14th April 2022 Normal service is now resumed! I’m back from roaming and home again in Sowerby Bridge after a very hectic last week in Barrow in Furness. Sadly, my lovely sister Mel has also returned home to Fuerteventura and I’m missing her already. We had a blast – lots of talking, laughter and memories and a whole heap of food in the shape of takeaways and dining out with friends, alongside a veritable lake of alcohol, including cider, beer, wine and a goodly quantity (in my case at least!) of Jack Daniels and coke – my favourite tipple.
The socialising began on Sunday 3rd April, after we arrived in Barrow and settled into our base for the week at the Maritime Apartments on Barrow Island. It’s sort of weird staying there, as part of the complex includes Barque Street, where Mel was born, and where we lived until 1965. Once unpacked, we had a visit from our friend, Helen, who was one of the beta-readers of my books, and was a great support during my writing. We did a lot of catching up and laughing about old times, when Mel and Helen turned out to be neighbours after they had met in the Maternity Unit of Furness General Hospital when they had each had one of their children at the same time.
On Monday, which was also my birthday, Mel was reminded of her days in the 1980s as a DHL Courier as we hand-delivered copies of my books, purchased by people from Barrow who weren’t able to attend the Book Launch. We also visited my elderly aunt; my mother’s sister who will be 93 in May, which was lovely. Sadly, her husband who suffers from Parkinson’s is not very well and in hospital, which is a worry, but she’s as sharp as a tack, and I think enjoyed our visit. Also, we delivered books to my niece, Kirstie, who kindly bought copies, so we had a coffee and a good chinwag there.
The other books purchased were sent nationwide, and were carried by Evri, the new incarnation of Hermes, who I know didn’t have the best reputation for deliveries, but I’m happy to say that only one of my consignments has gone astray – to my knowledge! If you ordered a copy and haven’t yet received it, please let me know so I can track it and find out what’s gone wrong.
On Tuesday we had lunch out with friends, then spent the evening relaxing, and early to bed before our marathon round trip to Scotland! So, Wednesday was indeed a very tiring day – we did an almost 600-mile round trip from Barrow to Dumbarton so Mel could see some of her children and her two granddaughters. Mel’s middle and youngest sons, Dan and Lewis, turned up at their big sister, Kate’s house and we all had lunch together, playing with Kate’s two little girls, Evelyn and Olivia, aged 5 and 1 respectively. It was a fantastic day, if very tiring for Mel, driving all that way, but well worth the effort.
Thursday, we had another ‘Ladies who do Lunch’ session at Oscar’s restaurant at the Abbey House Hotel, with some old schoolfriends of Mel’s. Again, we had such a laugh being nostalgic about the old days over several bottles of Chardonnay! The exciting news there is that one of these ladies, Fiona, is in the process of also buying a house in Fuerteventura – in just a few months, she and Mel will be neighbours again! It was quite by chance that they met up, last Christmas – Fiona and her husband were taking a holiday and ended up at Mel’s for Christmas Dinner!
Friday was a big evening for me – for the first time ever, I met my half-brother and sister (two of the children of my biological father). We’ve only been in contact for a couple of years, and hadn’t been able to meet before because of Covid, but they very kindly drove all the way from Glasgow to meet us, and also stayed over to attend my Launch and give me their support. We met in what used to be our local pub, the Victoria Tavern in Oxford Street, near what was the family home that Mel and I grew up in, but what I hadn’t realised when choosing the venue was that there was a karaoke evening happening at the same time, which made talking pretty much impossible! As for the singing – well, I was quite thankful that my hearing is not what it should be at the moment, because I spent most of the time cringing! Having said that, it wasn’t the worst karaoke I’ve ever heard! That was the time in Morecambe in 2001, when I was a student at Lancaster University. In those days, Wednesday in Morecambe was karaoke night in practically every pub, and on one such evening a rather drunk ‘gentleman’ attempted to sing all of the harmonies of Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody by himself, not a single note of which was in tune! Or perhaps, like in the famous Morecambe and Wise sketch – maybe he WAS singing all the right notes, just not necessarily in the right order! That one had me grinding my teeth, it was so bad!
We did manage to spend some quality time with Nick and Caroline though, who turned out to be the most delightful people I could have wished for as siblings, and we will be keeping in touch, I’m very glad to say.
But the climax of the week had to be my Book Launch. I hadn’t actually been inside the Dock Museum before, so wasn’t quite sure what to expect. The duty manager first showed us to a room which caused me some dismay. “Surely you can’t fit 30-plus chairs in here?” I asked, bewildered. “Oh, we thought people would just be wandering in and out whilst you signed books. Are they all going to be here at the same time?” she asked. Yes, we affirmed, it was an event in which there would be a talk, and a couple of readings.
So, we were shown to a much larger space, and chairs were duly set out, tables supplied for sales and signing, and we were finally organised. I’m really glad we had decided to get there a couple of hours before time so we could set up! I had also planned an agenda: introduction, followed by reading, followed by refreshments, followed by reading plus Q&A, followed by sales and signing. However, it turned into a sort of free-for-all where refreshments were offered as soon as people came in, and they also bought books at the same time so it was all happening at once! No harm done though – it all turned out all right in the end, and I think everyone enjoyed it. I was extremely nervous at the beginning, but once I started reading, I felt more relaxed.
Afterwards, my family and some old schoolfriends of mine went for a very alcoholic ‘Afternoon Tea’ at The Townhouse, a local restaurant, to celebrate and we had a great time. The food was excellent, the drinks flowed and so did the conversation. Gradually people drifted away and there was only me, Mel, Nick and Caroline left at the end of the evening when we shared a taxi back to our respective digs.
We also briefly saw my older brother, Robert, and both of his children, Kirstie and Christopher, which was lovely. Chris actually brought his wife and family to see us at the Dock Museum just before the start of the launch but unfortunately, they couldn’t stay as his son, Jack, was playing in a rugby match, but it was lovely to see them nonetheless! I can’t believe how much the my great nephew and niece have grown – the aforementioned son whom I always think of as a little boy is now 17 and over six feet tall, which was a shock to the system! When I think back to babysitting his father 40-odd years ago – God, I feel so old!
The next day, last Sunday, we travelled back to my home in Sowerby Bridge, happily to find my old cat, Toni, hale and hearty at 22 years old! I’m flattered to say that she seems to have missed me, as she hasn’t left me alone since – every time I move out of her sight into a different room she starts mewing as if she’s been abandoned – again! – until I come back to where she can sit on me. I can confirm that she was well-looked after by two of my neighbours, so please don’t think I cruelly left her to her own devices all the time I was away!
So, now it’s nose back to the grindstone; I have so much to do! I have to get Book One: Grace onto Amazon, register the ISBN numbers and record the audiobook to get that out there. Book Two: Audrey, is more or less complete now, but needs several good edits before it will be ready to publish but I’m aiming to set a publication date within the next three months if I can. And finally, I have Book Three: Kathryn, the last of the trilogy, to write, being only about 5,000 words into it so far.
Following that, there is ‘Hometown’, my next book to write. Although still set in Barrow, this will be quite a different book to the last three. This will be completely fictional and nothing to do with my family history, so will be quite a different experience to structure and write, but I’m very excited about it, even at this early planning stage.
Who’d have thought, that at 64 years old (now), life could be so exciting?
Until next time,