Thoughts from Madeira

I’m just back from a week in Madeira.


Before I went I selected a brand new empty notebook from my stash and packed it in my suitcase – ready to fill with wonderful words as I basked in foreign climes. The notebook has returned completely empty. I didn’t write a single word.

But I’m not counting that as a failure. We also took far fewer pictures than usual on holiday. I’d like to think that instead of making a point of recording everything in pictures or words, we were actually living in the moment (and enjoying it!). I have returned with memories of some of the emotions I felt whilst on holiday and I’m hopeful that I can draw on these to add depth to my fiction when trying to imagine how a character might feel in a particular situation. For example:

  • The nausea I felt when the pilot tried to land at Funchal airport in high winds (the landing was aborted 3 times before we diverted to Faro). The plane was buffeted from side to side and I had to locate the sick bag, just in case!
  • The claustrophobic fear that overcame me when we walked through a 1.4 km long tunnel. It was pitch black, the low, rough ceiling forced us to bend over and we had one tiny torch between us. My husband banged his head and had blood trickling down his face when we finally emerged into the light and … realised we’d gone the wrong way – we should have turned down a path before the tunnel.
  • The respect and admiration that was due to the native Madeirans who are trying to eke a living by farming small plots of land on the steep hillsides. They have to walk a long way along steep, rough paths to get to their land and then pay for water from the levadas to irrigate their crops.

It can be good to relish the moment and store away those feelings to pull out a later date.
What about you – do you write whilst on holiday?


  1. #1 by Linda on February 29, 2016 - 10:31 am

    Hi Sally

    That landing sounds particularly scary, glad you eventually got there. Hope your husband’s head is better. I usually go on holiday to completely relax so I do tend to write whilst lying on a sun lounger. Also read a lot and refuse to take any technology with me so there is nothing else for me to do! But also its good to be on holiday and just get things in perspective so that you can come back refreshed and ready to write again.

    • #2 by Sally Jenkins on February 29, 2016 - 8:38 pm

      Linda, I think it’s great to take no technology away with you. It’s hard to completely get away from it all if you’re still at the beck & call for emails etc.

  2. #3 by Steve Wand on February 29, 2016 - 2:39 pm

    It’s always good to have fond memories, Sally, whether from holiday or not. Oddly enough, the events that prompt them are not always fond ones. Memory has a way of filing down the rough edges leaving gems to treasure.

    As for your final question, no I don’t write on holiday. I do read lots, however, and often associate books with places. ‘Remains of the Day’, for example, will always trigger thoughts of Suffolk as I bought the book from a wonderful book store in Aldburgh.

    It is apt that the Scottish Highlands and Nigel Tranter will always be linked in my mind. Reading ‘McGregor’s Gathering’ while exploring Argyll (one of my favourite places on earth) stirred emotions in my 20s and still does, thirty years on.

    The power of writing, eh?

    • #4 by Sally Jenkins on February 29, 2016 - 8:40 pm

      I read a lot on holiday too, Steve and how nice that you associate certain books with particular holidays. As you say, the power of words!

  3. #5 by Dorothy Kennedy on February 29, 2016 - 2:51 pm

    Hi from Funchal! One more week to go. Very wise to live in the moment. I brought Bed Sit Three with me and am very impressed. Great plot,well drawn characters and suspense. Hope the scars on Paul’s face have faded! Best wishes. Frances

    Sent from my iPad


    • #6 by Sally Jenkins on February 29, 2016 - 8:41 pm

      I’m jealous you’re still there, Frances! And very glad you’re enjoying Bedsit Three!

  4. #7 by Alison Williams on March 1, 2016 - 3:26 pm

    I have only started recently, just a short diary of what we have done each day. I find a don’t remember just as well and it helps to bring memories back.

    • #8 by Sally Jenkins on March 1, 2016 - 6:31 pm

      Good idea, Alison. It’s easy to forget exactly what you did. In the days when the children went away with us I used to do scrapbooks when we got home.

  5. #9 by Patsy on March 2, 2016 - 5:28 pm

    I’m glad you enjoyed your trip.

    I do write when I’m away, but not so much I miss out on experiencing wherever it is I’ve gone to.

    • #10 by Sally Jenkins on March 2, 2016 - 7:36 pm

      That sounds like getting the balance right, Patsy.

  6. #11 by Susan A Eames on March 2, 2016 - 10:24 pm

    I’m a travel writer (amongst other things) – I have a compulsion to write when I’m on holiday! 🙂

    • #12 by Sally Jenkins on March 3, 2016 - 9:49 am

      Susan – I think it’s probably compulsory for travel writers to write on holiday!

  7. #13 by Maria Smith (@mariaAsmith) on March 3, 2016 - 12:12 am

    Sounds like you had a good break, and some much deserved down time too.
    It varies as to how I’m feeling when it comes to holiday writing. I tend to take the laptop if we’re in the UK, as I still like to blog and upload any images I’ve taken on the trip.
    I always carry a notebook around.

    • #14 by Sally Jenkins on March 3, 2016 - 9:52 am

      I usually carry a notebook in case I see or hear a ‘gem’ whilst I’m out and about. But I haven’t got the hang of organising notebooks so that I can find that ‘gem’ again when I want it!

  8. #15 by Linda Daunter on March 3, 2016 - 7:07 pm

    I always take a notebook, just in case inspiration strikes, but I mostly only use it to jot down places visited each day so that when I’m sorting my photos later I don’t have to wonder where I took them! I do take lots of photos, I find they bring back memories better than written descriptions.

    • #16 by Sally Jenkins on March 3, 2016 - 7:39 pm

      I’ve had that problem with photos, Linda, especially those with views in them rather than buildings. Sadly we now rarely get our holiday photos printed, they just sit on the computer. I miss the excitement of waiting for a film to come back from the developers!

  9. #17 by misswriter77 on March 5, 2016 - 9:01 pm

    Hello, Sally. I think if it had been me in that plane, I would have probably refused to come back home. I’m glad you eventually landed safely but it does sound like it was a nightmare. I have to admit that I don’t do any writing when I’m on holiday. I sound like a bad writer, but I usually spend the two or three weeks running up to my summer holiday writing, so I class the holiday as a bit of a break. Instead, I usually take lots of pictures and go sight-seeing.

    • #18 by Sally Jenkins on March 6, 2016 - 11:05 am

      It wasn’t a very nice experience, misswriter77, but I felt more sick than scared. Hope you come back full of enthusiasm to get writing again after your holiday!

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