My new book, a memoir, BETWEEN CHARNWOOD AND THE CHEVIN; growing up in Derbyshire, just after the Second World War, was published in November 2019. I can’t believe this is my third book, and my first foray into non-fiction. It’s been an adventure.
No negative comments so far. Everyone seems to have enjoyed it, including those who are neither local nor close relatives… Even my copy editor described it as ‘a very good read’. And that’s the guy who felt obliged to check whether the Joiners Arms in Quarndon had an apostrophe.(Yes and No, according to old photographs and publications of differing dates. All the right punctuation, if not necessarily in the right order, as Eric Morecambe might have put it. Current signage, according to this short sighted writer, appears to err on the side of ‘No’. )And while I’m on the subject, when and why did the William 1V at Milford become just the King William? I passed it twice a day for six years on my way to school and everyone understood Roman numerals then. If we didn’t, we would probably have been put in detention for all eternity. Many things alongside the A6 between Allestree and Belper have hardly changed at all since then, apart from the building of new houses along the Derwent flood plain. No, we never learn. Seagulls still swim in the fields after heavy rain, sheep and cattle still graze on the hillside. Rolls of mist like Shredded Wheat still gather along the valley in winter. The south facing slopes of the Chevin, though, are now so covered in scrub, you can barely see the grass at all. My grandmother’s birthplace in Quarndon still stands, little altered, although I am reliably informed that my childhood friend, Pybus the milk-horse, belonged to a local farmer and not to the Co-op Dairy. I think he’d forgive me. Also since publication, I’ve learned that our much feared local shopkeeper, the Slagheap in a Dress, was formerly employed as a sword swallower’s assistant. Now, why did nobody mention that before?
BETWEEN CHARNWOOD AND THE CHEVIN – the title describes the landscape, the geography of my childhood – is part social history, part family history and meant to be read for pleasure. If you want a blow by blow account of life in the late 1940s and 1950s etc this is not for you. As a one-time playwright, I still see myself as an entertainer. It covers my life from when I was born in 1944 to the time I left school in 1961 and also tells the lives of my parents, grandparents and more distant ancestors and how they came to settle in our part of Derbyshire, bringing with them stories of hardship and otherwise forgotten lives on the way. Also on the way, you will encounter, as I did, a few wandering spirits, some road ghosts, phantom aircraft, and some less nebulous, hitherto missing, family members that nosy dirt-digging researchers like me managed to track down too. Oh, and a world famous philosopher and a silent movie actress as well. So buy, read, enjoy….