is a book that follows two girls, one living a
hippy existence on a small-holding in Wales, the other desperate to
miserable family home on a council estate in the home counties. So the
veers between the wild freedom of the Preselis in Pembrokeshire, and
claustrophobia of Lyford, a town that is fictional, but constructed out
memories of Luton, where I grew up.
Luton’s Arndale Centre as a location.
It was built, while I was living there, over the graves of many small
backstreets, cutting the town centre in half like a Berlin wall. Nearby
library, where I once worked, the scene, in the book, of much
location that brings the stories of all the
characters together and provides the setting for the greatest drama, is
Lyford’s Portland Park. Town parks offer a peculiar hybrid
zone, where an
illusion of countryside stands within an ocean of brick, concrete and
It offers grass, trees, flowing water, ducks to feed and squirrels to
but it’s hemmed in. Iron gates can lock people out
– or in. There is always, to
my mind, something slightly sinister about a park.
Portland Park is modelled on Luton’s Wardown
Park. I’ve missed some of Wardown’s defining
features: the grand museum and the
suspension bridge, but others are there – the meandering
paths, the boating
lake, the drinking fountain, the willows. I’ve even restored
some – the boat
house, in my story, still has boats.
Wardown Park began as a farm – truly rural ‒ became a
gentleman’s estate, and then a civic amenity, for the benefit
of the town that
now engulfed it. People could go boating on the lake. They could even
it. Its calm waters are stroked by weeping willows and swans glide
across it. But
the inflow is clogged with filth, and the outflow is a stagnant
There could be anything beneath the surface of that lake. Keys. Lost
rings. Loot. Bodies…
Just as there
could be all manner of things beneath the
surface of so many lives.