Sunday, 12 June 2022

My Free Lunch

There’s supposed to be no such thing as a free lunch, but I think I’ve found a way. Boosted by my fourth vaccination, I headed out on a little trip. The destination was the Strandfield Café in Co Louth. I was meeting a friend of mine, who lives in the ROI. He chose the venue because of its covered outdoor seating. But Strandfield is more than that. It comprises a bakery, a café with a great menu and a specialist grocery. Despite not being far from the motorway, there are plants and greenery all around. I did feel anxious being among people again. Almost all of them weren’t wearing masks.

We sat outdoors and chatted over tea and cake. I hadn’t seen my friend since before the pandemic. He is a film-maker. And he’d been busy, making programmes for both RTE and BBC NI. I told him about my novel and the Advanced Crime Writing course that I was doing. It wasn’t long before we were talking about story and narrative.

Unsurprisingly, the worlds of film and fiction are closely intertwined. I found myself telling him about my plot problems. And he told me about storyboarding the new documentary that he is working on. And before long, I realized that he was offering me a very helpful lens through which to see my plot problems.

We chatted for a couple of hours, and then went to our homes. The next day, I found myself reworking the first act of my novel. I repositioned some of the scenes, moving several between chapters. I also cut several scenes out. The end result was a much better and tighter opening to my novel.

I’d highly recommend the Strandfield Café. It’s got great food and a comfortable ambience. You never know who you might encounter. And just up the road towards Carlingford, you can buy diesel at 18 pence a litre cheaper than in NI. With a fill up of the car, your lunch at the café is effectively free.