21 January 2020

Celebrating Seven In Devon!

We moved into our lovely Devon farmhouse on 18th January 2013
I've had a bit of a look-back at the time in between ... 

I thought I would share the A-Z challenge I did in April 2015 as there are quite a few posts about my part of Devon, the house and the farm

start here at A and follow through to each next post

17 January 2020

A Novel Conversation with Kimberley Jordan Reeman and Colonel the Honourable Aeneas Bancroft

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To be a little different from the usual 
'meet the author' 
let's meet 
A slight deviation from the usual format for Novel Conversations. Kimberley found herself talking to her character and wrote the entire interview down. As authors we are well aware that sometimes characters like to do things their way ...

Kimberley Jordan Reeman
in conversation with


Colonel Bancroft:  Madam.
KJR: Thank you for accepting my invitation.
Bancroft: It is very much my pleasure.

KJR: Would you care to introduce yourself?
Bancroft: My name is Aeneas Bancroft, and I am a supporting player in Coronach.  To you it is a novel about the ʼ45 and its aftermath. For us, it is the record of our lives.  At the time of which we speak I was lieutenant-colonel of the 4th Regiment of Foot, also known as The King’s Own. I was thirty-eight years old then; I am homosexual; and I was addicted to opium.

KJR: How did you become an addict?
Bancroft: My right hand was severed at Culloden. I took opium for the pain. It had other effects, which I enjoyed.

KJR: You said in one of our previous conversations that you had “known many drugs”, promiscuity among them. And religion.
Bancroft: Yes.

Bancroft's commission
 KJR: You flirted with Roman Catholicism in Venice.
 Bancroft: I was not ‘flirting’. I would have committed myself to it, had not life intervened.

KJR: You would have given up your commission.
Bancroft: Yes. One was not, in my time, permitted to hold a commission in His Majesty’s forces if one was a Roman Catholic.

KJR: What would you have done with your life?
Bancroft: Lived with my lover. In peace, I hoped. It was not allowed to happen.

KJR: This is another story.
Bancroft:Yes. You intend to tell it some time. But not yet.

KJR: I have other stories to write first. But as you trusted me with yours, I do intend to write it. Its tragedy lies at the very heart of who you are.

KJR: I am required to ask you: are you a ‘goodie’ or a ‘baddie’ in my novel?
Bancroft: I am a catalyst. Without me, it would not have happened. We were there, we were required to carry out orders, we behaved as we behaved because of who we were, and because of what the past had made us, and certain events were set in train which had devastating consequences.  I would not have had that happen for the world.

KJR: You speak of Mordaunt.
Bancroft: Yes.

KJR: How could you allow yourself to fall in love with a straight man?
Bancroft: Why did you fall in love with a married man? A man nearly thirty years older than yourself? When the odds were so impossibly against you? It was a coup de foudre. I can’t explain it. It simply happened, and I was powerless against it.

KJR: But you knew it was impossible. You must have known Mordaunt wasn’t gay.
Bancroft: I knew only that I would have given him my very soul. As for one’s sexuality, in my time, my dear, you must understand that one could never be known for what one was. Sodomy was punishable by death in the armed forces, at least in theory. Three homosexual men were hanged in London in 1732. You cannot imagine the effect on us. The fear of discovery. The blackmail. The secrecy. It was a measure of my trust in Mordaunt that I ‘came out’ to him, as you call it. And I could not have done otherwise. I loved the man.

KJR: You are a practising Anglican. How do you reconcile your sexuality with your faith?
Bancroft: I am as my God made me. He knows my heart, my mind, my soul, my mortal body. I have no secrets from Him. And I trust that He has no contempt for what He Himself created.

KJR: What happened in Glen Sian at the beginning of our story nearly destroyed you both. Can you tell us about it?
Bancroft: I can say only that we were professional soldiers, inured to war. I held my first commission at the age of eighteen: I had been at Oxford.  Mordaunt was commissioned at fifteen: his father was a general, he sent him straight to the army. Despite that... despite the way we are portrayed... we were not barbarians, we were not insensitive.  Mordaunt, particularly. His music... my God, the beauty... the divine gift in his hands. The  Austrian  war was a sewer: we were nothing but blood and bone and gristle. And then they sent us to Scotland. I was able to distance myself from it. He couldn’t. He drank too much, but he couldn’t detach himself, and his was always a harsher nature than mine, stricter,  far more moral, more honourable. I knew what was happening to him, his mind, his spirit, but I couldn’t reach him; I revolted him; he hated me. And when one sees the man one loves in such torment, such moral anguish, the instinct becomes desperate. He was on the very edge of the abyss. I thought I could save him. I broke him. I blame it on the opium. He was never the same. Nor was I.

KJR: If you lived in my time, would you be a soldier?
Bancroft: Yes, without a doubt. I live to serve my country, even if, in my own time, I was dishonoured in that service.

KJR: On a lighter note, if you were to give a dinner party, who would be your guests? They can be from your time or mine.
Colonel: Ah. I love parties. I should certainly ask Mordaunt. And the girl, Margaret, who meant so much to him. And her lover, the smuggler. I should like to meet him. And James Wolfe. Mordaunt always admired him.  And Lord Nelson. Wolfe was his hero. And you, my author. And your Douglas Reeman, because I should like to meet the man who was your soulmate, and who taught you to understand love. As I came to understand it in your book: love and loneliness, and what they do to the human spirit.

James Wolfe
Admiral Lord Nelson
KJR: Thank you for that, Aeneas.
Bancroft: Thank you, my dear, for giving me a voice. Although when I first came into your mind you were too young to understand what it was between Mordaunt and me. I fear I shocked you. But I thank you for your courage. I am not quite a villain: only a flawed human being. As we all are. And therein lies our tragedy, and our humanity, and, possibly, our redemption. 

Buy the book on Amazon
Kimberley Jordan Reeman was born in Toronto, graduating from the University of Toronto with a Bachelor of Arts (hons.) in English literature in 1976. She worked in Canadian radio and publishing before marrying the author Douglas Reeman (Alexander Kent) in 1985, and until his death in 2017 was his editor, muse and literary partner, while pursuing her own career as a novelist. She has always been a spinner of tales, telling stories before she could write, reading voraciously from childhood, and citing Shakespeare, Hardy, Winston Graham and the novels of Douglas Reeman and Alexander Kent as her most profound influences. From Graham, who became a friend, she learned to write conversation, to eavesdrop as the characters spoke; from the seafaring novels of Reeman and Kent, which she read years before meeting the author, she came to understand the experience of men at war.
It is not necessary to look further than the history of Canada, and Toronto itself, for the genesis of Coronach: a vast country explored, settled, and governed by Scots, and a city, incorporated in 1834, whose first mayor was the gadfly journalist and political agitator William Lyon Mackenzie, a rebel in his own right, and the grandson of Highlanders who had fought in the `45. The Vietnam War, also, burned into the Canadian consciousness the issues of collateral damage and the morality of war; and from this emerged one character, a soldier with a conscience. In unravelling the complexity of his story, Coronach was born.

(Kimberley and Douglas's website)

Coronach was reviewed by
Discovering Diamonds


14 January 2020

Tuesday Talk - Walthamstow by Helen Hollick

From 1953-1957, then from 1977-2012, the year of the London Olympics, I lived in Walthamstow, a North-East London suburb. I expect that some of you recall me mentioning it . . .

On January 17th 2013 we (that’s my family) left Walthamstow for the last time and headed for our new home – new life – here in Devon.
I’ve no regrets.

Walthamstow Town Hall (geograph 3019393).jpg
Walthamstow Town Hall,
where I worked for several years
Walthamstow does have its history, its High Street market, its share of famous people and celebs. But it doesn’t have the peace and fresh air of Devon. (Nor the sheep or the owls)

Yep that's a real sheep
walking along the top of
a real Devon Bank
beside a real Devon Lane.
Our lane in fact...
I hated it there – not because Walthamstow was/is a not particularly attractive place but because I hated town life. My soul belongs to the countryside. The one saving grace for Walthamstow was that it bordered Essex and Epping Forest where we kept the horses, where we could walk the dogs and where we could meet Nature up close . We had a nice back garden - but a downstairs maisonette and  unpleasant neighbours.

Our Walthamstow back garden
and Rum -
sadly no longer withus

Recorded in c.1075 as Wilcumstowe (The Place of Welcome) and in the Domesday Book of 1086 as Wilcumestou  the Earl of Essex, Harold Godwineson (later  King Harold II of 1066 fame) would have known the town - village. I suspect it wasn’t as crowded back then. (Population 1871:10,692. 1971: 108,845. Definitely no busy North Circular Road or close by ‘London Car Park’  of the M25! Although I expect the River Lee had its fair share of traffic – including more than a few marauding Vikings!

King John visited Shern Hall, Walthamstow in 1213. No idea why. Couldn’t have been for Walthamstow’s famous greyhound racing track – it didn’t exist back then. (Though he might have been in the area for the hunting in what was, then, the Royal Forest of Epping. Henry VIII and Queen Elizabeth I also hunted there.) (Oh and that's were highwayman Dick Turpin lived before his famous ride to York. His ghost apparently still haunts the woods.) 

The main Walthamstow road was (still is) Hoe Street, with Forest Road (called Clay Street back then) and High Street – then known as Marsh Street – for obvious reasons. Walthamstow Marshes still exist and are a recreational area for walkers, fishermen and footballers.  Shernhall Street and Wood Street are still there today.

In 1965 Walthamstow was merged with adjoining Chingford, Leyton and Leytonstone to become the London Borough of Waltham Forest. I remember it well. My Dad had been an independent Town Councillor for Chingford. He was due to serve as Town Mayor in 1965 – but didn’t get the chance because of the merger. He was dreadfully disappointed.

Walthamstow postcode is E17 – some of you may recall there was (for a brief while) a fairly good rock band called E17  . . .  one of them lived down my road!

You Tube video of Walthamstow Market
October 2012
Somewhat noisier than here in Devon

The market that is situated along the length of High Street opened in 1885 and has always been  believed to be one mile long (actually its 2/3 of a mile) but it is the longest street market in Europe, so I guess the inaccuracy is permissible.

Central Library
Of interest to readers, the Central Library is located in High Street, and was built with money given by Andrew Carnegie. Further down High Street there used to be the Junior Library – it was demolished some time in the early 60s and a Sainsburys supermarket stands there now.

This little library has a very special importance to me. I lived in Walthamstow from 1953, when I was born, until 1957 when, at the age of four, we moved to Chingford. I clearly remember coming out of the library very excited because I was clutching a book I hadn’t read. It was one of the Little Grey Rabbit books by Alison Uttley. I fell in love with the series, and thus began my relationship with books. 

We moved to Chingford in the summer when it was hot, to a house at the top of a hill. In the distance at the bottom of the road was one of the reservoirs sparkling blue in the sunshine. The water was low because a good bit of the white-coloured edge could be seen. I was four. I was short-sighted. I could see the water and what I thought was a beach beside it. I burst into tears because Mummy and Daddy wouldn't take me down to paddle in the sea.

Little Grey Rabbit Goes to Sea Hardcover

Apparently, Walthamstow is mentioned in a song "Old Siam, Sir" from the 1979 album Back to the Egg by Paul McCartney’s band, Wings. Not a lot of people know that. (No, I didn’t either – thank you Wikipedia!)

Remember the group The Barron Knights? "Long ago, outside a chip shop in Walthamstow" is the first line of a song Ann and Joe, The Cranberries had Waiting In Walthamstow, and Genesis (OK you might not have heard of the others but Genesis? Oh come on!) has a track title Battle of Epping Forest on one of their albums.

And the cover of Blur’s Parklife features Walthamstow Dog Stadium. 

Oh, and the Beatles played at the Granada Cinema/Theatre in Hoe Street. I remember that too! Couldn’t hear much singing though.

There are a few famous residents from the past (do I include myself?) 

Remember me mentioning Walthamstow Marshes? You might have heard of one of the, then, young lads who played football there. A certain David Beckham. (He went to the same Chingford school as me, although I was there quite a few years before him!) 

Walthamstow Marshes
Then there's writer, designer, poet, William Morris. Jazz musician Johnny Dankworth, Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli, Florence Nightingale’s father, singer Ian Drury, Sir George Edwards who designed Concorde,  footballer (Tottenham Hotspurs) Harry Kane, film director Ken Russell... all went to school or college in Walthamstow. (There’s a much longer list on Wikipedia and yes – I AM listed there – “Helen Hollick, writer, born in Walthamstow 1953” )

So all in all, that’s a potted account of Walthamstow.
Like I said, I don’t miss the place.

Call back Friday
for another
Novel Conversation