Friday, 30 September 2011

Once again we are driving around the countryside looking for the location for the next book. So far it has been whittled down to either north Cornwall or possibly Dartmoor. Which will depend on where Marcia finds the creative juices are flowing plus, in this case, the furtherance or otherwise of an idea which she has been playing with but is far from settled.

Anyway, we drove over Dartmoor the other day. To be more accurate Marcia drove as I am now waiting for the eyes to settle down after the operation so that I can be have new glasses. The, hopefully, I shall be behind the wheel again.

Our route took us over Holne Moor which is one of my favourite places and then on to Holne itself.

Combestone Tor continues to look down over ‘Foxhole’ - the fictional house in ‘Forgotten Laughter’.

Holne Moor: one of the most evocative open stretches of moor on Dartmoor.

When we arrived we found, to our great delight, that the village shop and tearoom is again open. It closed about a year ago as it was just not making money but the community has organised itself and found enough volunteers to staff it and enough cash to buy the initial stock needed for such a venture. Many congratulations and all the best wishes for the future.

The village of Holne

This took me back to 1984. Then (as now) there was concern about declining rural services. Dorset Rural Community Council had organised a Village Ventures competition to encourage voluntary groups who were finding ways of retaining or gaining services that would otherwise have been lost. In 1980 an organisation called Rural Voice was started to provide a national rural alliance and they took the idea forward to include most of the counties in England. Shell International offered generous financial support and this was matched by various government bodies. It was a great success and Rural Voice wanted a small book written to commemorate this success and, for a reason which now escapes me, I was commissioned to write that book.

Thus it was that in 1984 Marcia and I together with our two dogs set out to visit every county. Being us we did this in an old Bedford camper van and, as you would expect, we had a lot of fun. One memory that was not so amusing was driving through Nottinghamshire. This was at the time of the miners’ strike - a strike that seemed to be a personal battle between Margaret Thatcher and Arthur Scargill. Seeing groups of angry miners and police in riot gear confronting each other made a lasting impression on me and has shaped my political beliefs. On both sides there were perfectly honest and decent people enjoined in a bitter conflict and there are mining communities suffering from the fall out to this day. We were both quite upset and very happy to put that particular scene behind us.

A moment of rest: we sit by the old Bedford camper van. This was a terrible photo (obviously using a timer) but is the only one I can find taken on those trips.

The book cover.

* * * * *

It really is odd – this business of writing. Take Stripey Bunny as an example.

Marcia had just started writing The Christmas Angel having spent a few months brooding and visiting the locations for the book. I suppose this would have been some time in September 2009. The book opens with Jakey, a four year old boy, and his stalwart companion, Stripey Bunny. I’m not entirely sure what image Marcia had of this person at that time but a few weeks later the Christmas catalogues began to arrive.

One was a gift catalogue from a firm neither of us had heard of and there, as Marcia was leafing through it while we enjoyed our morning coffee break, was Stripey Bunny. Within a couple of days he had arrived and was sitting on Marcia’s desk to become the talisman for this book.

Marcia usually has a ‛book CD’: in this case it was Joni Mitchell’s ‛Both Sids Now’. It is to be hoped that Stripey Bunny enjoyed it – he had to listen to it rather a lot. The following photograph shows SB in a dégagé mood. I always felt he was closely related to Dillon in the Magic Roundabout but I expect most of you reading this will be far too young to remember him.

Time for bed, Zebedee.

* * * * *

Marcia was hanging up the washing, glancing to the west from where we had been promised some good weather, when she heard a ‘wooshing’ sound. It was very odd and puzzling until we saw a hot air balloon quite low in the sky and not that far away. We had seen this particular balloon before but even so I decided I wanted to take a couple of photographs. As it happened it was coming in to land three or four fields away – here are the pictures.

Safe landing!