Season of Mists and Mellow Fruitfulness

Has emerged in my garden as a sudden outbreak of Tigridia - and my new digital camera has done a pretty good job of capturing the unlikely beauty of this particular flower.

Working with a camera, as a fiction writer, is an odd process. People look at you strangely as you photograph the most unlikely things; I have seventy-four pictures of wheelchairs and stretchers, for example.

There is method in my madness, though. I'm working on a novel about those who were hospitalised during and after the Great War. Whenever I want to describe their situation, I find my photograph file, flick to the year I'm writing about, and there are pictures of wheelchairs, bedpans, old vehicles, clothing ... so when the character in question gets dressed, I know how many buttons he has to fasten with his injured hand, how many steps to climb to get into the ambulance and so on.

Many of the images I store, I never use. But the process of taking them is an assimilative one. I learn from them as I take them, and as I speed past them to some other picture. In terms of research, they aren't a factual component so much as a background - a panorama that seeps into my mind as I write, so that I'm visualing a landscape in space and time peopled with characters using implements, wearing clothes and looking at objects that I've got in my files.

And as a writer, I'm grateful to new technology - I'm image rich and it costs me very little - to have taken all these pictures in the days of film and processing would have made me a bankrupt writer pretty quickly!