Tuesday, 15 June 2010


So excited. I've won one of this year's Robert Louis Stevenson Fellowships and will be spending the whole month of July living in the Hotel Chevillon at Grez-sur-Loing, seventy kilometres S.E. of Paris.

The Fellowships have been awarded by the National Library of Scotland and the Scottish Arts Council for the last dozen or so years and I've applied at least twice before, so I'm really thrilled that this time, I've been successful.

The Hotel Chevillon is run by a Swedish consortium as an artists' retreat now but in its nineteenth century heyday it was a hotel or lodging house which was often frequented by writers and artists. Robert Louis Stevenson met his wife, Fanny Osbourne, there and the Glasgow Boys (Scottish painters) also spent time there.

It's so daunting to set myself into anything approaching the category that these people fell into. Strange bedfellows, indeed. Two reasons - I'm neither a man, nor one from an upper class background. In the nineteenth century, my ancestors would only have been able to stay at Hotel Chevillon if they were making up the beds or seeing to the horses. It's a measure of how far society has changed that I can be awarded an expenses-paid stay there and it's in that spirit that I'll be approaching it.

What am I looking forward to most? Being there. Writing. Experiencing the French experience again. Walking by the river. The quiet and the leafiness. The forest of Fontainebleau. Visiting the chateau of Fontainebleau. Experiencing the French experience again. Writing. Being there.

I was awarded the fellowship to enable me to carry out research into a more northern French way of life than that I experienced when I lived in the South of France. I've written one novel set near Nice on the Cote d'Azur and this trip will help me write authoritatively about the region of France my main character is from.

More on this in another post.