By Rhiannon Lucy Cosslett
I have always been captivated by swimming pools. When I was younger, the clean lines of a private swimming pool — its tiles smooth beneath your toes, its bright, glistening surface — spoke to me of glamour and intrigue. The dream houses I drew always included at least one.
Now it’s the art I love that tends to feature them: Hockney, of course, but also Leon Kossof and Katherine Bradford. I’ve always thought it was a shame that Magritte never painted one — they seem such naturally surrealist spaces: liminal and subterranean, distorting.
It is this eerie uncanniness that French director François Ozon uses to his advantage in his 2003 film Swimming Pool, an “erotic thriller” set in the Luberon, in the south of France. The movie stars Charlotte Rampling as Sarah Morton, a mystery author who has borrowed her publisher’s summer house in order to write, and Ludivine Sagnier as Julie, his beautiful and hedonistic daughter who shows up unexpectedly, disturbing her peace.
I would choose this property as my fantasy home for its large swimming pool. The house itself, which sits in a green valley not far from Oppède, is typically Provençal, and its interior is tasteful, cool and austere. I once stayed in a far grander house in the Luberon, which had also starred in a film — an adaptation of Edward St Aubyn’s Mother’s Milk. It had a peerless 19th-century stone swimming pool which was called le basin, but this house belongs to a friend so I cannot nominate it.
Instead, I would be a near-ish neighbour, and like Sarah, have the benefit of a quiet writing room (painted duck-egg blue — so calming!) with a balcony overlooking the pool with its backdrop of pines and olives. I suppose I could decorate, but I’m not so interested in the aesthetic of the interior as I am in the respite the building and its gardens would offer. I have always slept brilliantly in houses with shutters and would make sure they are kept in a good condition. I would also have the broadband disconnected.
The early mornings I’d spend on the terrace, drinking coffee and typing to the sound of the bees busy in the lavender. Most writers fantasise about a room in which to write, especially mother-writers. I wrote my memoir, The Year of the Cat, in the spare room of our two-bedroom flat. That room is now occupied by my son, and time and space have become luxuries.
Watching Swimming Pool again, I’m envious of Sarah’s solitude, until of course it is interrupted by Julie, her string of lovers, and a shocking crime. I’m hoping my process wouldn’t be similarly affected — as this film demonstrates, it takes a long time to dig a grave.
With a little luck, I would just spend my non-writing time taking leisurely swims — I have some of my best ideas when I am swimming — and would eat simple meals beneath the trees on a table with a checked cloth: courgettes fried in oil and garlic until they are almost mush, with crusty bread and good cheese and rosé wine decanted into unmarked glass bottles directly from the vineyard. I’m hoping I would come back ready to embrace chaotic family life and having finished my second novel — which, naturally, prominently features a swimming pool.
Rhiannon Lucy Cosslett is the author of ‘The Year of the Cat’, published by Tinder Press
Photography: Collection Christophel/Alamy; Cinematic C