TRACEY SCOTT-TOWNSEND: What I did at 50

I’m delighted to welcome Myself onto my blog today, as part of my ‘What I did at 50’ series. This is the final post in the first blitz, but there are plenty more posts to come after the 24th of June, so stay tuned! 

birthday 54 Tracey

Tracey Scott-Townsend

I was a late-starter. From the age of ten I wanted to be a writer, but I think my ‘voice’ started to emerge in my late teens. I was drawn to otherness, and in retrospect I suspect my own, lifetime-experienced otherness has its roots in Autism. It’s probably too late (and too expensive) to have that confirmed now. Aged fifteen, I remember being asked by some school visitors (inspectors or governors, maybe) why it was that I sat on my own in my form room (facing a window, with my back to the rest of the class).
I wrote characters who didn’t fit in, who struggled out of oppression in some form. George Orwell’s Nineteen-Eighty-Four affected me deeply at O’ Level.

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Me at 16

I left home the summer before I was eighteen, lodging briefly on my older sister’s floor. We both worked in a nightclub, although I still had a further year of my A’ Levels. I stayed no more than a few months in any flat or bedsit, soon moving on to another. But I remember each location, and can picture myself in the different surroundings during the nights I sat up reading and writing: poems and attempted-novels. As in the way I never stayed in any accommodation long, I quickly moved on to the next novel that I wanted to write. However, there was one character I wrote who endured through my every attempt at a novel. She was anorexic Marianne Fairchild, who eventually took full form in my first published book. Her name was inspired by that of the character Marianne in Sense and Sensibility, which I remember sitting reading in my wooden armchair throughout one night at a flat I lived in when I was eighteen.

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Aged twenty, I dropped out of my Sociology and Social Anthropology degree at Hull University. I told my personal tutor it was because I wanted to write a book. But that book never progressed any further than the ones before it. My boyfriend dropped out of university too, to try and pursue his music career. But we were both lethargic. Before long, and in a doomed relationship, I had become pregnant. I knew she would be a girl.

By the summer of 1984 we had moved into a communal house in Kilnsea, on the banks of the Humber Estuary. The location of mudflats and seascape imprinted itself in me deeply, and it’s the setting for three of my novels: The Last Time We Saw Marion, Of His Bones and The Eliza Doll.

My three novels set in Kilnsea, East Yorkshire

 

I lost my baby at six months, another experience that has permeated my writing. During the time I lived at Kilnsea, I completed my first novel, handwritten over two thick notebooks. I think it was something that just needed to be written and I never took it any further. After we moved back into Hull, I began studying for a degree in Visual studies. My relationship broke down and, living alone again, I stayed up late into the nights writing, after I had finished my artwork for the day. Aged twenty-six, I completed the first draft of what eventually became my first novel, The Last Time We Saw Marion, as well as a short story that eventually became my second published novel, Another Rebecca. But the two stories were to lay dormant for more than twenty years.

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I graduated from my art degree while pregnant with my first son. I got married the same summer, and went on to have two more sons and a daughter. I worked as an artist, exhibiting and teaching workshops, but I continued to think of myself as a writer. When my daughter was one and I was thirty-seven, my marriage broke down. I moved back to Lincolnshire with my children.

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My Children

 

I continued teaching art workshops, and went on to do a fine art MA. But I still thought of myself as a writer. Every now and then, over the years, I brought out the draft of the full-length novel I had written, and did some re-writing. But my time was filled with single-parenthood, making art for exhibitions, and the temporary teaching job I was offered at a secondary school in the wake of my MA, (initially supposed to be six weeks!) The job lasted two and a half years, by which time I had met up with a former school-friend who had also become a single parent. Phil and I married when we were both almost forty-seven and we lived in a tall house overlooking the South Common in Lincoln, where we tackled becoming a step-family.

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When my school teaching job finally came to an end, I was able to write full-time. I used the lesson-planning discipline I had learned as a teacher to fully apply myself to writing this time around.

I was offered a publishing contract for The Last Time We Saw Marion when I was fifty years old. The book was published by Inspired Quill the following year, when I was fifty-one.

~

In the almost-decade since I married Phil, I’ve developed a close relationship with mortality. I’ve lost two sisters, my father, and several friends. It makes me achingly aware of how brief a touchdown we have on this earth. Phil and I are making the most of our life together. He took early retirement from his long-term job when we were fifty-five, and we started our own publishing company, Wild Pressed Books. We regained the rights to my second novel Another Rebecca.

another rebecca

Another Rebecca (second edition)

 

We have also published my books The Eliza Doll and Sea Babies, as well as several novels and poetry collections by other writers. We’ve just signed up our ninth author!

Northern Publishers2

Wild Pressed Books at the Northern Publishers’ Fair

 

The other massive lifestyle change we’ve undertaken is to do as much travelling as we can in our camper van. It started when we were a family of eight. We decided to buy a second-hand minibus – a huge, old LDV Pageant — and it immediately suggested itself to me as a home on wheels! It was at the age of fifty that Phil and I began venturing further afield than the outreaches of Yorkshire. We’ve explored most of Scotland, returning to the Outer Hebrides several times, and it’s where my fifth novel, Sea Babies is set.

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

Ardroil, Uig, Isle of Lewis – setting for Sea Babies

 

We’ve also been to Ireland and to Germany, via Holland and Belgium (for my son’s wedding). Later this year we’ll be driving to Portugal.

Driving in Germany

 

At the age of fifty-six, Phil and I, together with my son and daughter-in-law, have bought our very own property in Portugal – a rustic two-roomed house with two-and-a-half acres of land on which grow olive trees, sweet chestnut trees and cork-oak. We’re currently in the process of buying a second building and extra land to accommodate the four of us.

our house in Portugal

Our future home in Portugal

 

The future feels vivid, and you can expect novels set in Portugal from me from now on!

My latest novel is Sea Babies…

SEA BABIES buy link

Sea Babies front Cover with quotes

Blurb:

Lauren Wilson is travelling by ferry to the Outer Hebrides, about to begin a new job as a social worker with the Islands’ youth. She’s also struggling to come to terms with a catastrophic event. When somebody sits opposite her at the cafeteria table, she refuses to look up, annoyed at having her privacy disturbed. But a hand is pushing a mug of tea towards her, and a livid scar on the back of the hand releases a flood of memories…                     

Some people believe in the existence of a parallel universe. Does Lauren have a retrospective choice about the outcome of her terrible recent accident, or is it the bearer of that much older scar who has the power to decide what happens to her life now? 

Set mainly in the Outer Hebrides and Edinburgh from the 1980s to the present, Sea Babies is a potent, emotional psychological drama that explores the harder aspects of relationships, as well as the idea of choice, responsibility and the refugee in all of us.

Sea Babies: BUY HERE

My Author page on Facebook

Connect with me on Twitter

This is the end of the first blitz of ‘What I Did at 50’ posts. Service will resume in late June, with a new series from writers, bloggers and others.

MAGGIE JAMES: What I did at 50

I’m delighted to welcome author Maggie James on my blog today, as part of my ‘What I did at 50’ series. If you have ever wished to undertake a travelling adventure, this read will interest you!

Maggie James

Maggie James

Tracey: Welcome, Maggie! Tell us your story.

Maggie: Thank you. Ever since I was a little girl, all I’ve ever wanted to do was to write novels. When the time came to seek my first job, however, I went into accountancy. As a young adult I lacked confidence and earning my living through writing fiction seemed impossible. In contrast, accountancy was a secure, well-paid profession. It didn’t appeal, but I’m comfortable with figures and so I entered the world of finance, where I stayed for nearly three decades.

My writing ambitions got buried under the realities of life: relationships, travel, a mortgage and the like. Time slipped by; I’d not written anything since my teenage years.

The dream never left me, though. I still intended to write a novel – someday. That day kept moving forward, always on the horizon but just out of reach. At one stage I even questioned whether it had just been a childish notion, one I should forget.

My answer always came back to one thing. On my deathbed, would I regret not having pursued my dream? The answer was always a resounding YES.

I dipped a toe in the water by penning a short story and was encouraged by the positive response it received online. I wrote some more, each one longer than the last, until my final effort was 27,000 words in length. I then decided to move on to novels. I was still stumped, though, about what to write.

~

Then I had a falling-out with my employers. For a few weeks, I stewed in my anger, until I had an epiphany, realising it could be one of the best things ever to happen to me. Wasn’t this the perfect time to put my novel-writing dreams into action? As well as indulge my lifelong passion for travel? With that in mind, I laid plans. First I’d save as much money as I could. Then I’d hand in my notice, go travelling for a year, and come back with a finished novel.

Maggie James

Happy Traveller: Maggie in Ecuador

And that’s what happened, albeit with a few hiccups along the way. Once abroad, my procrastination continued; three months into my trip, I’d not written a word. However, in Vietnam I engaged in a conversation that sowed the seed of the idea for His Kidnapper’s Shoes. We were discussing what happens to children who go missing, and I said I believed such events rarely had a happy ending. ‘Not so,’ said another traveller. ‘Sometimes kids are stolen to order for people who can’t have their own.’

That got me thinking. How would it feel to discover, as an adult, that you’d been kidnapped as a child? I was fascinated, and knew I’d found my storyline. If only I could quit procrastinating…

Matters came to a head in December 2010 in a small town called Arica in northern Chile.  My frustration was growing that despite all my plans, I still hadn’t written anything. One evening I was browsing the website of an author whose work I very much admired. I discovered she was a prolific writer, despite holding down a full-time job. I felt ashamed. Here was I, complaining about how impossible it was to write while getting on and off buses, planes, etc., and yet this woman was churning out excellent fiction while working. No excuses, just action. I resolved to change my ways. Time to throw procrastination out of the window, and get to grips with writing a novel.

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I’d heard about a city in Bolivia called Sucre; other travellers were raving about this place. By all accounts it was beautiful and a great place to stay. I made a decision. I’d go there and remain as long as it took until I’d completed my first novel. I’d write every day, without exception, until the first draft was done. Sorted!

…50…

The next day I booked a bus ticket to La Paz, my resolve strong. Something inside me had changed, and this was crunch time. The fact a milestone birthday was approaching strengthened my decision. In four months’ time, I would turn fifty; I couldn’t bear the thought I’d reach that marker without having written a novel.

Sucre turned out every bit as lovely as I’d heard, surrounded by rolling hills and graced with beautiful colonial architecture, its streets filled with locals in colourful attire. I found a cheap hotel and booked myself some Spanish lessons to improve my grasp of the language; I was all set to go.

~

First I made some rough notes in an Excel spreadsheet about each chapter, along with a tab for each character. Then I opened Microsoft Word and set to work, determined to make good on my promise. I wrote every day and kept a tally of my word count; it was both exciting and motivating to see the numbers build up as chapter after chapter was completed. I began His Kidnapper’s Shoes at the end of December 2010 and finished it towards the end of February 2011.

Writing the last sentence proved hugely emotional; I burst into tears, and then went to a local cafe to celebrate.

His Kidnapper's Shoes_cover BLOG

His Kidnapper’s Shoes

BUY His Kidnapper’s Shoes HERE

At the time, Amazon’s Kindle programme was in its infancy, and wasn’t something I knew much about. When I looked into it, however, I liked what I read. Self-publishing appeared to have huge advantages over the traditional route to publication, with no downsides. I was ecstatic, and decided this was the path I’d take.

~

Upon my return to the UK, I self-published the novel, and got to work on writing others. I’ve now completed six novels, a novella and a non-fiction book aimed at would-be writers. I’ve signed publishing contracts for all my full-length fiction, including His Kidnapper’s Shoes, but recently reclaimed my rights to four titles, which now fall under my own imprint.

Nearly nine years have passed since I flew to Thailand to begin a new life, and I’m delighted at how things have turned out.

Fifty is the new thirty!

Tracey: Thanks to Maggie for sharing her story of travel, adventure and writing. Read more about her book, His Kidnapper’s Shoes, below.

His Kidnappers Shoes - Try 2 half size

His Kidnapper’s Shoes: BUY HERE

Blurb:

Daniel is my son. He has always been mine. And he always will be.
On some level deep inside, Laura Bateman knows something is wrong. That her relationship with her son is not what it should be. That it is based on lies.
But bad things have happened to Laura. Things that change a person. Forever.
For twenty-six-year-old Daniel, the discovery that his mother is not who he thought comes close to destroying him. As his world turns upside down, he searches for sanity in the madness that has become his life. Daniel is left with nothing but questions. Why did Laura do something so terrible? Can he move past the demons of his childhood?
And the biggest question of all: can he ever forgive Laura?

Find Maggie on:

Twitter: @mjamesfiction

Web: www.maggiejamesfiction.com

Facebook: Maggie James Fiction

Goodreads: Author Maggie James

CHRISTINE WEBBER: What I did at 50

I’m incredibly excited to feature an interview with Christine Webber, former Anglia TV news presenter, agony aunt, psychotherapist and author, as part of my ‘What I did at 50’ series today. Read on and enjoy!

Christine headshot

Christine Webber

Hi, Christine. Thank you so much for ‘appearing’ on my blog. I’m excited to say that we’re going to be discussing your wonderfully interesting life, in line with my series of features entitled What I did at 50.

As someone who’s now approaching my late fifties, I’m constantly seeking out new challenges and adventures. What has been your attitude to each transition from decade to decade?

Hi, Tracey. I am a great believer in landmark birthdays spurring you onto greater things.

I share your sentiment. First of all, what were you like as a child and what did you imagine you might one day become?

From a very early age, I just knew I wanted to do something different. I know this doesn’t sound very nice but I wanted a life full of incident and for it to be very different from that of my parents. 

Did you have any further goals as you moved into your 20s and beyond?

I was quite musical and I played the piano reasonably well as a child. (I still play!) But my main goal as I grew into my late teens was to be a professional singer. I trained at the Guildhall School of Music. I did have a career of sorts, but I was just not good enough to make a good living at it. I did some acting. Again, I was nothing special. And then I turned my attention to television. I had a feeling I might be better at that. So, I gave myself until 30 to get into the business and managed to land a continuity announcer job for British Forces Broadcasting just before that deadline. This led, two years later to my dream job as a TV news presenter for Anglia TV.

Wow, getting your dream job must have felt amazing. I remember that my sister wanted to be a news presenter as a child, and used to practice announcing to the rest of us. Tell us something about the job. Was work fulfilling enough to meet all of your needs? Tell us more…

It was absolutely wonderful. And all my greatest friends stem from that time. I presented the news and also produced and presented features within the programme. This was when there were only four channels and the media world was very different from how it is now. I interviewed so many interesting people. I think Prince Philip was the most prestigious but actually when you interview a member of the Royal family, all the questions are decided ahead of time – by a committee really – so it wasn’t particularly satisfying. But I did enjoy chatting to actors, writers, artists, politicians and lots of so-called ‘ordinary people’ who were doing extraordinary things.

Then I decided as I approached 40 that I would write a novel, and that I would make a career-change from television into writing. It wasn’t quite as simple as that!  But I entered the novel into a competition for first-time writers. I didn’t win, but somehow, luckily for me, the publishers on the judging panel felt I had something to offer and In Honour Bound was published by Century shortly after my 40th birthday. The other thing about being 40 was that I realised I had found the love of my life and I married him a year later. He was a doctor, called David Delvin, who I had booked to do a medical slot with me in 1983. We worked together very happily, fell in love in 1987 around my 40th birthday and married a year later.

Christine wedding

I love the photo.  Let’s move on to the decade in question. What happened at the age of 50?

Aged 50, having left television and moved into the world of being an agony aunt, I nailed what I thought was going to be a job for life with TV Times. The two previous incumbents had been Katie Boyle and then Miriam Stoppard. Both held the position for years and years. Imagine my disappointment only a few months later, when the editor decided to get rid of all features in the magazine that were anything to do with health – and the agony aunt column was one of the casualties.

I’m sorry to hear that. It must have felt devastating. (On a side-note, Miriam Stoppard’s Pregnancy and Childbirth book was one of my bibles when I was expecting my first son!) But anyway, being an agony aunt must have been fascinating, for the duration it lasted.

Having accepted the loss of that job, what did you decide to do after that?

There was quite a lean period, as I recall, but eventually I got other agony aunt jobs both in print and on TV. But being 50 made me look more carefully at my future career and I made the very significant decision to train as a psychotherapist. This gave me credibility as an agony aunt and also generated more TV work as an ‘expert’ rather than as a presenter. It also led to the commission of three self-help books – Get the Happiness Habit, Get the Self-Esteem Habit and How To Mend a Broken Heart. Additionally, together with my husband, I wrote all the sex and relationship content of the Netdoctor website. And I started a practice in Harley Street.

how-to-mend-a-broken-heart-1

How to Mend a Broken Heart

Training as a psychotherapist was a good move, then. It sounds as though you became incredibly busy, and I imagine it was satisfying to work alongside your husband on the Netdoctor website. What led on from that?

At 60 I chose to stop writing the kind of self-help books I’d been penning and set about trying to write a comprehensive book about ageing; ageing in a way that was very different from that of our parents. It took a while, a change of publisher and agent to achieve that ambition but when I was 63, finally, Too Young to Get Old hit the bookshelves.

too-young-to-get-old

Too Young to Get Old

I must look that book up. I’m definitely too young to get old! Did you make any more life-changing decisions?

I carried on with writing columns for magazines like BBC Parenting and for websites, and David and I landed a joint column in the health section of The Spectator. But as I was approaching 70, I realised that if I was going to return to writing fiction, I’d better get on with it before I got too old. For a variety of reasons, I decided to indie publish. And Who’d Have Thought It? – a romantic comedy for mid-life readers – came out eight months before the big birthday.  This has been followed by It’s Who We Are and a re-write of my first novel In Honour Bound.

Who’d Have Thought It? and It’s Who We Are

So what’s next for you, Christine?

My landmark 70th year was very happy in some ways because of my fiction writing. But very sad because my lovely husband died before I was 71. We knew he was ill. It wasn’t sudden. And we absolutely made the best of those last months, but to say there is a gap in my life now would be a massive understatement. I do however remain very grateful for the 30 years we had together which were absolutely marvellous.

I’m so glad the two of you made the most of your last months together, and I’m happy you have such wonderful memories…

What are your plans now?

I have more time on my hands now to write and do various other things, so I keep very busy. Quite apart from anything else, feeling useful and occupied helps me to deal with the loss of David. I am about 30,000 words into my next book which is all about three women in their late 50s and early 60s at major crossroads in their lives.

Also, I am taking up opportunities that present themselves that I certainly could not have tackled when David was ill. One lovely thing is that I have become an interviewer/presenter for the Royal Opera House for their Insights Programmes. These are tributes to great artists who work at Covent Garden and in them we explore that person’s career and talk about their life, and play clips of their triumphs, for an hour and a half in front of an audience.

I was very fortunate to be approached by Gary Avis, a marvellous dancer – the Principal Character Artist of the Royal Ballet – to host his evening. That was a real thrill. Over the years Gary has become a great friend so to have been given the honour of guiding him through his big night was just fantastic. And a couple of weeks ago, I also had the privilege of interviewing the world-famous bass baritone, Sir Bryn Terfel.

Interviewing Sir Bryn Terfel

Interviewing Sir Bryn Terfel

It’s great to have a new adjunct to my career at 72!

Also, I have been asked to be in a pantomime this Christmas. (The last time that happened was in 1976!) I am going to job-share the role of Fairy Beanstalk with my great friend Helen McDermott. Needless to say, the fairy will be a pretty old and daffy one. 

The next thing to decide I suppose is what on earth I can do that’s new when I’m 80!

I’ve enjoyed this interview with you so much, Christine. Many thanks for taking part and I wish you all the very best with your future endeavours, whatever they may be!

Here are a few details about Christine’s novel, In Honour Bound.

In Honour Bound by [Webber, Christine]

In Honour Bound BUY HERE

Blurb: Set in 1980’s London, Helen Bartlett, a popular TV news presenter and Sam Aziz, a glamorous middle-eastern cardiac surgeon, meet on a live programme. They dislike each other on sight, and the interview is a disaster. But that is not the end of their story because later that evening, they find themselves at the same dinner party.
Over the weeks, hostility morphs into passion, and soon they fall desperately in love.
Both are looking for the right partner with whom to settle down and produce a family. They seem made for each other; they delight in the joy that they have found, and plan to marry. But then, the differences in their cultural backgrounds start to manifest themselves. And a debt of honour that Sam cannot ignore returns to haunt him.
Struggling with their torment, while she is so much in the public eye and he is performing life-saving surgery on a daily basis, places them under intolerable strain.
Must they relinquish the most magical relationship either of them has ever known? Can they find a way out of their dilemmas? Or do they have to accept that no matter how modern we are, we cannot fly in the face of the traditions that served, and shaped us, for centuries?

In Honour Bound BUY HERE

Connect with Christine:

Web Christine Webber

Twitter @1chriswebber

christine1

Christine Webber

RICHARD SAVIN: What I did at 50…

Tracey: It’s my pleasure to introduce Richard Savin today, with his take on how to surf the decades with panache — post two in my series about making life-changes at the age of 50 (as well as before and after!) Read all about Richard’s adventurous and ever-fluctuating lifestyle and enjoy. Welcome, Richard.

The author - Book launch party

Richard: Thank you. I know a lot of people see 50 as some kind of watershed and make a change in their lives.

Mine has been a little different because I have changed direction and pursuits about once every decade; which I strongly recommend as a life style. I started out working in the City of London, training to be an actuary – and I hated it. I decided then to give myself 10 years out, just doing what took my attention. In that time I travelled a lot, doing all sorts of things: window cleaning, gardening, hearse driver (in Australia) freelance journalist, , motorcycle courier, tyre fitter working on earth movers in a quarry just outside of Perth in West Australia; then there was my passion for motor sport. I had been driving in club competition with a little formula junior I owned and occasionally an outing with a friend’s 1936 Ulster TT Aston Martin – my home circuit was Brands Hatch in Kent. Then in 1963 I had the chance to drive for Ford on a record run publicity stunt for the launch of their new Cortina model. London to Istanbul, non-stop with two co-drivers. We made it in 52 hours 23 minutes and a few odd seconds. The record still stands unbroken to this day.

Cortina 1200 - on loan from Ford

Cortina 1200 – on loan from Ford

 

Formula junior - Brands HatchFormula Junior – Brands Hatch

My second ten years was in journalism. I started out writing for motoring magazines then joined a press agency, operating in Asia: Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan and India. Most of my ten years was spent between Islamabad and Calcutta. At the end of my time I wrote my first book (non-fiction) about my experiences in Iran during the run up to the revolution. This was commissioned and published by Canongate in 1980. I am about to launch a non-fiction book about the journey I made overland by car to take up my new job in Calcutta.

~

For my third ten years I built and ran three London restaurants under the name of La Petite Auberge de Saint-Savin (chefing my lead one). My lead restaurant was a popular haunt for politicians and journalists in the late 80s and received applause from the press including the late greats, Jonathon Meades and Fay Maschler. My clients included Terry Jones of Monty Python, Peter Mandelson, Roy Hattersley, television’s John Snow, Lord King, then CEO of British Airways, the Governor of the Bank of England, Robin Lee Pemberton and numerous TV personalities. Cooking has always been a passion throughout my life. My wife is not allowed in the kitchen.

~

For my fourth ten years I became an artist: painting, sculpture and ceramics and a spot of radio journalism for BBC South. I had four satisfactory exhibitions, and several critiques in the national press (including a double page spread in the Independent).

~

For my fifth ten years I invested in and became CEO for a group of construction and engineering companies based in London and the south east. In that time I led the team that facilitated and project managed the joint millennium funding for the Portsmouth Spinnaker Tower. This was a period when I felt the need to money as I was then in my seventies and was indulging my passion for classic cars.

zillas 24904

  A passion for Classic cars

~

For my sixth ten year change I have returned to writing. This time it is fiction and I have become a novelist. I have three books in the market, a fourth due out at the end of June (though this is autobiographical) and a fifth due to launch in September; with two more on the blocks as WIP.

My most popular novel is The Girl in the Baker’s Van which sold well from the day of its launch in August 2018. The Girl in the Baker’s Van: BUY HERE

I am not sure what my next change will be. I enjoy monstrously good health, love to drive long distances (often do the 1600 kilometre drive from our house in France to our apartment in England in a one day hit), love walking, swimming, motorcycling – and sometimes climbing trees. I enjoy cooking (I do all the meals in our household and also love to cook for a crowd), good wine and jawing.

The Girl In The Bakers Van_pb-eb3

The Girl in the Baker’s Van

Book Blurb: Evangeline Pfeiffer has a stolen secret. There are those who will kill her to get it back.

Ever since the German occupation, Evangeline Pfeiffer has worked at the bakery in the small French town of Turckheim. Each morning, with Alain her brother, she helps make the bread and pastries for Joseph, the baker. It is a life of routine and order.
But when Alain is arrested by the Gestapo, her life is turned upside down. Unwittingly, she becomes an accomplice in the murder of Nazi agent Ludwig Kraus. Thrown together with the killer, a Polish spy, Kasha, her only hope is to escape to Spain. Taking the baker’s van she and Kasha drive south. She has burnt her bridges – there is no going back. She is on the run – but the spy running with her is not all he seems.

Behind them as they twist and turn across Occupied France, their pursuers are closing in: the Gestapo, the German spy catchers (Sicherheitsdienst) and, most terrifying of all, the ruthless French secret police, La Carlingue. If they catch her she knows she will be violated then executed.

In the city of Dijon Kasha is captured. On her own, her chances of escape fading she flees south, the net tightening around her. Then in Lyon she meets Grainger, a British SOE agent – he could be the game changer. If she can persuade him to help her, this could be her ticket out. Grainger is reluctant, he has his own mission, he can’t afford passengers – but she’s sticking to him. She’s not about to let go…

 

You can connect with Richard on Twitter: @rsavin_author

 

ANNE PETTIGREW: What I did at 50…

Tracey: With great excitement, I present to you the first post in my series — by authors, readers, publishers, bookshop owners, bloggers (the list goes on!) — about what life-changes they made at the age of 50. Author Anne Pettigrew’s going to start us off with tales from her life. Welcome, Anne. 

small promo pic Anne Pettigrew

Anne: Thank you. I’ve never thought, while grass-hoppering round careers, about ‘milestones.’ But Tracey has hit a chord: 50 was a milestone. But first the prologue…

The directions we take are usually governed by the ideas and influence of those around us- with a big dollop of serendipity. I’m no different. A sickly child, at 10 I decided to be a doctor. At 17 I enthusiastically started medicine at Glasgow. At 22 my resolution wavered (I fell in madly in love). But at 24, I qualified. Scary. And married. Lovely.  My plan was hospital consultant — but with no prospect of part-time work should I produce a sprog — I veered off into General Practice. Rewarding. By 30 I was a mum and happy part-time GP. By 40 I’d had sprog 2 and developed a wild notion that TV production would be great: the BBC didn’t think so.

I was diverted by medical politics and wrote my first letter to a newspaper (The Herald) ranting about Thatcher’s NHS changes.  The editor printed it as a feature and asked me to become a regular journalist for them. Other papers and medical magazines commissioned me. It was a great outlet for gripes and grumbles and passing on lessons learned. My main interests were complementary medicine (I became a Homeopath) plus preventive and women’s health, but by 50: I was despondent.

Problem was, I was seeing babies being born to babies I had delivered decades earlier coming into households still smoking, drinking, taking no exercise and dying prematurely despite our best efforts. I was also ground down by the excess computer data-collecting prescribed by the Government: too little time for patients: too much time wasted logging excess statistics no one ever looked at or used. You couldn’t ignore it or money to fund your patient services would be cut. I needed re-energised, so joined a Health Board Health Promotion Committee.  They moved meetings to a Monday morning, our busiest time so no front-line staff could attend. Frustrating. By now my son was finishing a Masters in Biophysics, my daughter off to Sixth Form College the other side of Scotland and my husband re-energised in a new Pharmaceutical Society post, developing pharmacy services… What should I do?

Then I had an epiphany.

It was a Post-grad prospectus. My wonderful son had a bundle of these for PhD applications. Glass of Sauvignon in hand (essential for all good decision-making in my view) I found an unknown subject: Medical Anthropology. Totally fascinating. A light bulb moment.  Perhaps studying how the beliefs of the healers and the sick over past centuries and across the globe might illuminate how behaviours formed – and how they might be modified? But, hmm. It was a Masters, hard. And at the University of Oxford — no chance.

I applied anyway. My son wrote my personal statement. I didn’t recognise myself, but they must have seen something. I was interviewed, accepted and before I knew it, I was on sabbatical, a locum in place. I was rooming in a house attached to Wolfson College. By quirk of fate, my son also went that year to Oxford for his PhD. At first keeping out of his way, I discovered he thought it hilarious his mum was also studying there. Weird but enjoyable being a student with your son.

The year with Rhodes Scholars and classmates from around the world was life changing. I was forced to stand back and look candidly at my profession. Or, as my tutor put it, be ‘de-constructed’! I found some answers to my problem of how to change unhealthy behaviour. The greatest improvements in infant mortality and health have been achieved by educating all girls. Kerala and Costa Rica are prime examples. It was a sobering thought to realise the best thing I’d ever done for patients was not prescribing medicine, but persuading girls back into college. My book royalties will benefit the truly anthropological and community-sensitive work of PlanUK. My publisher Ringwood is non-profit.

Front Page20190602_16364072 (1) Anne Pettigrew

— a cheesy grin after graduating MSc Medical Anthropology from University of Oxford!

Graduation was emotional — in Latin and complexly ceremonial, with much bowing and nodding — but also a fun family affair.  I returned to Scotland, made my sabbatical report to the Scottish Office and returned happily to practice until I retired.

But the sabbatical effect didn’t end there. I decided to write a novel about women doctors (there aren’t any except pioneers and pathologists) so signed up for Creative Writing classes at the University of Glasgow. There the undergrads were fascinated by our student experiences in the 60s: how on earth did we manage without the pill (not available on the NHS to the unmarried) without mobile phones and with no internet for research? The book would be sixties. And Oxford had made me think about doctors’ power.

I published my novel, Not The Life Imagined, in January 2019, aged 68. It was runner up in the Scottish Association of Writers Constable Silver Stag Award 2018.

front cover AP book

— Not the Life Imagined

— So my frustration at 50 led to an Oxford Masters, an obsession with promoting girls’ agency (ending child marriage and FGM while improving access to education) and a novel looking dispassionately at medicine 50 years ago when discrimination was the norm and ‘MeToo’ unthinkable —

We need our doctors to be competent, compassionate, trustworthy and practice sexual propriety. My first novel, Not The Life Imagined, deals with sex: narrator Beth exposes a rogue surgeon. The second will have her uncovering an untrustworthy Shipman character. Both are darkly humorous and entertaining — as well as thought-provoking. Medics make disastrous mistakes in love and life just like ordinary mortals! No mystique should surround them… 

The year out also led to life-long friendships. A German classmate with a degree in Tibetan medicine took me on her PhD trip to visit Buddhist monasteries in Sikkim. With her, we’ve also sponsored several Darjeeling hills girls. Two have graduated in Hotel and Tourism and one is finishing dentistry. All from a glass of sauvignon… What next? I will be 70 next year but as yet am unsure which direction to shoot off in. Serendipity may well provide the answer…

Tracey: Thank you so much for being the first to tell us ‘What I did at 50’, Anne. I’ve really enjoyed your story!

‘Not the Life Imagined’ BUY HERE

Here’s the Book blurb for NOT THE LIFE IMAGINED. Beth Slater is shocked at how few female medical students there are and that some people, such as Conor Towmey, think they shouldn’t be there at all. Devastated by a close friend’s suicide, Beth uncovers a revealing diary and vows to find the person responsible for her death. In Not the Life Imagined, retired medic, Anne Pettigrew, has written a tale of ambition and prejudice laced with sharp observations, irony and powerful perceptions that provide a humorous and compelling insight into the complex dynamics of the NHS fifty years ago.

Struggling with the pressure of exams while supporting friends though disasters, Beth charts the students’ changing, often stormy, relationships over two decades in a contemporary backdrop of Free Love, the Ibrox Football Disaster, the emergence of HIV and DNA forensics. In time, indiscretions surface with dire consequences for some.

A darkly humorous, thought-provoking story of Scottish medical students in the sixties, a time of changing social and sexual mores. None of the teenagers starting at Glasgow University in 1967 live the life they imagine.

Dr Anne Pettigrew is a retired GP and writer. You can connect with her in the following ways: 

Website http://www.annepettigrew.co.uk 

Instagram anne.pettigrew.author   

Twitter @pettigrew_anne

Facebook @annepettigrewauthor