I am sitting at a table outside my villa in Tuscany eating ravioli with pear, walnut and pecorino salad and gazing out across the valley at a picturesque red-roofed town that perches elegantly on the opposite hillside. The highest point of that town is a fifteenth century tower from which is beamed the wireless internet signal that is making my stay here complete.
My wife and I get up early, go for a swim, then spend the day reading, talking and making simple meals. The ingredients here are so good you can't go wrong. In the evening we listen to the orioles singing and watch out for the bats before heading off for our final, twilight swim.
This is exactly how people imagine the life of a writer. It's what they mean when they say that they envy you. But of course it's just a holiday. In a week's time I'll be back in London. The real life of a writer is like everybody else's life; it has its glorious days but it also has its share of frustrations, disappointments, as well as lots and lots of pure hard work.
Non-writers never really want to hear this. When you try to tell them the truth, they just give you that look that means, 'Who do you think you're kidding? You want to try a real job.' Well, I have tried a real job. More than one, actually. But the one I stuck for the longest was teaching in an Inner London comprehensive school for ten years. So I know what hard work means.
The fact is that writing is all about creating illusions and the biggest illusion of all is the writer's life.