hydrohotel.net - a Richard Price webspace


The books in which characters and events are especially linked through a fictionalised county are the short stories A Boy in Summer, the novel The Island, and the poetry collection Greenfields. Price's ambition appears to be to form a kind of Hardy's Wessex from the 'greenfields' of Renfrewshire, where dramatic human stories intersect and collide in the villages and towns of west Scotland. A contemporary parallel is with Alan Warner's work centred on a fictionalisation of Oban, "The Port", and featuring the characters Morvern Callar and the young women of The Sopranos.

Renfrewshwhere is the half-rural, half-urban county that appears in my poetry and fiction. Well, I never name it that of course but in my head that's what its called. It's like the Renfrewshire I grew up in, but not exactly. Some villages have the same names, some don't - geography, social history, characters are like the thing, but not completely.

When I was co-editing the magazine Southfields with Raymond Friel I wrote the Renfrewshire in Old Machine Code column - stories and prose poems about childhood in the county, told in a slightly distorted way. They formed the core of the elliptical novel A Boy in Summer.

The Kilmacolm Hydro Hotel, which features in A Boy and in my poetry, was a place for wealthy hedonists to relax - perhaps as a break from personally controlling the Scottish economy. In the 1920s its management collided with the local puritanism which was rapidly making Kilmacolm a highly regulated village. Pubs were outlawed for sixty years and drink regulations meant that even hotels had a strict licensing regime.

The Hotel soldiered on until the 1960s, but I knew the place only as a dangerous ruin where my brothers and I used to play. It was finally demolished and a small private housing estate stands on the site.

The notion of a utopian Hydro Hotel, where all kinds of ideas can be discussed at conferences and at smaller meetings, and there are the sensual pleasures of good food, drink, and company, of various leisure activities and pamperings - that notion appeals and is why this site is named after a part of my childhood that didn't exist then and doesn't exist now.

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