Bertie’s presence in Barefoot in the Cobbles provides an opportunity to examine yet more facets of Albert and Polly’s brand of parenthood. Their second son, Bertie was born in 1900 and he spent much of his life in Clovelly, working on his father’s fishing boat. In today’s world, Bertie might have been labelled as having mild learning difficulties. A family story tells of how, as a schoolboy, he used to hold the donkeys and walk the unladen beasts up and down the street, when the visitors had finished their rides. Any silver coins he received as tips had to be handed to his parents but bronze and copper were his to keep. After the deaths of his parents, Bertie went to live with his sister Violet in Bideford. He died in 1969.
‘The doctor looked at Bertie appraisingly.
‘Hello young man,’ he said. ‘You look just the age for my Scout Patrol. Have you heard of the Boy Scouts? I am sure you would enjoy the jolly times we have. We are off to camp in a week or two. What do you think of that?’
Bertie looked desperately at his mother for guidance. How on earth should he respond to this gentleman? He might have been speaking a foreign language for all Bertie understood of the words.
‘Oh no, sir,’ exclaimed Polly in horror. ‘Not Bertie sir, he’s well…. He’s not the sort for being away from home, camps and the like, no, no, no it would never do for Bertie.’ ’
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.