singing along to ‘Leaving on a Jet Plane,’ with the slightly tweaked words ‘Leaving on a Green Train.’ A one way ticket to paradise.
I love my bed. When I first started dating my partner he couldn’t believe how much time I spent in it. But it’s great: warm, comfortable, I can do my favourite things in it: read, write, sleep, and you know… I’ll get back into my bed throughout the day. It’s the perfect place to go for a bit of peace and quiet. A bit of respite from the whirling world. If I’m stuck with my writing I’ll take my manuscript, or my Mac, up to my bed and curl up with them. It’s where I do my best thinking. It’s where I’m typing this right now.
Sevenoaks Bookshop, Kent
Established in 1948, and now the precious property of its fourth owner, Fleur Sinclair, Sevenoaks Bookshop is the epitome of the indie bookstore: handed down one generation to the next. Stroke-able curved polished wood shelves, which remind me of a ship’s bough, line the room. They stock the kind of lovingly curated selection of books that keeps you coming back for more. Can anything beat the smell of books? The feel? The weight in your hands? The joy you feel each time you open one? I’ve spent many happy hours here. With a snug café, serving hot drinks and delicious cakes, and a writing group and annual festival, Sevenoaks Bookshop is at the fluttering literary heart of this community. A chapter of heaven you can buy for less than a tenner.
The sea is a thing of numinous splendour. Numinous – mystical, magical, unearthly power – I learnt that word studying the Romantic Poets at uni, and it stuck. That’s the sea: numinous. I love the feeling of insignificance you feel facing the ocean: my concerns are trivial; the waves will still come. I love scrunching my toes into warm sand, scrambling over pebbles, paddling, swimming, floating. I love golden sands and cooling turquoise water. And salt on my skin. Watching surfers flip and fly. Birds dip and call. Fish flash in the light. But if I had to pick one watery place to stand by day in, day out, it would be the ravenous rocky Cornish coast. The quote attributed to many – I don’t believe in bad weather, just inappropriate clothing – is true. There’s never a day I wouldn’t want to stare at the sea. I’d just pack my ear muffs.