In search of silence Wendyl Nissen bids farewell to an old friend.

I found myself saying those words to my caravan this week in an attempt to explain the fact that I have begun an affair with a bach. After five glorious years of mid-week breaks with the caravan, just the two of us snuggling in while I've worked on my laptop tapping out book after book, I've moved on.

For years I have been grateful for the serenity and the silence. A writer's dream. Lately, however, the term "writer's dream" has been overtaken by "drop-in centre".

I last saw the caravan a few months ago when I was frantically trying to get my next book started. I arrived with my research, enough bottles of wine to see me through and a willing attitude, only to find that the caravan had other ideas.

"Oh there you are," she said when I opened the door. "I've been literally inundated with appointments for you during your stay. Have a seat and I'll fill you in."

"But I'm trying to write a book," I said, opening a bottle and collapsing on the divan.

"Nonsense. I've promised," was all she said.

I spent three nights and four days there and didn't write a word. I was too busy attending to the stream of visitors.

"Are you there?" yelled the man who would turn out to be my final visitor.

It was too late to lie down on the lino and pretend I wasn't there and, besides, my dog was barking at him.

"Yes I am but I am Very Busy Writing a Book!" I said as I peered out of the front door.

He was clutching a weed. He informed me that it could be used to feed monarch butterflies. Apparently I had been talking about that on the radio the other day. I hadn't. "Interesting," I said. "Thank you so much for that, now I really must get on."

"I've got a goat," he said, resistant to my efforts to disappear.

"Lovely," I said.

"Would you like me to come and milk it?"

This was a first for the visitors to the caravan. Over the years I have been asked next door to drink two cocktails made with home-made spirits which meant I had to crawl home. I've been invited to go fishing and I've been called a sissy for not doing shots of something green and evil looking. But never have I been asked to do a bit of milking. And for the moment I was tempted. But then the boot kicked in.

"Look, any other time, I'm just a bit busy."

"You could make cheese with it. I know you make a bit of cheese now and then."

"Yes I do, but not today. Thanks so much for the kind offer but I really must go. Cheerio."

The man left still clutching the weed in his hand which he glared at as if it was to blame for my unwillingness to milk, then threw it down the bank.

"Charming," said the caravan. "Who the hell do you think you are, Miss Townie? Come down here with your airs and ways from the big city. These are real people here. nice people who like to chat."

She was right. I am a city girl and the work I do requires that I talk to a lot of people so, when I leave Auckland, I look forward to not having to say a word for a very long time.

"That's it, I'm off," I said as I packed up the deck chairs and threw them in the caravan with the kayak and the table.

"See you at Christmas!"

I sulked for a month. The caravan sulked for a month. Then the book reminded me that it needed some silence and serenity if it was to be written. Which is when I found the bach ...

To be continued.