Or anywhere else, possibly.
In Footfall, the third of my Cassandra James novels, Cassandra’s husband opens the fridge and one of the plastic racks on the inside of the door comes away. A bottle of milk, a jar half full of olives, and a glass containing sticks of celery crash to the tiled floor.
In the way that writers do, I plundered my own life for this episode, which happened precisely as I described it, except that it was me who opened the door. Our old fridge was in a sorry state, no doubt about it, and anyone else might have decided to buy a new one. But Peter hated built-in obsolescence and the shoddiness of much modern design. Instead he repaired the fridge with fibreglass and made three wooden racks to replace the disintegrating metal and plastic ones.
That was years ago. The fridge doesn’t defrost itself any more and dealing with the jammed up ice box is a bit of a palaver. But it works, the shelves are still sturdy, and I won’t be buying a new fridge any time soon.
‘I never travel without my diary. One should always have something sensational to read in the train.’ In that respect and in that only I am like Gwendolen in The Importance of Being Earnest.
I first began to write a journal when I wrote my first novel. I am now onto notebook 25. I don’t write in it every day – far from it – but still it has become an essential part of my life. At first it was a matter of jotting down ideas or snatches of conversation overheard in café or an account of something that had happened that might one day be incorporated into a novel or story. Or I might sketch out the draft of a short story or write a piece of dialogue or a descriptive paragraph or two if they came to me while I was away from home. For, like Gwendolen, I always have my journal with me.
Over the years I began to record more personal stuff – such as how I felt about major events in my life, like the death of my mother. Above all I started to keep an account of our family holidays, in particular our many trips to Northern France over the last eight years. And now I am so glad that I did. Reading about them is a comfort and a way of visiting the life that I shared with Peter. Often, too, what I have written triggers other precious memories of things that I didn’t record.
I would encourage anyone, not just writers, to keep a journal. So much disappears as one moves forward in time, and is lost forever. But some can be saved: it need not all quite vanish.
The photograph is of me and Peter on the ramparts at Montreuil in Pas-de-Calais.
Writing is a solitary activity, involving long periods alone and periods of distraction even when you’re not alone. Thurber’s wife used to say to him ‘Dammit, you’re writing!’ when he sat abstracted at the dinner table.
Other writers understand this. When it was one of his days for working at home, Peter and I would retreat to our own separate studies in the morning and later come out to have lunch together. Though even then he would catch me staring into space, not having heard a word he said, as I contemplated ways of murdering people.
In the early days we were both academics, but as time went on and I began to write fiction, we became very different kinds of writers. We didn’t always read what the other had written. It didn’t matter. Sometimes I would talk to him when I got stuck and couldn’t work out what should happen next. He would tell me about an interesting piece of research he was doing: for his latest book, Architecture and Ritual, I was fascinated by his work on Chinese magistrates.
Architecture and Ritual: How Buildings Shape Society was published a few days after Peter’s death, but he saw a copy before we knew how ill he was. I am grateful that he was able to enjoy that. It is the culmination of a lifetime’s work and thought and he was so pleased that Bloomsbury took it on. It’s a worthy end to a distinguished career, though I am sorry too that he didn’t live to write the book on Lethaby that he had begun researching. He would have been the perfect person for that.
We enjoyed each other successes and spurred each other on. I don’t think I could have become a novelist and short story writer if I hadn’t been married to Peter and had his support, especially at the beginning. I will miss him in so many ways, and this not the least.
after the death of my husband, Peter Blundell Jones. Thank you to everyone.
On the day of his funeral the blinds were drawn in the windows of the Architecture Department in the Arts Tower: a wonderful tribute.
This obituary by Jeremy Till for the Architect’s Journal sums him up so well: www.architectsjournal.co.uk/news/obituary-peter-blundell-jones-1949-2016/10010072.article#.V78Wi9pRaOw.twitter