That was the Week …….

DSCF0978.JPGWow. Just wow. What a week. I have been a scarily large window display, taken part in a folk concert, stood on a very cold quayside surrounded by fish, popped up on various blogs and been interviewed on the radio. All this in aid of promoting Barefoot on the Cobbles, which has now been let out of the many boxes in my home. Launch day was exciting. Firstly, a rare visit to the hairdressers. I am seriously wondering if this expensive outlay is tax-deductable. Then back to Chris’ where I persuaded him to allow me to look for the missing photograph album. Before plumbing the depths of ‘the glory hole’ (a large walk-in cupboard that you can no longer walk in as it is crammed with things relating to the Braund family history) I suggested that I took a cursory look with his own albums and there was mine! I have promised to state publicly that this was not Chris’ fault. I had borrowed his, almost identical, album and he had taken mine back home with it. As soon as the book-promoting dust settles the scanning fest will begin. On the way back from the hairdressers, we drove past Walter Henry’s bookshop and there I was, filling the side window, which was lovely but a bit disconcerting!

Anyway, back to the launch. Devon Family History Society had kindly allowed me to hijack their regular meeting for this purpose and folk turned out in force. I was accompanied by the awesome Dan Britton and two fellow members of Govannen in a blend that the audience appreciated. Dan, Adele and Neil played the companion song to Barefoot on the Cobbles and other music inspired by North Devon. My lovely publisher Olli from Blue Poppy Publishing came along to offer his support and brought some of the children’s books from the Blue Poppy stable. This was important because I was collecting children’s books for distribution to homes where there are few books. People gave generously and despite excellent sales of Barefoot, I somehow now have more books in my home than I did on Friday!

Saturday evening belonged to Dan and Govannen, as they performed their regular annual concert at Meddon. I was able to read from Barefoot and together with fellow author and friend Liz Shakespeare, to skulk in a cupboard and sell books. An amazing evening.

Sunday was the herring festival in Clovelly and given that Barefoot’s cobbles are those in Clovelly, I was there to do readings and send more copies on their way to good homes. I woke up to see that the clock read 8.15am. 8.15 and I needed to leave the house by 8.30 at the latest! I rushed out of bed then wondered why it was still dark. Ah. That would be because it was actually 3.45am. Needless to say, it was difficult to get back to sleep. So, at the appointed time, there I was set up to sell books on a slightly windy but beautiful Clovelly quayside.

Then there was a minor incident with the Subway sandwiches. I was a Subway virgin but having won two vouchers in a raffle, we decided this was the occasion to cash them in. In an inexplicable fashion, the flask cracked and said sandwiches became somewhat soggy as a consequence. The flask contained coffee, the fisherman of my acquaintance (who had spent the weekend fishermanfully heaving boxes of books) is allergic to coffee. He nonetheless consumed the coffee-soaked sandwich without obvious ill-effects. Until mid-day, I basked in beautiful sunshine. Then, when I returned from doing my readings, the sun had dipped behind the cliffs and it was, quite frankly, freezing but fortunately, book-buyers braved the elements.

I have guested on the blogs of Pauline Barclay and The Glorious Outsiders. You can hear my podcast on Write Radio, where I chat to Jane Holland about my book and I spent an hilarious hour on The Voice FM chatting to Simon and Olli.

The week is not set to get any less hectic. Copies of Barefoot are winging their way across the world. I have reached pleasingly high levels in the Amazon charts and reviews are starting to come in. Warm fuzzy feeling alert. A lovely reader has put this on the Blue Poppy website, ‘I could not put this down. My head was spinning a bit with all the characters but a helpful list is found at the front of the book to keep you on track. Growing up in the middle of Devon and in Bideford descriptions of the settings brought back memories. The Devonian language was wonderful, just enough of it – my grandfather often called me ‘maid’ and referred to us children and our parents as ‘chill’. It manages to cover so many issues of the time -suffragettes, shell shock, the hardships of daily life as a servant or fisherman, the losses and mental distress experienced through a range of illnesses of the time, I could go on! The story is compelling, each chapter almost a story in itself, and I was definitely holding my breath for the verdict. I will be giving more than one as a Christmas present! PS also appreciated the good font size.’ Thank you.

 

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#100daysofbfotc Day 100: Polly

02 Mary Elizabeth and Albert BraundThe final day has to belong to Polly, whose anguish reverberates throughout Barefoot on the Cobbles. She wasn’t intended to be the main character but I think most readers will identify her as such. It was meant to be Daisy’s story. In fact, before the novel got a title, I referred to it as ‘Daisy’. Daisy’s role however is reactive; it is Polly who plays a significant part in driving the narrative. Without doubt, Polly is the character with whom I found it easiest to identify. I understood her fears, her hopes and her despair. She is not a typical ‘heroine’; for most of the book she is elderly, prickly, diffident and not particularly sociable.  William Golding wrote, in Free Fall ‘‘My yesterdays walk with me. They keep step, they are gray faces that peer over my shoulder,’ and this sums up Polly. She is a victim of her life experiences, as indeed are we all. I am fascinated by human behaviour and what makes individuals act in a particular manner, especially if their actions are those that others find strange. Writing the novel gave me the opportunity to explore and attempt to explain, Polly’s motivations and those of the people she encountered.

Polly Wakely was born on 1 April 1872, in Peppercombe Valley, the daughter of a ship’s carpenter. The 1891 census shows that she was in service at Chudleigh Villas, East-the-Water, Bideford. In 1893, she married Albert and as the novel shows, they set up home in Clovelly and had eight children. Barefoot on the Cobbles is Polly’s story, I hope I have done her justice.

There is no quotation from the novel today because tomorrow you can read it in its entirity for yourselves. More information about the novel can be found here. Copies will be available at various events in the weeks following the launch or can be pre-ordered from Blue Poppy Publishing or the author. Kindle editions can be pre-ordered for the UK and also on Amazon.com.

#100daysofbfotc Day 99: Lily

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Lily on the left, with her sister Rosie

Lily, the seventh of Polly and Alb’s eight children, is another character who some might feel could have been dispensed with. She remains, not just because I did not want a large gap in the run of children, nor because I wanted to make sure that all eight children were remembered. Lily has a particular role to play, one which I don’t want to mention, in case it spoils the book. Some readers may not even spot my use of her in this way but to me, she was a vital to a certain section of Barefoot on the Cobbles.

Lily was born in Clovelly on 3 February 1911, exactly two years before her younger sister Rosie. I don’t want to say too much about her history but she spent her life in Clovelly, married and had one child.

‘ ‘Me and Lily, we’re going to the treat up at the Court tomorrow,’ Rosie said. ‘There’s to be tea and decorations and a big tree and presents and all.’ ‘

Barefoot on the Cobbles will be published on 17 November 2018. More information about the novel can be found here. Copies will be available at various events in the weeks following the launch or can be pre-ordered from Blue Poppy Publishing or the author. Kindle editions can be pre-ordered for the UK and also on Amazon.com.

#100daysofbfotc Day 98: Daisy

0U9A3415If you have been following these posts since they began in August you may remember that Daisy has already featured in a post, on what would have been her birthday. Today is the 100th anniversary of her death. Today has to be her post. She is a young woman without descendants, another generation and she may have been forgotten. I hope that, through Barefoot on the Cobbles I have helped to preserve her memory.

“Three days later, as the lingering stars were fading in the angry pink dawn, Daisy, alone in the borrowed bed, loosened her final, fragile grip on life.”

Barefoot on the Cobbles will be published on 17 November 2018. More information about the novel can be found here. Copies will be available at various events in the weeks following the launch or can be pre-ordered from Blue Poppy Publishing or the author. Kindle editions can be pre-ordered for the UK and also on Amazon.com.

#100daysofbfotc Day 97: Frank Badcock

Frank Badcock on the left

Frank Badcock on the left

Frank Badcock’s story is told in the penultimate chapter of Barefoot on the Cobbles. This tragic episode serves to underline the influence of the sea on coastal communities and on the lives of the characters in the novel. The events of New Year’s Day 1919 are still retold in Clovelly.

Frank was born into a Clovelly fishing family in 1884. His parents were Robert and Annie Salome Badcock née Jewell and Frank grew up in a cottage on the quay. Like his father, Frank spent his working life on the sea. In 1905, he married local girl Merelda Dunn and they brought up three sons in their North Hill cottage. When the First World War broke out, Frank served on HMS Albion and was involved in the disastrous Dardanelles campaign in 1915. As the war drew to a close, Frank was in the Royal Naval Reserve, as a gunner on a merchantman.

‘  ‘Oh, God,’ he groaned, the rare blasphemy a sign of his anguish. ‘’Tis the Annie Salome, right proud of that boat Frank be. Named for his mother it were. Why the hell baint they back. They will never get into harbour now.’ ’

Barefoot on the Cobbles will be published on 17 November 2018. More information about the novel can be found here. Copies will be available at various events in the weeks following the launch or can be pre-ordered from Blue Poppy Publishing or the author. Kindle editions can be pre-ordered for the UK and also on Amazon.com.

#100daysofbfotc Day 96: Portledge

Portledge_House_Alwington_Devon

Image from Wikimedia

Portledge is the ‘big house’ in Alwington parish. At the time of Barefoot on the Cobbles and for centuries before, it was the seat of the Coffin, later Pine-Coffin, family. The estate included Peppercombe and the eastern side of the village of Bucks Mills, so for some of the novel’s characters, the Pine-Coffins were the Lords of the Manor. In the novel, both Polly and her mother, work for the Pine-Coffins. It would be highly likely that local young girls would begin their life in service here; there were few other opportunities in the area. When additional servants were required for special occasions, former servants and older women would be drafted in to assist the regular staff.

Although the history of the manor of Portledge is thought to go back to the eleventh century, most of the current house, the house that Polly would have known, is about 350 years old. A few thirteenth century elements of the building survive. After the Pine-Coffins left, the manor house became a hotel. It is now a private residence.

‘On the piano in the corner was a large bowl of roses and a photograph of a young girl, in a heavy silver frame. Mrs Pine-Coffin would be horrified, thought Polly, one of her earliest lessons at Portledge had been that, on no account, should anything be set upon the piano.’

Barefoot on the Cobbles will be published on 17 November 2018. More information about the novel can be found here. Copies will be available at various events in the weeks following the launch or can be pre-ordered from Blue Poppy Publishing or the author. Kindle editions can be pre-ordered for the UK and also on Amazon.com.

#100daysofbfotc Day 95: Abraham Tuke

PoppiesOn the centenary of the armistice it is fitting that today’s post should belong to one of the fallen. Chapter 8 of Barefoot on the Cobbles is set on the western front. In order to reflect the early years of the twentieth century, the novel needed to include an episode that was devoted to the experiences of a combatant. The choice of Abraham, from amongst the men that Clovelly lost, was largely a random one and his life story was not typical. Incidentally, Abraham was not his first given name but in common with several other characters, his name needed to be changed to avoid confusion.

I anticipated that this would be the most difficult chapter for me to write, as I am not a young male, nor have I ever been in a combat zone. The western front was the only location in the novel that I was not able to explore in person. I immersed myself in the war diaries of Abraham’s battalion and read personal memoirs and dairies about the little-known battle in which he lost his life. I discovered that, although the Battle of Fromelles is not a household name in the UK, it is in Australia; the ANZAC troops experiences appalling losses in this campaign. I was also helped by the archivist at Abraham’s school, who responded swiftly and in detail to my enquiries, allowing me to build up a much fuller impression of Abraham’s character.

Although the chapter would not stand up to scrutiny by a military historian, I reasoned that one soldier would not have an impression of the overall tactics, so, if the account seems a little confused, that is probably an accurate reflection of a single soldier’s experiences. In the end, this is the chapter that pleases me the most.

W A B Tuke

From the Archive of King’s College, Taunton

Abraham Tuke was born in Clovelly in 1894 and was baptised in the church that stood adjacent to his home. His father, Harry, was the Court’s head gardener and the family lived at Gardener’s Cottage, on the edge of the walled garden. Abraham was an only child and his childhood was very different to that of most of his peers. Although he attended Clovelly School as a young boy, he won a scholarship to the prestigious King’s College in Taunton. It must have been difficult to cope with this dislocation and I suspect that Abraham may not have fitted well into either of his worlds. Whilst at King’s, Abraham became Senior Prefect and a Corporal in the Officers’ Training Corps. He was in the debating society and appeared in school productions. He did well academically, winning prizes for History, Religious Instruction and Latin. His ambition was to become a teacher and he qualified at St. Luke’s College, where he played rugby and became editor of the college magazine. The latter made me think that he would have written poetry, so I read volumes of World War 1 poetry, including the efforts of less-known and probably less accomplished poets. In this way, Abraham was able to write a poem, which appears in the book. I consoled myself, as I write it on his behalf, with the fact that he didn’t have to be a very good poet!

Following a role in the Territorials, Abraham joined the 2nd/4th (City of Bristol) Battalion of the Gloucestershire Regiment rising to the rank of Sergeant. He perished on 19 July 1916.

‘Barbed wire coiled across the long grass, self-seeded crops from happier years dared to grow and poppies painted the fields. Abandoned and broken, ploughs rusted where they lay. Then there were the agonising reminders of war. The wooden crosses, roughly hewn, inscribed only with a date; the names of the soldiers who fell on that spot forever forgotten.’

Barefoot on the Cobbles will be published on 17 November 2018. More information about the novel can be found here. Copies will be available at various events in the weeks following the launch or can be pre-ordered from Blue Poppy Publishing or the author. Kindle editions can be pre-ordered for the UK and also on Amazon.com.