Judith Cutler

Staging Death

Last summer my husband and I left Kent and set up home in the Cotswolds. I will gloss over all the problems associated with buying and selling houses, because everyone knows just how stressful it all is. And at least we completed everything before the housing market went into its downward spiral, so we consider ourselves very fortunate. But no experience is ever too great or too small for a writer not to want to make use of it, somehow or other.

The obvious element was the new location, the Cotswolds, home to so many of the rich and famous (and those of us who don't quite tick those boxes). The next was my love of poking round other people's houses - even if that pleasure did pall after our prolonged search for a new home. And then there was the pull of Stratford-upon-Avon - though I never did get tickets to see David Tennant in Hamlet. So I popped everything together in that mental melting pot and out came Vena Burford, a gutsy protagonist in mould of Josie Welford.

As an actress, Vena has known fame and fortune but lost both. These days she has to work for her living in far more prosaic ways: she has at least progressed from cleaning other people's lavatories to doing interior decorating projects, and also to showing potential buyers round properties her millionaire estate agent brother is trying to sell. Actually I felt very sorry for her, spending all her time working in and around houses she could never now dream of affording: I have a mental image of her as a child with its nose pressed up against an old-fashioned toyshop window.

Me, sorry for an estate agent? OK, it's very unlikely. But then, your average estate agent doesn't encounter the problems that suddenly beset Vena.



Allison & Busby


7 September 2009