Guest Blog by Louise Mercer
MAKING A HOME
Making a home and a sanctuary – This is what makes me happy
Someone once told me, ‘write what you know about’. Do I know much about gorgeous village vets or running a seaside Bed and Breakfast? In all honesty, no, I don’t. However, I do know what life I’d love to lead given half the chance, and this is where I can wax lyrical.
For me, being at the coast surrounded by English countryside is my favourite place to be. Combine that with a cosy little cottage and I’m in my element.
This is exactly why Laura’s Harbour cottage in my first novel ‘If Only You Knew’ is the perfect mix of both. It was important to me when writing this book that Laura had a refuge, because that’s exactly how I see my home too. Somewhere safe to retreat to when the world becomes too much. All I need is a sofa, a bookcase, scented candles and a few throws and leave me to it. You can keep your designer handbags! Before my first novel was professionally edited, my closest friends asked me to count how many times I’d used the words ‘scented candles’ and ‘woollen throws’. I gave up after chapter twenty five and accepted I had a problem.
Simple pleasures, I think that’s what most people call it. None of it costs the earth, but I do admit to having storage boxes of what my husband fondly calls my ‘seasonal house tat’. I have votive holders, cushion covers and ornaments all related to the four seasons. At first I kept this as my guilty secret. Far too many glasses of prosecco with my besties later, I discovered I wasn’t alone in this obsession. Now I’m out of the ‘tat closet’ I have friends reserved just for home shopping. On our shopping days out, we talk so much on the way there in the car that we can’t possibly absorb what each other is saying, but we always have the same plan and agenda in our minds. Primark home section. Next home. Latte and cake (obviously, we’re hungry and carrying lots by this point). TK Maxx (leave bread crumbs, we’ll eventually find our way out). No stone is left unturned. Every cushion is tested for comfort. Every throw is cuddled. Every candle is sniffed. We’ve discovered there’s a skill to fitting all this in between school drop off and pick up, and over the years we’ve mastered it. If you like it and you’ve not spent up, buy it. Life is too short!
The Range, Dunelm Mill, Home Bargains…. Our pupils dilate. Even the shelves of different Zoflora get our juices flowing and don’t get me started on shake-and-vac.
And then the best part of all, after emotionally agreeing that what happens on a shopping trip, stays on a shopping trip (darling, we’ve had that cushion for months) we get to go make our homes that bit cosier. And that’s why we do it. It’s not about the price tag, it’s about creating a sanctuary.
Yes, my books are romance novels but there are other aspects that I want people to connect with too and cosiness, texture and warm berry fragrances are what helps me to relax. At night when I can’t sleep (I’m suffering with the dreaded menopausal hot sweats!) I take myself into Laura’s annexe. The sea is buffeting against the windows, the trees are struggling against the harsh winds, but the fire is crackling away and my body is wrapped up in a thick throw while Bronte the mischievous pup is sleeping by my feet. This is my escapism from the everyday stresses of life. It may be part of the plot, it may help the reader to connect with the story and the characters, but this is also my therapy. Knowing I’ve created a safe haven for my family gives me a huge sense of relief.
My son comes home from school and throws his bag on the kitchen table and kicks his shoes into the middle of the sitting room. Footballs are balanced on kitchen chairs so the dog doesn’t burst them. The toilet seats are never down and there’s pet hair everywhere, but I know that if he’s had a tough day at school, this is the place he wants to return to. We don’t have to pretend to be anything other than the people that we are, because within these four walls, we are enough.
So, when you’re reading about cosy corners, closing the curtains against the winds and hunkering down in storms, this is me talking about something I’m good at! I’m creating a sanctuary.
Check out Louise’s first book here!