CHRISTMAS OFFER Subscribe to Cotswold Life today CLICK HERE

Clare Mackintosh: The missing link

PUBLISHED: 17:18 30 October 2015 | UPDATED: 17:18 30 October 2015

A literary festival is a chance to leave the house!

A literary festival is a chance to leave the house!


A literary festival is a chance to leave the house! To wear proper clothes! To stay in a hotel with no children, and the freedom to sleep diagonally across a king-size bed!

In the last few years my working life has changed beyond all recognition. Then my commute was an hour each way, sitting in traffic watching middle-aged men in Lycra zip past me on bikes worth more than my car. My commute meant Radio Two, phone calls from work (I’ll be there in 10 minutes, I promise) and texts from the nanny (I’ll be there in 10 minutes, I promise). It meant stress and guilt as ambition and motherhood colided; balls in the air; apologies; regrets.

Fast forward five years and my commute takes me upstairs; a mug of tea in one hand and a basket of clean laundry balanced on my hip. Sometimes half nine, sometimes half ten; after a school assembly, a harvest festival, sports day races. Children at school, or – on a sick day – curled up in a duvet in my office, a just-in-case bucket by their side. Work life balance in action, right there.

Back then my uniform was stiff and unyielding; scratchy black trousers beneath a cheap white shirt, clip on tie and epaulettes denoting my rank. Ma’am at work, mum at home. Nowadays only the school run forces me out of my pyjamas, and even then I’m likely to default to baggy trackpants, all too reminiscent of nightwear, if the postman’s expression is anything to go by

Today’s working hours are 10 till four, with the occasional late night panic when an article’s due. No more 50-hour weeks; 12-hour days; shifts that should finish at six but go on till midnight, falling into bed too tired even to brush your teeth. Life is better now. I like the absence of appraisals, the autonomy of workload, the freedom to sack work for the afternoon and go down the pub. There’s just one thing I miss; people.

I won’t pretend I liked every one of my former colleagues, who does? But that in itself introduces a note of variety to one’s day: going the long way to the canteen to avoid another of Reg’s caravanning stories, or listening to gossip from the Superintendent’s secretary whilst formulating an escape strategy added much needed colour to a day of bureaucracy and rank. Colour that is sadly lacking from my freelance life: last week I caught myself hankering for a tale from Reg about his chemical toilet.

A desire for these ‘watercooler moments’ is why so many writers find themselves on Twitter, where they can hop onto a conversation and show off their sparkling repartee - whether invited or otherwise. Social media gives we work-from-homers the interaction we crave, however anti-social we pretend to be on the surface. Most writers I know are a strange mix of introvert and extrovert; garrulous when in company, but equally keen to slink away and write uninterrupted.

The highlights of my working life are the literary festivals that pepper my diary. You might be forgiven for thinking that lit fests exist solely to entertain their audiences, but for the author that is a secondary consideration. A chance to leave the house! To wear proper clothes! To stay in a hotel, with no children, and the freedom to sleep diagonally across a kingsize bed! Literary festivals are of course work for an author, but they have more than a whiff of the office party about them (minus the arse-photocopying, as far as I’m aware).

The four days I spent at Theakstons Old Peculier crime-writing festival earlier this year resulted in some useful networking, excellent booksales, a barrel-load of laughs and the sort of hangover that demands a full week’s recovery. It’s not all hedonism: there are many more sedate affairs, often closer to home. I had a lovely (and not at all debauched) time at Burford festival, and toured Oxfordshire libraries without mishap throughout the summer.

This month I’ll be speaking at Cheltenham, with the promise of Guildford and the Isle of Wight around the corner. These excursions are the icing on the top of what is already a very enjoyable cake, forcing me out of my office to meet people. Real people, not just the ones in my computer feeding me tweet-sized commentary and pictures of cats.

In bookshops and at festivals I can catch up with friends, chat to other authors and get my fill of gossip before retreating to my writing cave, clad in holey trackpants and with hair resembling the wild woman of Borneo. It’s a far cry from my old working life, and I couldn’t be happier about it.

Follow Clare on Twitter


Welcome , please leave your message below.

Optional - JPG files only
Optional - MP3 files only
Optional - 3GP, AVI, MOV, MPG or WMV files

Please log in to leave a comment and share your views with other Cotswold Life visitors.

We enable people to post comments with the aim of encouraging open debate.

Only people who register and sign up to our terms and conditions can post comments. These terms and conditions explain our house rules and legal guidelines.

Comments are not edited by Cotswold Life staff prior to publication but may be automatically filtered.

If you have a complaint about a comment please contact us by clicking on the Report This Comment button next to the comment.

Not a member yet?

Register to create your own unique Cotswold Life account for free.

Signing up is free, quick and easy and offers you the chance to add comments, personalise the site with local information picked just for you, and more.

Sign up now

More from Out & about

Yesterday, 12:33

Taking the classroom outdoors is fun, inspires fresh ideas, broadens horizons – and encourages a new generation to enjoy and care for the Cotswolds

Read more
Mon, 15:25

Chipping Campden – once the meeting place for a council of Saxon kings – now offers the warmest of welcomes to all its visitors, from the humble shopper to the seasonal shin-kicker

Read more
Thursday, November 15, 2018

As well as three days of action-packed racing and tradition, there’s plenty to do away from the course at this year’s November Meeting. Neil Phillips, The Wine Tipster, shares his 14 suggestions on how to make the most of your time at Cheltenham Racecourse

Read more
Tuesday, November 13, 2018

The Warwickshire town of Alcester is considered one of the best understood Roman settlements in the country. Tracy Spiers digs below the surface to discover its hidden jewels

Read more

Thanks to the impact of ground-breaking comedy This Country, the quiet market town of Northleach has become one of the Cotswolds’ hottest film locations. Katie Jarvis is sent to investigate

Read more
Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Stephen Roberts walks in the footsteps of the Oxford scholar who enjoyed attending parties dressed as a polar bear, and once chased a neighbour while dressed as an axe-wielding Anglo-Saxon

Read more
Tuesday, November 6, 2018

I send this postcard from Cirencester, complete with the discoveries and viewpoints from four members of my family – both the young and not so young

Read more
Tuesday, November 6, 2018

If you’re looking for things to do in the Cotswolds this month, we have gathered plenty of events for you to pop in your diary

Read more
Tuesday, November 6, 2018

One hundred years ago this month the guns fell silent, marking the end of what was to become known as The Great War. Stephen Roberts remembers the impact the war had on Cotswold lives from 1914-1918

Read more
Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Being a region so steeped in history, there are plenty of locations in the Cotswolds with spooky stories from over the years. From bloody executions, eerie apparitions and headless horsemen, we pick 23 of the most haunted locations throughout the Cotswolds to visit if you dare

Read more
Tuesday, October 30, 2018

New bat cams installed at Woodchester Mansion help study protected breeds while also becoming an added attraction for visitors. Jo Barber looks at the work of one of the UK’s foremost bat experts and the mansion’s valued volunteers

Read more
Tuesday, October 30, 2018

From an all-boy, all boarding prep school for just 30 pupils, to the quietly trailblazing yet still traditional school it is today – here is a snapshot of Beaudesert over its 110-year history

Read more
Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Of all the castles in the region, none have seen as much war, romance and royalty as Sudeley over its dramatic 1,000-year history. And with such a colourful and eventful past, it is easy to see why some people believe there could be spirits from bygone eras which still wander the halls and corridors to this day

Read more
Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Following a record year for ‘visitor giving’ donations via local businesses, applications are invited to fund conservation projects

Read more

Newsletter Sign Up

Sign up to the following newsletters:

Sign up to receive our regular email newsletter

Our Privacy Policy

Topics of Interest

Food and Drink Directory A+ Education

Subscribe or buy a mag today

subscription ad

Local Business Directory

Property Search