Ferry Christmas and a Happy 11th Historical Novelist

I think the stress of the pending loft insulation is getting to me. My daughter telephoned the other day. I am one of those dinosaurs who has a land line. The phone resides in the kitchen; this makes all those unsolicited calls truly cold, as I have to leave the warmth of the wood-burner. Next to the phone is the kettle. As the phone rang, I found myself picking up the kettle and wondering why I could still hear ringing. Fortunately, the kettle was not full of boiling water at the time.

We have just returned from a few days on an offshore island. How reassuring that the sat-nav warned us that our route involved a ferry crossing, then told us to take the ferry. Like swimming was an alternative! The ferrymen are obliged to wear hard hats. On this occasion they were sporting seasonal hats perched on the top. I am all for festive spirit but it seems that these employees were all nearing retirement and were not the most cheery looking bunch. The elf ears were therefore somewhat incongruous.

Whilst away we popped in to an out-of-town supermarket for a coffee. I am not sure the staff were keen as they were heard to mutter, ‘Why do they all come here when there are cafés they could go to?’ Well possibly because the nearest one is over a mile away. The system seemed to be that you served yourself coffee from a machine or, in the case of tea, you added hot water to a teabag residing ready in a teapot. Pointing out that there were actually no teabags in the pots resulted in a handful being thrown at us. That’s teabags not teapots – teapots would be dangerous. Then we had the audacity to ask for cups! We were clearly now being quite ridiculous. Sigh.

Today’s historical novelist is fellow North Devonian Susan Hughes whose debut novel A Kiss from France has been very well received. The book is set during the First World War and its aftermath. The principal characters all work in a munitions factory in London’s East End and the tragedy of their intertwined lives makes for compelling reading. The story brings home the appalling impact of the conflict. Susan has another novel in preparation and I am sure it will be included on many people’s ‘must read’ list.

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