Virginia Woolf famously said that what a woman needed for creativity and peace of mind was ‘a room of one’s own’. As I write this, I am sitting at a nineteenth century French desk, in a room filled with first editions and a lovely Jack Yeats painting of a woman looks down at me. Through the window beyond I see the blue shutters and balconies of tall buildings opposite and I hear the sounds of scooters and pedestrians below chattering away in the mellifluous hum that is the French language. I am firmly convinced that at any moment I shall wake up.
This dream-like existence is a result of my being appointed writer in residence, for a calendar month, at the Princess Grace Irish Library in Monaco. For this blessing I have to thank the French Ireland fund. I have my own personal fairy godmother in the shape of the beautiful Judith who looks after my every need – guiding me around, showing me the best (and they are superb) designer second hand shops, handing me wads of cash, taking me to lunch and best of all, offering to read and edit my work. I have never in my life led such a stress free existence. I have a little serviced apartment, nobody but myself to look after – no bills to pay, no housework, no dog to walk or family to feed. I have already established a routine which includes slipping off to a secluded cove at lunchtime for a swim in the sea and working on my bronzage. It is extraordinary in October to walk along streets filled with orange trees in fruit wearing sandals and a light cotton skirt. Monaco old town is exceedingly pretty and has its own legislative building, post office and palace with a real prince and princess living in it and a toy town like changing of the guard takes place each day at noon.
Perhaps after a while the novelty will wear off, perhaps I shall become homesick and bored. I miss my family and my dog. But for the moment I am as content as it is possible to be and counting my blessings and dreading waking up.