Sandy Beds

The maple outside my writing window shines like the sun and fills with ring-collared doves. This new home in England is already feeling comfortable.

In Santa Fe the ravens woke us in the mornings, crying for their food. Scraps went out onto their own feeding table, and failing scraps we fed them hotdogs. The birds of that mountain home were constant and great companions.

That's one main reason that this has become our English home. I know that a writing day needs the balance of the outdoors, of walks with far horizons. Sandy has that. This county of Bedfordshire is pleasingly rural ... and often looks like it was landscaped in the 18th century. In fact the history stretches much further back. One our favourite new walking loops takes us up through woodland to Caesar's Camp which actually predates Caesar, being the site of an ancient British hillfort. I love sitting up there and looking out. This is close to what I consider my own writing landscape, that around North West Leicestershire.

Sandy is also home to the RSPB, the world's premier birding organization. A 90 minute loop walk takes us up the wodded hillside of their large reserve. It's a most peaceful place. As James truly introduced me to the wonders of birdlife, this seemed the perfect place for us to settle. He could learn to know Britain by coming to know our birds first of all .. and in doing so, teach me about them!

The walk from here to the rail station is through a meadow and alongside a river. A pair of swans see us coming, climb down from the far bank, and swim across to meet us. They cough in welcome, weag their tails, and wait for the bread we've brought them. It's the most cheerful and reliable part of each day. Someone else is looking after the ravens in Santa Fe now we're gone for a time (only he has trained them to come in the afternoon and not wake him at dawn). These swans have taken their companionable place. Black ravens, white swans. I like to see it as an omen for my new novel, "Slippery When Wet," which has just been submitted to the publisher Black Swan.