A Private Affair – Locations
A Private Affair is probably the most far-ranging of all my books so far – from Australia to West Africa via Germany, London, Bristol and Bournemouth – and I was lucky enough to spend time in many of the places I write about. I spent a month in Queensland, where Meaghan grows up, on a small farm near Toogoollawah which is about as remote a place as I’ve ever been to – but beautiful, too. I also spent a couple of months in Celle where much of the action in the last quarter of the book takes place – great wine and cheese, as well as a beautiful old town – and a great way to brush up on A-level German. I owe a special debt of gratitude to my dear friend and fellow writer Dee Jarrett-Macaulay, for her wonderfully evocative stories and writings on Sierra Leone, and to my friends in Accra, Delta Kilo, Irene and Toufiq, for the same. They brought Freetown to life for me, and I hope it somehow shows…
Celle is a pretty little town on the banks of the Aller River in northern Germany, close to Hannover. It has a picturesque town centre, called the Altstadt, built in the traditional timber-framed style of the area, and a number of lovely parks and gardens. It’s also home to the Royal Anglian battalion, who’ve been a presence in Celle since the end of the Second World War. In the novel, Sam spends a few months in Celle and yes, there really is a lovely little Italian restaurant overlooking the water…though the waiter isn’t called Luigi!
Freetown, SIERRA LEONE
Sierra Leone has a long, fascinating and troubled history and Freetown, the capital, is very much part and parcel of the country’s past. It was settled in 1787 by four hundred former slaves from the UK, hence its name, and although the city today bears little resemblance to the original settlement, reminders of its beginnings are everywhere – from street names to monuments, including Lumley Beach, where Dani first meets Major Nick Beasdale…and where the trouble begins.
I spent a few days in Brisbane with two lovely Brisbanians (is that a word?), Terry and Chrissie, who showed me all around their wonderful, water-side city, including the lovely arts complex which reminded me of the South Bank, except with much better weather and people in shorts. It’s Australia’s third-largest city and the place Meagan escapes to and loses herself in, completely reinventing herself in the process. It’s easy to understand why and how – it’s big, it’s exciting, it’s thriving and it’s genuinely beautiful. I keep saying I’ll be back…!
Notting Hill, ENGLAND
Another one of those wonderful London suburbs whose present-day glamour says very little about its colourful and sometimes troubled past. It’s the site of the world-famous Notting Hill Carnival – one of London’s truly spectacular events – and the original stopping-off point for London’s West Indian community in the 1950s and 60s. A gorgeous, glorious mixture of many different cultures and the place for Saturday morning antiques-shopping along the Portobello Road (even if you don’t buy anything), it’s Sam’s favourite part of the city – and Julia Roberts’s too…though I’ve yet to actually see her strolling along Elgin.