I’ve just done the third new thing and it was quite the most difficult of the three. It’s been a very long time coming because I started to write it 77 years ago. And no I’m not making it up, I really did. Although I didn’t know at the time that eventually I would think I ought to publish it.
To start with it was simply a very private diary where I could write about what was happening to me, being evacuated, being bombed out, being caned by my mother, and how I felt about it. Now that child abuse is in the news and people are at last taking children seriously when they say how much they’ve been hurt, instead of disbelieving them and ignoring them, I can see it could be helpful. The victims hurt by Jimmy Saville and the other powerful men who thought that children were there for them to hurt whenever they wanted to, know how terrible it is to be disbelieved for years and years and years. But one of the reasons for their disbelief is that so many people find it hard to take them seriously because the abusers have convinced them that they are kind, charming people. They’re not. They just know how to put on a good act.
This book which I’ve called ‘A Family at War’ because the family I wrote about was at war in two senses, has an abuser right at the centre, it’s the one I watched in my own home from the time I was five until I was nineteen. At five you simply take your mother’s view of the world and don’t question it but by the time you are nineteen you can see things a great deal more clearly – as I did.
So this book is rather specifically aimed at several different groups of people, those who are interested in World War Two and the London Blitz and want to know what it was like to be there at the time, those who have been abused and disbelieved and those who work with abused children and their abusers. Fingers crossed it will do some good.
It’s been on Kindle for a fortnight now and has gathered two glowing reviews which has encouraged me, I hope to hear a lot more from other people who are reading it or have read it.
I’ve just had a run-in with a machine. The machine won, naturally. How could anything human beat a mindless contraption of tin and electronics programmed to take our money and give us as little as it can in return?
But to begin at the beginning. I had planned a two day trip to London, the first day to visit my sister who was throwing a party to celebrate her 51st wedding anniversary, the second to join the renowned Ken Titmuss (@oldmapman) on an escorted walk in Mayfair. I had my bag packed, my notebook in my pocket, I’d driven to the station and parked the car, what could possibly go wrong?
The station was full of passengers, but rather ominously short on staff, and the ticket office was closed. I was directed to the first of the tin monsters, where a long queue of would be passengers were standing patiently in line and where I was told I could buy the ticket I needed. Wrong! This was a machine with a tin will of its own. Apparently it had no means of selling me any sort of ticket except a day return, a two day return seemed to be completely beyond it. In the end, I succumbed to its bullying and bought a day return hoping I might be able to do something about the ticket when I got to London. By now it was growing a little late to argue any further with a tin monster, my train was already standing in the station and there was still the matter of buying a parking ticket for the day. I went back to the car-park and met monster number two, standing blackly and implacably in front of the cars. If I thought the first machine was bad, this one was impossible. The front of it was covered with gobble-de-gook instructions, none of which applied to me and none of which were helpful. There were various buttons to push but no labels beside them to tell you what they actually did. Eventually I admitted defeat and went back into the station to see if I could find somebody there to help me. By this time my train was straining at the leash and I was beginning to feel anxious but a young porter hoped he would know how to find out how to make the monster work and he came back to the car-park with me. He didn’t have much more luck than I did, except to discover that I had to pay for the ticket with cash and the machine wouldn’t give change. I didn’t have enough spare cash to buy a ticket even for a day. After all, I’d expected to buy it with a cash-card. I went back to the station where the train was ready to depart and had a rapid consultation with the only other porter there who was Welsh and helpful and told me he’d keep an eye on the car and make sure I didn’t get a parking ticket, if I gave him the registration number.
How very much easier and more pleasant it is to deal with a human being instead of a machine. I got into my train thoroughly out of breath and feeling I knew exactly how the Luddites felt. Oh if only I’d had a hatchet!
I’m doing three new things at once and I’m not at all sure its a good idea. I can hear my grandmother clicking her teeth with disapproval and saying ‘you’re biting off more than you can chew.’ This blog is one of them and I’m not changing my mind about all this, so here-goes. The other two are already begun and for one of them I’ve broken a life long rule.
I’ve always accepted that if a writer gives a talk or runs a workshop, they should expect to be paid a fee for what they do. That is certainly the opinion of the Society of Authors and of a good many other authors beside. The argument being, that if you work for free you are devaluing yourself. However times are changing in a brutal way. The moment has come for me to offer my services free to two libraries, so cash-starved and hard-pressed, they can’t afford to offer a fee to anybody nor to do very much in the way of publicity so it will be interesting to see what happens.
The first talk will be in Wells Library on Tuesday 22nd September starting at 7.30pm and it will be about what we can glean from history from our families, their homes and their home towns. Sometimes they take us on more complicated and enthralling journeys than we might imagine. On the following day I shall be in an independent bookshop ‘Hunting Raven Books’ in Frome, signing books and meeting fans and friends from 11 in the morning until 12 noon. Indies need support from writers too. In the afternoon I shall be in the library at Frome running a workshop in which my audience and I will be brainstorming and building a character out of the air, working as a team. This is always fun to do because none of us know what our character is going to be like nor what direction he or she will take. Watch this space.
And yes there is a third new thing but I’ll tell you about that in my next blog!