Sara Maitland, author of A Book of Silence (2008), is interviewed by Telegraph (UK) correspondent Peter Stanford. Maitland lives in a shepherd’s cottage (shieling) in Galloway, Scotland, where she continues to write, her latest project being Gossip from the Forest, a reexamination of forests in fairy tales of Grimm and others.
Writes Stanford of Maitland’s solitude:
The things she misses in her shieling, she says, are simpler and very specific. “The first is physical contact in moments of stress, not the big ones, but when I come in from a walk and it has been raining and I am soaked and I have a deep desire for someone to be there to say, ‘God, you’re wet.’ And the second is when someone has annoyed me, usually by email, I have no one there to let off steam with, and so frequently I find myself telling the person I am angry with my reply. I need someone to puncture my rage bubble.”
The other thing she finds herself hankering after, she says, is the sort of catch-all conversation we are having. “I’m a profoundly frivolous person and I grew up with smarty-pants dinner conversations. If I am ever asked to be in Who’s Who, I will put as my hobby deipnosophy, banter-like exchanges round a dinner table.” Couldn’t she just break silence once a month and invite local friends over for a good set-to over supper? “You don’t understand,” she protests, a look of mock horror on her face, “there is hardly a soul within spitting distance of where I live.” Their loss is my gain.