March 26 – exactly one year ago today I flew out of Heathrow to visit Harar in Ethiopia, where The Coffee Story was set. I knew nothing very much about Ethiopia when I started the novel – much to my chagrin my narrator, Teddy Everett, suddenly announced on about page 5 that he had spent his childhood there. In my opinion this is one of the beauties of writing fiction. Your characters can take you to places – geographical, emotional – you have not been to before. Cue me losing several years to research… That writer’s curse.

When I picked the book up again I made the decision to try and finish it without going to Harar itself – it felt to me that I would be in danger of simply writing a travelogue if I did. So I held off until the book was done, and then had the wonderful opportunity to visit a place that had lived in my imagination for so long. Over the next couple of months I’ll be uploading my journal of my time there. It is a truly amazing place, and as much as I like my imagination it has, frankly, nothing on Harar itself…

Meanwhile, here’s a picture of me impersonating Charles Edward Birtwhistle, Teddy’s private tutor. And damn fool.