Friday 15 March 2019

Weaving Update - Pulling a Few Threads Together

For anyone who stumbles upon my Ramblings for the first time, I should explain that my blog has been going strong since 2009 soon after Gypsies Stop tHere was published.  Of course, the initial rhyme and reason for it was to lure people in and raise awareness of my books.  Click on any book cover and you will zoom straight off to Amazon!  It’s what writers do – shameless, basic promotion.

Now I put no effort into promotion. That belongs to the past. Of course all six titles are still there but my more recent blog posts cover a random, wild mix of topics, whereas before, as you will see if you dip into the archive, there were recurrent themes of Gypsies, other writers and their books, author events, Parkinsons - mostly ideas that link to the four novels. Aside from that, there were some personal outpourings relating to cancer in 2014.

So – with that explained, I think I can truly say that my weaving is not just a phase, or a fad.  Such a simple thing to do that brings me great pleasure and actually opens up lots of creative ideas, is proving to be an enduring pastime. 

Not yet tempted to explore fancy textures the scarves go on because I still enjoy choosing colour combinations that suit a particular person. Here’s one in the making, now finished, for a friend who loves emerald green and her style is crisp and smart. 

For a silver-haired friend who is quite committed to a certain shade of dark lavender or milky purple-mauve (I need a Pantone number for this!) from her jacket to kitchen walls and front door:

This for a daughter to match her brown hair, blue eyes, scarlet coat and fair skin – just about! 

And for other son-in-law and son:

I had the cheek to make some for old friends, a couple who live in Scotland, the husband being Scotsman through and through and probably has his own clan tartan for all I know. Remembering the plethora of shops in Scotland we came across last year stacked high with tartan scarves of every hue, it seemed like sending coals to Newcastle, but at least each of my scarves is unique! 

The colours of her scarf match fair hair, blue eyes, purple heather as a nod to Scotland and hot pink for, as I said to her, ‘whatever you want it to be!’ be it lips, nails or shoes!
And his ended up rather jazzier than I'd envisaged:

Then with three small granddaughters I decided to give them a break from the usual knitted creations I heap upon them and weave them skirts! I hoped it would not be too much like Barbara and Tom in The Good Life who in their self-sufficient lifestyle, got into spinning and weaving and presented themselves in naturally-dyed pea-green jacket and trousers that were quite a sight! If you can remember that you may be as old as I am.

The first little skirt I thought could be a lesson in colours: red and blue = purple, blue and yellow  = green (if you squint a bit) , yellow and red = orange and so on. The second one I just had to make pink with a bit of sparkle and for the third I asked the oldest grandchild for her choice of colours, as she is of the age where I think she probably likes to be consulted. After a few seconds’ thought, she said decisively, ‘dark blue, burnt orange, and hot pink’.  This, believe it or not, is where I got the ‘hot pink’ from!! So with the addition of a little light blue – here we are. Quite a winning colour scheme.

The mistake I made with all of these was assuming that girls in the 3 – 7 age-range have anything resembling a waist. I thought a lightly elasticated waistband would secure it on their hips – except they don’t have hips! Braces were thus ordered to save the day and the skirts falling around their ankles.

Looming large!

Proof of commitment? Well how about getting a loom twice the size of my first one – 32” wide?  So I can make wider scarves!!  No. I can broaden my horizons – to other items as yet undecided but certainly more possibilities are in my head, which I really do look forward to making.  The beast has yet to be constructed so more of that later in the year.

Related posts:
Fabrication not Fiction
B-looming marvellous! - weaving a new story ...

Saturday 9 February 2019

English Setter Puppies – The Storm before the Calm

The English Setter is sometimes overlooked and now classed as a vulnerable native breed. Last year I put forward a proposal to the Surrey Life editor for an article to help give them some positive PR. My praise for the breed was at the time fulsome and unequivocal but there wasn’t really a strong enough Surrey connection so this offer was declined.

Since then, I am beginning to understand why a prospective Setter owner might hesitate.

Our first, taken 1995
In our family we have had English Setters for the past 35 years, a tradition we are presently continuing with the acquisition of two adorable sister pups in September last year. Friends and family thought we were mad; even the breeder was incredulous, saying to us with raised eyebrows, ‘Are you sure?’  We are, after all, not as young as we were – in fact, we are ‘of a certain age’ – enough said.

The English Setter is one of the oldest breeds of gundog, with a history that traces back to the 14th century. It was developed over hundreds of years from the spaniel and was originally called a Setting Spaniel, used for finding and setting birds. Apparently, so we are told, used as such in Spain, once the hunting season is over, they are dispatched by hanging, which is why there is quite a trade in rescue dogs from there. I cannot personally verify this but it probably has at least an element of truth that makes my stomach churn.
Our 2nd beautifully behaved English Setter

I said to the editor in my pitch, ‘Classed by colour as Blue Belton, Orange Belton and Tricolour. I would describe them as, not only gorgeous, but ‘proper dogs’, beautifully proportioned, energetic, and some would say strong-willed but I stress that overall they are the most gentle of dogs. On Wikipedia the terms used are "intensely friendly," "good natured," and "adores visitors and is particularly happy with children", with which my family would heartily concur. Our first English Setter bitch, a blue we called Shimmer, we chose because, with young children and their playmates around, temperament was paramount and we noticed a waggy dog behind a wrought-iron garden gate that seemed to welcome children poking their fingers through and saying hello on their way home from primary school. We investigated and discovered the English Setter. That was 35 years ago when they were gaining in popularity.

Once they get over the mischievous, puppy stage we have found them to be soundly trainable, and since they were bred to be working dogs, always up for a long walk.’
Lovable Setter number 3
Now here I would interject and point out that as puppies they can drive you to a point of nervous and physical exhaustion. We had never had siblings before and this was a whole new ball game (actually a weak metaphor as they are not willing retrievers). Before, we did get a puppy when our existing dog was 7 years old and this worked very well, the older one acting as a kind of surrogate mother and patient role model.

They are such high octane bundles of energy that their time in the house with us, even now at 7 months, is limited. When little and virtually incontinent with both wee and poo and chewing anything available, five minutes was usually enough before they were escorted back to their bedroom, our utility room, or sectioned off patch of garden. Much better now – once they are mud-free or dry from being washed, they come in at various times of the day but my husband or I have to watch them like a hawk as they are still incurably curious, bless them – electric cables, shoes, the best furniture, coal and so on, – all those things you specially wish they would not touch. Before you say anything, yes we give them a plentiful supply of chews and ‘toys’ and play silly games. The constant correcting from us ie shouting ‘No’, ‘Leave’ and occasional expletives are beginning to register and take effect. They understand and obey commands ‘Sit’ ‘Leave’ ‘Stay’ ‘Lie Down’. Stupid they are not! Perhaps all puppies are like this, but English Setters can be notoriously naughty and two is more than double trouble.

Irresistible or what?
On twice daily walks up our local woods, they are at times ‘partners in crime’. There was that autumnal day they ate fly agaric mushrooms, or spotty red toadstools, and we thought they might die, but that’s another story … They need to run so we cannot keep them on leads all the time and have to take risks, constantly calling or whistling them back with the lure of rewards and praise. They understand all right, but if there’s some attraction they consider a better offer, like any other dog or group of dogs, a runner or cyclist, ‘selective deafness’ kicks in and we might as well not be there. At times they put their heads together as they scamper off at speed, quickly vanishing. We get a phone call from somebody a couple of miles from where we live to tell us they are in their garden and ready for collection. This is not funny. They can also easily find their own way home. Roads are alive with vehicles and even our best efforts to get them to sit when walking on a lead by a road every time a car goes by, is probably forgotten when they are going solo – together. Apologies to neighbours if you are reading this.

Now they are 7 months old we are beginning to see an improvement, so I am writing this not to put off anyone who might be thinking of getting an English Setter, but rather as a warning of what to expect in the short-term especially if you get two. We are retired and give a lot of time to them as a kind of project. If we were out working it would not work at all. They are energetic, strong, messy, lovable little vandals and unless you are prepared for the problems this brings, don’t go there.

They are indeed the best of dogs, once grown up and matured, and we see the green shoots of their sweet gentleness now beginning to unfurl.

Registrations of puppies reached 1344 during 1974 but by 2012, and again in 2016, the Kennel Club listed the English Setter amongst the Vulnerable Native Breeds as only 234 puppies were registered.

As we know from years of walking our dogs in different parts of the UK many people do not even know what the breed is called but often stop to enquire. Others approach us and our dogs, a little misty-eyed, to tell us that they used to have Setters or they were brought up with one and always these people say they are the best dogs in the world. When we meet a stranger walking an English Setter, we greet each other with beaming smiles – and it always seems as if the dogs do too!  (Dogs do smile, by the way, although near impossible to catch this on camera.)

Saturday 29 December 2018

Lakeside - a legend right on my doorstep

High time I wrote something here so – what comes to mind?

First off, Happy New Year to you! Never before can I remember such a start to a year, when we as a nation hardly know what to wish for any more. For Parliament to have broken up for their Christmas recess has left us with the biggest, most complex end of chapter cliffhanger - and who knows how this political saga will unravel?
Closer to home - for me at least – I thought I’d just drop you a note about an article I wrote for the January issue of Surrey Life.  It has been in the shops since around 20 January and can still be found in Waitrose and a few other discerning Surrey shops   Or, you can subscribe online. 
You may know I used to write a regular column for the magazine on people who breathe life into villages and help to bring small communities together – separate incidentally, from the Surrey Community Heroes awards where achievements are slightly different. It was a fabulous theme for me, getting out and about unearthing and helping to acknowledge salt of the earth types, some of whom have indeed gone on to gain further recognition and awards. You can find all of these in the Surrey Life archives under the title Notes from a Small Village. 
I guess it ran its course and after a couple of years this wound up but then I was able to pitch for longer features. I wrote an article on Surrey choirs in August which made quite a splash on the pages.
The Tardis comes to mind - inside, the cabaret suite is HUGE!
The one in January is about Lakeside Complex in Frimley Green and the life and times of its founder and owner, Bob Potter OBE, who has just celebrated his 90 birthday. I won’t tell you what this is about exactly as this would spoil what holds a few surprises for the average reader. Need I say more?
Just this - it was tricky to write because of the timing. Bob Potter and his team were waiting to hear from the British Darts Organisation for confirmation that they would be hosting the January 2019 championship –  as it has for the past 33 years. For legal and contractual reasons to do with TV coverage they were prevented from talking to me until word was officially out and up on their website. 
The editor only wanted the article to go into January issue if they had this Darts contract to give it a topical hook.  After a few failed interviews, where people did not materialise  – which at the time I could not quite understand – I saw Bob the day before the editor's deadline date. By this time I had virtually written the article!!
Anyway, it all turned out OK in the end – so I hope you enjoy reading it, especially those who live in the area.  My husband and I, and son who happened to be visiting, were invited to attend a show – which was Anita Harris. It was a class act – with excellent supporting musicians. The only sad thing was that there were so few people in the audience. I hope next time I go there will be more of a crowd – this club that had its heyday in the 1980s still has a lot to offer. For me – within walking distance. How could I have missed it all these years? I could kick myself!
By another strange and most unlikely coincidence, in early December my husband and I were on the cabaret stage where so many big stars of yesteryear have trodden the boards, performing 16 songs with Camberley Rock Choir.  Supported by family and friends of a large choir this had a better attendance!
I do hope more people will delve into the Lakeside programme and perhaps find an event that might tempt them to get a table together with friends for a night out in the village!  

Monday 19 February 2018

Fabrication not fiction! weaving update ...

My past couple of blog posts have been serious – perhaps too much for some, I don’t know.
Time to lighten the mood then! It’s a while since I issued a weaving update. A few Facebook people politely expressed interested in this so here's more evidence of looming madness - a few home crafted products, as our house and family members are becoming somewhat swathed in various tartans and plaids.  My previous post last year.
I find it sadly therapeutic seeing a medley of colours grow into an item that I know for sure no-one else in the world has ever seen!! Very much not mass-produced!
These carry on from where I left off last time. Yes, we have too many cushions.

After making a pale fine baby blanket I embraced the brightest colours I could find for a lightly padded cot blanket or play mat.
Colours inspired by native American Indian craft. 

... this was the soft, baby blanket with matching, tiny, prem-baby garments.

Now, like it or not, all family members will be receiving for birthdays a scarf to suit their personalities. My lucky son-in-law was first on the calendar and I had thought black, white, grey with a hint of red, but daughter put me right, assuring me that he is a muddy-brown, muddy-green with a hint of mustard kind of guy.

Combined the usual with a length of fabric I had in the cupboard for years - kitchen chair cushions, lightly padded but quite flat.

 oh - another view of the one above ...

 and the blanket of many colours folded ready for gift-wrapping!
 Yeah, for Christmas!!

I like to try and make square cushions symmetrical in design; so unless you have a very sharp, photographic memory, the rows need to be recorded on paper as once you get started the length gets rolled up on the loom and disappears out of sight.
This one is to go with bedroom colour scheme. 

Enough? for now anyway ...
Thanks for bearing with me.

When I see Michael Portillo on TV I'm inspired to wonder if he might like a scarf woven in all his jacket and trousers colourways. What do you think?

Monday 5 February 2018

A rapport with Kazuo Ishiguro?

Dare I claim such a thing? Kazuo Ishiguro won the Nobel Prize for Literature last year, as you may know. I have just re-read his early novels written in the nineteen-eighties, A Pale View of Hills and An Artist of the Floating World, two short but perfectly formed novels that have aged on my bookshelf to the point where they are now falling apart!

I was totally transfixed listening to his Nobel Laureate speech given in Stockholm, when he explained how memories do not just fade but also may be coloured, even distorted by time and later assumptions. He sees reality as being at best fragile and refers to Marcel Proust’s ‘Memories of Things Past’ – I found this exciting as I refer to this in my novel  No Gypsies Served when my half-Gypsy hero decides to write his life story and reflects upon a quotation from this very book. This comes close to the end of chapter 2.

The following day Dunstan switched on his computer with a heavy heart, recalling books he had read in his ‘literary phase’ in his thirties, and in particular Marcel Proust’s A la Recherche du Temps Perdu, or, as he read it, Remembrance of Things Past and he had recently come across a quotation from it: We find a little of everything in our memory, it is a sort of pharmacy, a sort of chemical laboratory, in which our groping hand may come to rest, now on a sedative drug, now on a dangerous poison. 
Indeed. Well, he had started something he knew he must follow through but his reasons for trying to unearth memories, revisit his childhood and those troubled days as a younger man, had changed substantially. Initially it was to please Kay. How feeble and pathetic that seemed now. He had to chuckle. It was a poor reason to commit to such a massive undertaking. 
Since dipping a toe in those turbulent waters, feeling their danger and strength suck him in, he could see it was no mean task to rekindle emotions and recall harrowing scenes of his life that he had conveniently tucked away for so long.

The sentiment in the Proust quotation describes well how Ishiguro's characters' recollections are sometimes unreliable. Delusion, memories that shift and slide form a recurring theme in his novels.
I personally love his disdain for genre, as being mostly a marketing tool, and indeed he sees the barriers now breaking down, as genres merge more and more.  I wrote a couple of blog posts in November 2009 on this vexed question  Still bugged by genres and how it can sometimes seem like the tail wagging the dog; so this was music to my ears when I tuned into an interview  and heard his thoughts. (Where he also confessed to having problems with setting – not that you’d notice!) Like many writers he likes freedom in writing, not the confines of a particular label and in his latest book The Buried Giant he uses myth and fantasy. 
You might be forgiven for thinking that he was brought up in Japan when you read his first two novels, but he and his parents came over to England when he was five years old, so as a young man he felt largely ignorant of his homeland. Of course the aftermath of the 1941 nuclear bomb in Nagasaki, where he was born, was not only well documented but must have been in the background of many a family conversation, especially where his grandparents were concerned. He came to realise that the old way of life he could vaguely remember, mostly through stories he had heard as a young child, may have been to some extent an ‘emotional construct’. This idea seems to flow through his characters’ struggle to grasp memories with clarity. Also the switches in chronology – now so commonplace in fiction were not the norm thirty years ago.
Remains of the Day, Man Booker Prize winner 1989, and Never Let me Go have both been made into films and he finds TV and cinema exciting. Literature in its printed form must offer something special in its storytelling to compete culturally with the screen. He believes that a novel can build up gradually to achieve a satisfactory resolution, rather than is found in many films, where the viewer’s attention is grabbed boldly only to find that the momentum may peter out. This is my understanding of what I have heard him say and, again, is something with which I dare to whole-heartedly agree.   

Sunday 28 January 2018

An Uncounted People, a film for Holocaust Day

Yesterday morning I went along to the Surrey History Centre in Woking, Surrey, to a rare showing of an award-winning Canadian film, A People Uncounted for Holocaust Memorial Day. Filmed in 11 countries, it focuses on the 500,000 Roma who were murdered. The title suggests that the number is an underestimation, as they went unrecognised until relatively recently – not until 1982 in Germany. In the Nuremberg trials no Roma Gypsies were called to testify.

The word Porrajmos means ‘devouring’ or ‘rape' and is the word for the Romani holocaust. It is not just the numbers that make this film so powerful, but the dark, harrowing detail from first-hand accounts by survivors who are inevitably diminishing, since they tend to be over 90 or even 100 years old.

The Roma are the largest ethnic minority group in Europe – and the diaspora of Gypsies is the largest in Surrey today. Along with Jews, disabled people, resisters to the regime, and homosexuals, they were systematically oppressed, persecuted, and finally gassed and cremated.

You may not have heard of this documentary. Despite it being five years old, it might not have attracted a wide audience yet I would guess that anyone who has seen it would feel impelled to recommend it to others. It is important for, as Dr Ian Hancock, highly respected author of We Are the Romani People and Director of the Romani Archives at the University of Texas, chillingly says in the film ‘It could happen again’. He would not say this lightly.

The film reminds us of other genocides around the world, both current and recent, and of the appalling racism and hate that still exists between different peoples. As many news bulletins confirm, hate crime is on the increase rather than something the human race has resolved and consigned to history.

It shows shocking images and reminders of events of which we are perhaps aware but have become dangerously complacent. I make no apology for recalling here some horrendous facts from the film. Branded like animals with a Z for Gypsy, denied basic rights, the Roma were referred to as vermin. Nazi eugenics is well known but the Institute for Race Hygiene in 1939 worked on the premise that the Roma were born to criminality, lazy and so on. Their facial features were measured and children who did not measure up, literally, were deported to Auschwitz. A respected child psychologist, who died in just 1966, carried out this work.

Before the 1939 Olympics, the Gypsies, Sinti, Roma, were moved to live next to a garbage dump with nothing.  How often have Gypsies and Travellers been tucked away on unhealthy, toxic and poorly drained land?

A survivor from 2,800 people in Vienna herded onto trains tells how a blacksmith stayed behind because he was deemed useful. Local ‘social services’ deported people to avoid paying for their upkeep. Death was caused by forced labour. Massed killings by poisonous gas followed later. Auschwitz had what was called a ‘Gypsy Family Camp’ and about 60 metres away from the buildings into which they were crammed, were the crematoriums. They arrived daily, to be gassed in 8 – 10 minutes, and burned. When the crematoriums were overflowing, the people still alive would be driven into forest or field to pits where rubbish was burned and forced to simply jump in.

A 105 year-old survivor tells of how 5,000 mostly old people, robbed of their possessions, were transported to Transnistria. They had nothing, no water and drank from puddles. Another survivor tells of how Roma were loaded onto cardboard boats. They were shot, the bodies eaten by crows and dogs. A man was made to rape his own mother. There was nowhere to sleep or to eat and they lived for two years in that misery. These are all fragments of what the survivors tell us in the film. The Final Solution was signed by Himmler in March 1938 but the suffering that preceded this is largely undocumented which is what makes this film so very significant. Moreover, after the war, by which time 90% had perished, the remainder had nowhere to live, no papers, nothing and stayed in the concentration camps. Thereafter, with children unable to read or write, they were at a continual disadvantage as they struggled to merely survive. What we must remember is that, even today Roma in Europe and Gypsies in the UK live in the shadow of this dark history.

A man describes what it was like to be herded onto the cattle trucks, upright like pencils stacked in a box. They could not move. An exhausted woman could no longer hold her child and had to let the child slide down to the floor, then could not bend enough to pick up the child and they were both eventually trampled to death.

Then there was the medical experimentation in Dr Mengele’s laboratory, for which Roma children were used. One survivor tells of how the eyes were removed from a living 12 year-old, without anaesthetic.

Surrey has one of the largest Romany Gypsy and Traveller populations in the UK, still suffering from inequalities that racism brings – in education, employment, health, and above all, homelessness, which underpins everything else and is becoming a massive problem for the Gypsy and Traveller community.

I began exploring this very problem over ten years ago and then wrote Gypsies Stop tHere. I am uncertain as to whether certain issues have improved but I do know of great work that is going on and will write about this another time.

The Surrey Gypsy Traveller Communities Forum has bought the rights to show this film. As Jeremy Harte, of Bourne Hall Museum in Epsom, puts it, ‘As ethnic intolerance flares up in Europe, this film sheds light on this unique culture while presenting the Roma tale as emblematic of the world’s legacy of racism and genocide. Closer to home, this film presents a powerful and thought-provoking challenge to what the Commission for Racial Equality has described as ‘the last acceptable form of racism’ in our own country.’

To end, I quote from a talk given by one of two survivors who spoke movingly in a Memorial Service that took place just before the film yesterday. He quoted from Edmund Burke, the 18th century Irish politician, who said: ‘The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men should do nothing.’

If I ever hear of another showing of this film, I will let you know.

Friday 25 August 2017

Going back to Tetbury

Tetbury in Gloucestershire is a small town, or large village, and HRH Prince Charles lives in Highgrove a couple of miles away on the Bath road. I mention that for those of you who may not have heard of Tetbury. It kind of puts it on the map!
I lived there until I was 17. In 2012, when I wrote about my memories of the 1950s and 1960s Coming Full Circle I was astounded by the response, especially from people who remembered me and my family. Take a look and you’ll see what I mean! To have so many comments is quite a rare, heart-warming thing.
I have a deep fondness for Tetbury, as you will see from this nostalgic trip I took a few weeks ago, and it greatly influenced the setting for my novels. Appley Green lies on the border of Surrey and Hampshire, but its sense of community was very much derived from my early years. Tetbury is both very different and the same from how it was when I was a child and I decided to go back on my own to revisit some of those memories - for real!  My parents passed away in the 1990s, so it's a while since I’ve wandered Tetbury streets simply to absorb both changes and familiar sights.

This may have no relevance to you if you’ve never heard of the place, let alone been there. I understand that, but if you read on you may be tempted to stop there on your way to Devon or Cornwall for example, or take it in when you ‘do the Cotswolds’.

Unsurprisingly, the shops have all changed since I was a child. So here we are inside a relative newcomer, Highgrove Shop  in Long Street. 

I took a sneaky photo of Chavenage House mentioned in my 2012 post, familiar to you perhaps as Trenwith in TV’s Poldark.  
Imagine Aidan Turner galloping all the way from those Cornish clifftops to Tetbury. Must have been a nightmare for the continuity team!

This photo will mean a lot to people who remember as I do, but I am sorry it may be of no interest to others.  This is the back of The Ferns, what was Sir William Romney’s School, also mentioned  in my 2012 post.

The huge Cedar tree is still there – iconic and steadfast – but the beautiful grounds with their lawn tennis courts and herbaceous borders are pretty much built over now. Here’s a couple of old photos taken on my first ever camera, a Brownie, snatching glimpses of it as it was: I was a bit of a daydreamer on the tennis court.

This alleyway is Eccles Court.

You may well say, 'So what?' A tad self-indulgent, and obscure for you, but it means a lot to me as I walked along this four times a day to and from Courtfield School situated near The Chipping. I remember swinging round those metal posts so well, and in a wall was a triangle of three holes where you could insert thumb and two fingers and make a wish! Now, covered by an interesting plaque!

This used to be the girls’ playground at Courtfield School and house where a progressive teacher lived.
She let us call her ‘Sylvia’ – yes, in the 1950s - and did some kind of strange chanting with her pupils. A friend and I spent a Saturday morning cleaning her windows, something I’d never done before. Our parents knew nothing of this and neither, I suspect, did our headmistress, Miss Rymer!
This is the side rear view of the school, set in a lovely, rather wild garden where children must not stray from  the paths ...
... and surrounded by a high Cotswold stone wall, and as you can see here those grounds are totally hidden behind big trees (not so big 60 years ago).  

Opposite the school are the quite famous Chipping Steps ...
... and another photo in an area that was the cattle market, at the base of steep Gumstool Hill.  A pen has been preserved to its memory.
Looking down from Gumstool Hill where the old woolsack races took place. Still do! 

From the opposite side, this one also looks down and is the exact spot where the photo for Vogue magazine was taken in 1942 and later reproduced in The Telegraph 1995.

The maternity home on Gumstool Hill where I was born! The story goes that my almost 10 year-old sister was not allowed in and our Dad threw some pocket-money to her out of the window as compensation! Hopefully the coins did not roll down the hill!
This is the shop behind the old Town Hall that I imagined as the Wool and Baby shop (not actually selling babies!) in Secrets in Appley Green, my fourth novel, set in the Sixties.

Another one for Tetbury  aficionados, many of you belonging to the amazing  Old Tetbury Facebook page.  Not just any old woods, but Bluebell Woods and the path that leads mysteriously to Hermit’s Cave where, as 1950s free-range children, we once played.

A bit dark, but I vividly remember this field in Chavenage Lane being alive at dusk with scampering rabbits and full of cowslips, before myxomatosis and the decline of indigenous flowers.

The house where I lived until I left home. The rockery was built by my father when they first moved there and had many rare alpine plants – it was his pride and joy. No ball games allowed!

I had thought this was demolished so was delighted to see it now uncovered and intact, though a little devoid of plants!
An earlier photo taken in 2010 shows the ‘dwarf’ conifers planted by my father. You see why I thought the rockery had disappeared!

I recall the neighbours in their gardens along this road of eight houses, all clapping and cheering me (oh yes they did!) one sunny afternoon as I managed to ride my first bike without falling off, (until I was out of their sight!). Perhaps this memory is slightly rose-tinted! 

Photo of me as a teenager and rockery! 
and as a baby with my sister - the same, now famous, rockery behind us. 

For anyone tempted to take a look at my old home town, it is a place of great history, beautiful to explore, under bridges, over bridges, through alleys and up steep steps!

Visit Tetbury