Friday, 30 November 2012

A dog blog

Marcia is often asked, ‛Are your characters based on people you know?’ The invariable answer is, ‛No. Now, with the dogs, it’s different. I know every one of those.’

So, just for fun, I thought that I would tell you something about some of the real dogs and doggy moments that have crept into her novels.
Marcia as a young naval wife with Cassie
Marcia’s first dog was a golden retriever called ‛Cassie’ so it is not terribly surprising that one of the main characters in her first novel Those Who Serve was called Cassandra and that Kate bred goldens. Marcia became very friendly with Shirley Crick who bred goldens up on Dartmoor – where, incidentally, they tend to have pink noses because it is so wet. One of Shirley’s champion dogs was Mugwump Morquest – those who read The Chadwick Trilogy may remember ‛Mugwump’.
Marcia with my collie cross shortly after we got together.
When Marcia and I met, I had two dogs: a pedigree cairn terrier that had been given to me as a Christmas present by the breeder and a year-old collie cross that had been dumped on me by a friend. That was meant to be a temporary arrangement but . . . Anyway, we meet the collie under the name of Nellie in The GoldenCup. The cairn, as far as I know, has yet to appear. He was terribly old when Marcia and I got together and had already lost most of his sight and hearing. Within a week or so he life ended. It was a terrible day for me, we had been almost inseparable for nearly eighteen years.
Marcia and Bessie up on Dartmoor on a windy day. 'You can't use that one,' she said.
Rarely is Marcia wrong! Anyway, I love it. 
Then came our Newfoundlands: Lyddie (mad as a hatter), Huggy (big and macho), Bessie (with whom I was totally in love), Shrimp (housed for the breeder for some months when she was a ‛teenager’) and Trubshawe.
Marcia and Trubshawe enjoyed a very special realtionship
Trubshawe, Admiral Jellicoe to you, was without doubt Marcia’s dog. When he eventually died (in his sleep: his heart just gave out) she was broken hearted. Then came the tapestry. Completely out of the blue there was a letter saying that someone had a present for Marcia and could they please send it. Well, yes, of course. When it arrived it was a beautifully worked tapestry of a Newfoundland dog – and it was the spit image of Trubshawe. It turned out that the reader who embroidered it had been looking at various Newfoundland options and was always drawn back to this one. Very odd, spooky and entirely wonderful. Don’t ask how these things happen – it is probably safest not to know! It really does feel as if he has come back to live with us.
Our last dog together (and that does sound horribly final) was, of course, Jossie. Those of you who have followed this blog for a long time will know that Jossie belonged to the mother of Marcia’s closest friend. She is now immortalised as the terrier called Pops in The Sea Garden who had the same temperament but was somewhat smaller so that she could sit on Lady T’s lap.
We revisit The Bedford Hotel in Tavistock in The Sea Garden and here is Marcia on the hotel steps with Wellie, a friend's old English sheepdog. Wellie - a very patient soul - is still waiting to find out in which book he is destined to appear.
Lastly, there was a scene in that book where Kate drives up onto the moor – Plaster Down to be exact – and she watches a young father playing with his two small boys and another golden retriever. That was taken from real life. We were researching for the book and retracing Kate’s steps though the years and were on our way to Pew Tor when we witnessed this scene exactly as Marcia described it.
At the signing a few weeks ago in Torbay a reader came along with photographs of other dogs from the Morquest line.
This is Argus, a splendid looking chap.