But that is what happened to me. In 1990 I had a two-week family holiday in the Cévennes mountains, which lie at the southern tip of the French Massif Central. It was – and, I like to believe, remains – the most beautiful place on earth.
For two decades these forested mountains must have lain waiting in the quiet places of my mind, until a year or so ago when they rose to the surface, unbidden, and demanded, ‘Write about us!’ So I built myself, in imagination, an old stone house at the edge of a tiny hamlet on the slopes of Mont Lozère. I wrote myself an Englishwoman, Catherine Parkstone, and invited her to leave behind her home in England and to come to my hillside retreat and forge a new life there among the chestnut woods. I gave her a plan to start up in business as a seamstress; I peopled her hamlet with local farmers and endowed them with deep layers of French reserve; I gave her a tapestry frame and a basket of silks and set her to work. The result was The Tapestry of Love – the story of Catherine’s slow-growing love affair with the place and its people.