Au­thor Rose Tre­main on find­ing inspiration dur­ing her trav­els.

The Bri­tish au­thor on mo­ments of inspiration, from a forest play­ground to the fall of the Ber­lin Wall.

Gourmet Traveller (Australia) - - Contents -

My first trip abroad was to Wen­gen in Switzer­land.

I was seven. My sis­ter and I and our nanny went up to the Jungfrau­joch on a fu­nic­u­lar train and were amazed to find snow there in the mid­dle of sum­mer. We dis­cov­ered a de­serted sawmill sur­rounded by forest and this be­came our play­ground. Wild straw­ber­ries grew at the edge of the wood and I used this im­age of hid­den fruit in a piv­otal scene in my 2016 novel, The Gus­tav Sonata

– “tiny points of red, like beads of blood among the ban­dages of green leaves”.

I used to be a pa­tient and hardy traveller be­cause trav­el­ling seemed such a be­guil­ing and im­por­tant thing to do.

I was im­pa­tient to visit as many coun­tries as I could. I started with Cor­sica, Por­tu­gal, South Africa, Rus­sia and Greece. I re­mem­ber ask­ing the lit­er­a­ture de­part­ment of the Bri­tish Coun­cil to “send me any­where in the world”. Now, aged 75, that yearn­ing to be else­where has com­pletely gone, partly be­cause air­line travel now feels like an ex­treme form of pun­ish­ment for a crime one has not com­mit­ted. But I still jour­ney to wild, dis­tant places in my head. The novel I’m writ­ing now is set partly in the Bor­neo rain­for­est.

I hap­pened to be in Ber­lin when the Wall came down, in Novem­ber 1989.

The city was seized by an ex­cess of joy that I will never for­get. I walked through Check­point Char­lie into East Ber­lin and got lost in a fall­ing mist. To ask the way, I went into a pro­vi­sion store where they sold only tinned sar­dines, black bread and cab­bages. I joined in some wild cel­e­bra­tions in Paris Bar and barely slept for three nights. Later, I wrote a short story, ti­tled The Beauty of the Dawn Shift, about an East Ger­man bor­der guard who de­cides, when the Wall comes down, to walk east­wards to­wards Rus­sia.

My hus­band, Richard Holmes, is a bril­liant trav­el­ling com­pan­ion, calm and or­gan­ised and never, ever lost.

In con­trast, I can get lost be­tween a sta­tion buf­fet and the trains, be­tween 56th and 57th Street, be­tween a taxi queue and the taxis.

We bought a di­lap­i­dated house in the Gard, in south­ern France, on the morn­ing of 9/11, 2001.

We thought the world might be end­ing, but we went ahead with the pur­chase any­way. Now, we go to the house to walk and swim and in­vite friends to drink gin by the pool, lis­ten­ing to the nightin­gales.

My pack­ing es­sen­tials in­clude sleep­ing pills.

A bit of kit for what my mother used to call my “hope­less hair”. Emer­gency flat shoes for when heels be­come un­bear­able. Clothes I’ll greet as friends when I un­pack. My phone with pic­tures of my grand­chil­dren on it. Does travel broaden a per­son’s hori­zons?

Of course it does. We have short lives and should try to en­gage with all man­ner of hu­man dif­fer­ence. I’ve been to ev­ery con­ti­nent ex­cept South Amer­ica and the In­dian sub­con­ti­nent. My work has been shaped by travel.

Hav­ing said that, I don’t as­pire to be a traveller any more.

I as­pire to dis­cover still­ness and equi­lib­rium near to home. My favourite jour­ney is the one from my kitchen to my writ­ing desk.

Rose Tre­main’s lat­est book is Rosie: Scenes from a Van­ished Life (Chatto & Win­dus, hbk, $32.99).

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