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  • Writer's pictureLizzy Shannon

Where I am interviewed by terrorists....

I've driven over to an adjacent county a couple of times so far... there are a couple of places that play major parts in the book, and I wanted to see if either were still there. And to find out if I could remember anything I'd forgotten!

The first trip I had a look at a monolithic building, which had been a major Army base until not long ago. It's grim and gargantuan... once a linen mill. It made me think of 'Colditz' -- now empty, bleak, and abandoned...depressing, to say the least. But there's hope for it. I discovered that there are plans to make it into luxury apartments. That will be quite an undertaking. I wonder what ghosts will remain? A place like that has many tales to tell, if only it could speak. Perhaps it's best that it can't.

So, on this second trip I found, with a few wrong turns and backtracking, that the other place that features in the book had also become an empty shell, standing in the midst of overgrown trees and fields long smothered in bracken. I parked my car and climbed the padlocked gate, trespassing to take a look. Even with all the windows gone and the roof open to the elements, the building was still recognizable. But sometimes it's best not to look back, not to try and find something that has been long gone. I wish I hadn't come back. I'd have preferred to remember it as it was, the people within its walls brimming with life, vitality, and passion.

I took some photos, as indeed I had of the old mill and returned to my car. Needing to see something less dismal, I decided to try and find a Neolithic portal tomb dolmen that I'd read wasn't far away. As I meandered through the country lanes, if I saw something that appealed to me I'd stop and take a couple of photos. Things like old farmhouses and crumbling old taverns half-hidden in unexpected places along the roads.

I spotted some kind of memorial with a flag on a flagpole above it, and veered down that road to take a look. It turned out to be a memorial for fallen members of one of the warring terrorist organizations over here. Parking the car I got out to snap a picture. When I turned back to the car two men blocked me. They wanted to know what I was doing. When I asked what they meant, they told me I'd been spotted taking photographs of certain places, and they wanted to know why. My American accent suddenly became quite prominent, and I explained I was doing research for a book and movie. I had a U.S. passport and print-out of the movie to back me up. My heart was pounding. This hadn't been the wisest thing in the world, wandering heedlessly through the countryside, and not having told anyone where I'd been going.

The two men became less hostile, and suggested that I might like a cup of tea. I thanked them, assuring them I didn't, but they insisted. It was all very civil, but I have to admit I was feeling less than safe. One of them pointed out a very grand-looking house across the road from the memorial. I didn't have much choice, so went along. A third man, and obviously someone considered important greeted me, and ushered me into a large, sunny kitchen. With the other two guys hanging around, the third man and I sat at the dining table and shared a pot of tea and cookies from a tin.

He asked some probing questions, which I answered as guilelessly as any American tourist. We talked a little about the movie, and he told me what he'd like to see in the script. I took notes, nodding and agreeing, even if I didn't. Then I got the grand tour of the adjacent town; he was proud to show off the newly renovated community center, and other places of historic interest. I found the entire experience surreal, and was extremely relieved when they escorted me back to my car. With promises of stopping by should I ever pass that way again, I drove away, reeling from the unexpected and unsettling experience.

After I got home, I sat down and pulled an all-nighter, writing the varied emotions I'd experienced that day into the book, and adding bits here and there.

A very successful, hands-on day as far as research goes!


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