In a previous blog, I wrote about my recent visit to the literary Nobel Peace Prize recipient Jose Saramago’s house while in Lanzarote which you can read here. Today’s post is all about one of my hero’s -Spanish artist and architect Cesar Manrique. I’ve promised myself I’ll make this post short. My family has told me I have a tendency to go on a bit where Cesar is concerned and have pointed out not everyone is interested.
But they should be…
I’m not going to write about Cesar’s early life, his glamorous spell living in New York, instead, focusing on when he returned to his birthplace of Lanzarote in 1966. Cesar adored the island, adored nature, and was years ahead of his time with recycling and caring for the environment, fearing that tourism could potentially destroy the place he loved so much. He lobbied tirelessly for the government to adopt his plans which would ensure the island thrived but remained unspoiled, retaining its own unique landscape.
Cesar was responsible for planning regulations inflicting height regulations on hotels, ensuring telephone cables were buried underground, that roads were built through the remnants of volcanic eruptions, rather than clearing them away, blending the roads in with the landscape. He proposed resorts were kept to three areas of the island and that all houses were whitewashed with shutters and doors painted blue for properties facing towards the sea and green for those facing inland keeping the island picturesque and aesthetically pleasing. He persuaded the government to take a long-term view to preserve the island rather than focusing on short term financial gain, banning advertising billboards. During a film I watched about him, he relayed a story of how when adverts did appear he would go and dig them up with his mini digger during the night.
This is why everyone should be interested – be kind and work in harmony with nature were principles he lived by, principles we should ALL live by. “I believe that we are witnessing a historical moment where the huge danger to the environment is so evident that we must conceive a new responsibility with respect to the future.”
As well as his tell-tale pieces of art around the island, many of Lanzarote’s tourist attractions have a magical feel and were carefully and considerately created by him utilising lava bubbles and caves forged by previous volcanic eruptions. Cesar really embodied ‘Be the change you want to see’ and it’s a shame his work was cut short after his death in a car accident. He really inspires me that with passion and vision, kindness and compassion, we can all make a difference if we work together and never give up.
We visited Cesar Manrique’s foundation which was also his home full of chill out areas in lava bubbles, a pool and a dance floor with a tree growing through the lounge floor, the house he lived in until his death, his cactus garden. His first project Jameos del Agua which was birthed from a collapsed lava tube housing a pool in which thousands of tiny albino crabs live (it’s a great place to have a coffee and chill). The Mirador del Rio which has the most stunning views across the island.
You can find out more about Cesar Manrique here.
Lanzarote is one of my most favourite places on earth, coming second only to my dining table when all my family are seated around it. Partly because it’s home to one of my hero’s – Cesar Manrique – but more about him in a forthcoming blog; today’s post is all about literary Nobel Peace Prize recipient Jose Saramago (1922-2010) whose house I visited last week.
There’s something very special about standing in the places other authors once stood. Jose’s home is beautiful. A world away from the cramped space where I write my thrillers.
If you’re not familiar with him, Jose Saramago was a Portuguese writer, once described by Harold Bloom as ‘the most gifted novelist in the world’. Over two million copies of his novels have been sold and he’s been translated into twenty-five languages. When the Portugues government ordered the removal of his novel ‘The Gospel According to Jesus Christ’ from the Aristeion Prize shortlist – claiming the work was religiously offensive – Jose moved to Lanzarote where he resided until his death.
Inspiringly, although Jose supported himself through journalism, his career as an author didn’t take off until the publication of his fourth book when he was sixty. I wasn’t published until I was in my 40’s and I thought I’d changed career quite late in life. There’s hope for all aspiring writers out there!
This is his study inside of the house, although it isn’t where he wrote his books.
And not surprising with this fabulous view to distract him…
But there was a fine collection of pens.
And of course, a Nobel Peace Prize displayed on the wall.
A super tidy desk, the legs of which were covered in teeth marks where his dogs had chewed them.
The whole house had a cosy, lived in feel. The lounge was just as he’d left it. His current reads on the coffee table. The walls covered with paintings based on his books which made me long for a painting based on one of my books!
My heart melted when I learned all the clocks in the house were stopped at four o’clock because that was the time he met his wife.
Jose’s library was jaw-droppingly impressive. There are 15,000 books in his collection. He insisted that people were extremely careful with books stating there were pieces of the author on each and every page. His wife insisted that female authors had their own section as she very strongly felt women deserved better than for their novels to stand side by side with male authors many of whom didn’t respect women or their work.
This is where Jose wrote.
Apparently, every morning he would rearrange his desk and reread what he’d written the day before. Then he’d begin to write, never stopping to edit.
After lunch every day he’d swim in his indoor pool.
Before spending each afternoon sitting in his favourite garden chair, gazing out to sea, meditating and thinking of his wip. Jose formed the words in his head he would write the following day and rarely had to redraft the way that most writers **me** seem to. There was a big lesson here that to spend a few hours writing without distraction is far more productive than a day spent at a desk hopping on and off social media as I do.
After the tour we were given a cup of Portuguese coffee to take into the garden, although Jose’s cat had claimed the best chair.
You can find out more about Jose Saramago and how to visit his home here.
A few days ago, on holiday, my youngest son excitedly told me Lego are making a ‘Stranger Things’ set.
‘You know you’ve made it when you’re immortalised in Lego,’ I said.
We travelled home this morning, and after I’d showered I opened the door to my study to find this Lego model of my office – complete with inspirational quote board – on my desk.
Next to it was this note: –
So many amazing things have happened over the past three years with my books, and I hope there are many more causes for celebration to come but genuinely no amount of books sales, chart domination or award nominations have come close to the feeling of pride I got when I read this note. Whatever you do in life, to be a success in the eyes of your child…. there is no greater success.
I’m super happy to be appearing at a couple of fabulous literary festivals in the next few weeks, with my good friend, fellow psychological thriller writer, Darren O’Sullivan. I love meeting readers at events and appearing with a friend makes it extra enjoyable. If you’ve been to see Darren and me before you know to expect a LOT (sometimes too much) laughing as well as lots of talk about books and writing. We love the audience to join in our conversation and it’s all very relaxed and informal. Do come if you can.
First up is Deepings Literary Festival in Market Deeping on the 23rd-26th May. There’s a stellar line up including Sophie Hannah who I’m a little bit star-struck to meet! Darren and I are on Friday at 10.30am (fabulous blogger Linda Hill will be keeping us under control) which gives us the rest of the day to eat much cake and catch everybody else’s talk, including Barbara Copperthwaite’s. You can view the programme and book tickets here.
On 9th June we shall be in the beautiful village of Earls Barton, Northamptonshire, at 10.30. We appeared here last year and even if you don’t like books it’s worth the trip for the carrot cake! The festival runs from 7th – 9th June. I can’t wait to catch Sue Moorcroft and Jane Isaac who are always entertaining as well as meeting Cara Hunter who writes such excellent books. You can view the programme and book tickets here.
Pop along and say hello – we’d love to meet you!
Last September my son left home to begin a new phase of his life at university. Like many mums, I felt a mixture of sorrow, pride, happiness, loneliness, and excitement. I also felt something else.
My son has depression, something he’s very open about and shares on his blog. He’d deferred his uni place the previous year, not feeling in the right headspace to go but now…
Now he wasn’t entirely sure but after some medication and therapy, he felt it was now or never.
A few years previously, when his brother had plans to go to uni, I found myself googling student recipes to print out for him, articles on budgeting. This time around I googled suicide statistics for male students.
The results were horrifying.
Men are three times as likely to take their own life than women. My son hasn’t been brought up with a ‘boys don’t cry’ mentality. As a family, we’ve always talked and he’s openly shared his feelings with me, his mood, his ‘I’ll-never-get-out-of-bed-again days.
But I had a constant gnawing worry – what would happen when I wasn’t there to talk to?
Mostly he manages his condition well. He knows his triggers and has coping strategies in place. His new friends are understanding when he can’t face going out or leaves a gig halfway through.
Mostly he manages.
But there are times he doesn’t. Times when I check his Instagram story and know from the music he’s listening to that his mood has plummeted. Sometimes he’ll come and spend a few days at home, but sometimes he’ll retreat into himself and these are the most terrifying of times for me. The dark voice whispers in my head that it’s all my fault – something I did or didn’t do – while I anxiously trawl through his social media accounts all hours of the day and night. Not because I want to know where he is, but because if he’s posted, I know he’s alive. I study photos he’s been tagged in. How does he look? But how he looks is no indication of how he feels. As he said on his blog “you can’t see mental health, you can’t look in a mirror and see the damage being caused.”
And living with that fear. The fear that one day it might all get too much for him creates such a feeling of utter helplessness, of hopelessness it’s a constant battle to balance giving him space to grow, with checking he’s okay. I try not to plague him with endless calls and messages (often I plague him with endless calls and messages).
A few nights ago he sent me an email completely out of the blue, completely out of character. It was a long and lovely message about his brothers and me, and if it had come from one of my other children I would have burst with happiness. As it was, a cold dread wrapped itself around my heart. Immediately I rang him thinking something that no parent should ever have to consider.
‘Is this a suicide note?’
‘Umm, no. I can see why you’d think that, but no. I can promise I will never do that,’ he said with sincerity, and he meant it. But I’ve worked in mental health. I know those long, dark hours where sufferers of depression convince themselves it would be a good thing if they weren’t around anymore. That everyone would be better off. Happier.
That is never the case.
My son raises awareness of mental health where he can, particularly amongst males. I’m immensely proud of him for being so open and honest. Despite the despair he often feels, he has a desire to help others.
He said of his own journey “I went through a phase where I would drink more in the hope it would fix the problem. I can’t begin to explain how badly this impacted my mental health, constantly throwing yourself into a situation you don’t want to be in is crazy, essentially what I was doing was running as fast as I could into a wall, but every week running slightly faster and hoping that the harder I hit it, the better it would be.”
I hope that one day he stops running.
This was a raw and emotional write I’ve shared with the permission of my son. If you or your family are affected by mental health issues you can access UK mental health services (including emergency support) here and in the US here, or speak to your doctor.
My husband had gone to a client meeting, my son had just left to meet friends when I decided to have a break and make a drink. Back in my study, I put my coffee on my desk and it was then I realised, somebody had been into my room.
But I was alone.
Fear prickled at the back of my neck. On my keyboard, was a Biscoff.
‘Hello?’ I called into the silence which now felt heavy and oppressive.
Grabbing my phone, I called my son.
‘There’s somebody in the house,’ I whispered. ‘They’ve left a warning on my keyboard.’
‘A warning or a biscuit?’ He asked.
‘Was it you? But you’re not here?’
‘I found it in my pocket when I got to the bottom of the road and thought I’d pop it back as they’re your favourite. Seriously, mum how could you think it was creepy?’
‘Because somebody could want me to think I’m losing my mind, doubting my reality. They-‘
‘You’ve got an overactive imagination,’ he said.
It’s something I’ve heard throughout my life, usually accompanied by an eye roll and a sigh. My school reports often started with ‘Louise is such a daydreamer.’ I am but now, rather than seeing it as a flaw, as I’ve always been led to believe, I look upon it as something positive. Although gazing out of the window and making up characters in my head may be a problem in many jobs, without my over active imagination I wouldn’t be living out my life-long dream of being an author.
For Mother’s Day, my youngest son bought me a fizzy bath bomb from Lush. We’d not had them before and he wanted to watch as I dropped it into the bath. Just before I let it go he said ‘look mum, there’s a secret message!’
Inside a small hole on the top of the bomb there was a tightly rolled piece of paper.
‘What do you think it says?’ he asked excitedly.
‘I think it says ‘drown, bitch,’ I said. ‘I don’t think it’s supposed to be revealed until you’re in the bath and as you stare in confusion at the words you become aware of someone standing behind you-‘
‘A hand on the top of your head,’ he said (he writes too…)
‘Which pushes you underwater and holds you down until you stop struggling.’
The disappointment when we read it said ‘thanks’ was immense.
My three sons are used to me now. One called me to tell me he’d lost his wallet he quickly followed it up with ‘and no I don’t think anyone will find it and leave my ID at a murder scene.’
‘You never know,’ I said, darkly.
Last weekend, we took our dog for a country walk and my son pointed out the perfect place to hide a body. I didn’t roll my eyes and sigh, tell him he’s got an overactive imagination as though it’s a bad thing. Instead, I encouraged him to explore the idea, write it down. If all potential story-tellers were made to feel having a vivid imagination is a bad thing there wouldn’t be as many books and that would be a very sad world indeed.