My Time on Meet the Author: Judith Barrow With Michelle Whitham

Good evening my lovelies.  I hope you’re all well and finding plenty to amuse you and any children you may have during lockdown!  Today I’m delighted to welcome the lovely Judith Barrow on to my blog with a wonderful interview.  She’s is talking to us about writing as an escape, connecting with others through her love of walking, the hilarious tale of Mr & Mrs Wilson (don’t miss it!) and her most recent book, The Memory……

GENRE(S):

Cross Genres: Mainly Family Saga/ but also includes Historic Fiction/ Crime Fiction

TELL US A BIT ABOUT YOURSELF:

I’m originally from Saddleworth, a group of villages at the foot of the Pennines in the North of England but have lived in Pembrokeshire, Wales, for forty years with my family.

I have an MA in Creative Writing with Trinity College, a BA (Hons) in Literature with the Open University, a Diploma in Drama from Swansea University. I’ve had short stories, plays, reviews and articles, published throughout the British Isles and have won several poetry competitions. I’ve also completed three children’s books but done nothing with them as far as publishing goes.

I’m a Creative Writing tutor for Pembrokeshire County Council and I also hold private one-to-one creative writing workshops.

WHAT INSPIRED YOU TO START WRITING AND WHERE DO YOU GET YOUR IDEAS?

I’ve written since I was a child; it was a way to escape. My father was the head of the household; what he said was the rule. I didn’t always like it and hid in my writing.

HOW MANY BOOKS HAVE YOU WRITTEN AND PUBLISHED?

Three books (appallingly) written; never to see the light of day again! Five books, if we include this year’s one, so far, with Honno Press (https://www.honno.co.uk/): Pattern of Shadows, Changing Patterns and Living in the Shadows; a trilogy but also stand-alone books. The prequel to the trilogy, A Hundred Tiny Threads (written because the parents of the protagonist, Mary Haworth, Bill and Winifred, kept mithering me to tell their story). And, in March this year, Honno have published my most recent book, The Memory.

Different from the last four in that it’s more contemporary but still a family saga and written in two time-lines. I’ve also signed the contract with them for another book I’ve already written, which will be published in February 2021. There is another book that I Indie published in 2012, Silent Trauma: its fiction built on fact and a bit of a long story how this came about. It’s the story of Diethylstilboestrol; a drug; an artificial oestrogen, given to women, approximately between the years 1947 – 1975 in the UK, to prevent miscarriages. In short, I became involved in the charity because a relative of mine was affected by it. I was asked to write an article for their monthly magazine. After that, women began to contact me and the article turned into a story, then into a book. The charity was closed in the UK due to lack of funds and lack of interest by the British Government. I’d already had contact with many women and the charity in America: https://desaction.org/ through researching and getting quotes so, when the book was finished, I sent the manuscript to the committee of the charity. I needed to know that they approved of it, that it told their story honestly and that there was nothing in it that would offend or upset anyone. They answered and said I’d told the story as they wanted.

WHICH OF YOUR CHARACTERS WOULD YOU WANT TO BE STRANDED ON AN ISLAND WITH, AND WHY?

Mary Haworth, the protagonist of my Haworth trilogy. She’s strong-willed, so, whatever we’d need, whether it was food, water, some sort of shelter, or a boost to morale, I know I could rely on her. She makes the best of any situation and isn’t thwarted by obvious difficulties. She is tolerant, so would put up with any whinging (which no doubt I would do if too hot, too cold, hungry, thirsty, or bored). But can also be quite frightening when her temper’s up – so she would scare away any wild animals that threatened us. She’s an empathetic and good listener and can also tell a great story, which we would both need to help pass the time until we were rescued… hopefully by my husband who had missed me.

WHAT OTHER JOBS HAVE YOU DONE OTHER THAN BEING AN AUTHOR?

For years I worked in various departments of the Civil Service. But in my time as a stay-at-home mum with the children I had various part-time work: teaching swimming, hotel receptionist, cleaner on a caravan site, sewing slippers, making novelty cakes from home, working in a play school/nursery, working in a youth club. Would being on seven committees at various clubs (swimming, badminton, Scouts, Playgroup, PTA, athletics, gymnastics etc. etc.) that the children were involved in, be counted. I wonder? It felt like work at the time!

OTHER THAN WRITING, WHAT ELSE DO YOU ENJOY DOING?

Walking. I walk the Pembrokeshire coast with husband, David. There are a hundred and eighty-six miles of paths and we’ve covered a lot of them but only in stretches. Pembrokeshire is a glorious place to live. I sometimes write about the walks on my blog – and, through that, have made friends with many other walkers from all over the country who pass on their favourite places as well. And David takes the most stunning photographs (though he’s too modest to say so himself), so we always have memories to look back on when he uploads them onto the TV. And I have the most wonderful screen savers!

NAME ONE BOOK YOU THINK EVERYONE SHOULD READ AND TELL US WHY?

On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King. As the write-up says: “Part memoir, part master class; a revealing and practical view of the writer’s craft. It comprises the basic tools of the trade every writer must have”.  I couldn’t say it in a better way. This is a book I read a long time ago and it spurred me on when I was in the doldrums of the second book syndrome.

WHAT IS THE BEST THING YOU’VE DONE IN YOUR LIFE SO FAR?

Get married. I wrote a post about it; says it all! http://bit.ly/39h9ajW.

YOU WIN A MILLION POUNDS – YOU GIVE HALF TO CHARITY.  WHICH CHARITY DO YOU PICK AND WHY? WHAT WOULD YOU DO WITH THE REST OF THE MONEY?

A cancer charity because I was so well looked after when I had breast cancer and, also, because it’s affected many others in my family. I’d put money on one side and persuade my husband to hire a gardener (it’s an acre of land around the house and, though he wouldn’t agree, is too much for him). I’d have a cleaner so I wouldn’t have to do domestic trivia and could have more time to write. I’d give some money to the local animal rescue centre. (Can we get away with not counting that as a charity?) The rest of the money would be shared between my children and grandchildren.

WHAT IS YOUR FAVOURITE TIME TO WRITE, AND WHY?

I’m usually up at five because that’s when my brain works. I try to resist looking at any social media until I’ve put 1000 words on the page or when two hours has passed. If I don’t have any classes to run later I’ll carry on writing. Otherwise it’s time to start on the domestic trivia of the day and hope to get back to writing later. I always try to get an hour in at my desk in the late evening but, usually, that’s a mistake because if I get carried away I lose track of time and, before I know it, I’m almost catching up to the next day’s writing time. Hmm, does that make any sense at all? Perhaps I should say, I write until I stop! Anytime – but sometimes it turns out to be rubbish.

WHAT WAS THE STRANGEST, FUNNIEST, FULFILLING TIME OF YOUR LIFE THAT INSPIRED YOUR WRITING?

I have to say it was when we let the apartment attached to our home, as a holiday let during the summer months. Though hard work it provided me with a wealth of stories. People are a mystery to me most of the time. I’ve added one here:

The Naturists

 They must have been in their eighties. Mr and Mrs Wilson from Wigan

 Dilapidated car

 ‘Would you mind if we practiced our Tai Chi on the lawn?’

 I sense Husband’s alarm. When I glanced at him I saw he was breathing rapidly and his eyes were bulging a bit. But his ears were still their usual pink; bright redness is the usual signal of him being overly upset.

We’d had a couple who had stayed with us before and practised their judo on the front lawn. It had been quite entertaining until the man did his back in (or should I say his wife did his back in for him with a particular enthusiastic throw). They’d had to leave early with the man lying across the lowered back seat with his feet pointing towards the boot and surrounded by suitcases.  ‘Good job it’s an estate car’ Husband said in a casual way turning back to tend to his lawn where the husband had made a dent.

 I digress.

‘Tai Chi links deep breathing and relaxation with slow and gentle movements. See… ‘ the wife explained, taking in one long breath that made her nostrils flare alarmingly as, at the same time, she stretched out both arms. She felled Mr Wilson with one blow. I remember thinking at the time when her husband was smacked on the nose, that he should have known better than to stand so close. After all he must have realised she was going to demonstrate. ‘It’s a health-promoting form of exercise, Mrs Wilson said, cheerfully, as we all helped her husband back on his feet. ‘Sorry, love.’ She dusted him down. ‘It’s like a form of meditation, you know, exercises the whole of you, not just your body. Helps you to stay calm and gives you peace of mind, like.’

‘You didn’t do it right,’ Mr Wilson muttered.

 She ignored him. ‘We only took it up a month or two back,’ she said to us.

Husband carried their two small suitcases into the apartment, his shoulders shaking.

I clamped my teeth together. When I spoke I knew my voice was a couple of pitches higher than normal but there was nothing I could do about it.  ‘Is that all you’ve brought?’ I peered into the boot of the car.

‘Oh, yes, just the two bags. ‘Mrs Wilson linked her husband. ‘We travel light, don’t we Sidney?’

He nodded but said nothing.

There are two things I should mention at this point.

One, my mother was staying with us and her bedroom window looked out onto the front lawn.

 And two, we quickly discovered that this wobbly (no, I’ll rephrase that); this elderly couple were Naturists.

On the second morning after they’d arrived I drew back the curtains of my mother’s bedroom to see the two of them on the lawn, practicing their Tai Chi.  Despite their years their movements were graceful, there was no doubt about that. They moved forward in one continuous action, their hands held out in front of them.  But it wasn’t with admiration but in alarm that I watched them. Because they were completely naked. And I was standing side by side with my mother.

 It was when he turned towards the house and bent his knees and squatted that my mother made a choking noise and fell back onto the bed.

 Now I know this is totally out of context and misquoted (and I apologize wholeheartedly to Shakespeare) … but the words that sprang to mind when I gazed at him, were ‘…age shall not wither…

Well it was a very warm morning

Mum kept her curtains drawn for the rest of the week

AND FINALLY, TELL US ABOUT YOUR MOST RECENT BOOK AND WHERE WE CAN FIND IT?

Irene Hargreaves lives with her husband, Sam, and her mother, Lilian, who has dementia. It has, for a long time, been a difficult relationship between the two women and, over the last few years made worse by Irene’s mother’s illness. Irene is trapped by the love she has for Lillian which vies with the hatred she feels because of something she saw many years ago.

The book runs on two timelines: Irene’s life from the age of eight, after her sister, Rose, is born and her grandmother comes to live with the family, with flashbacks to happier times with Sam, and in present tense, over the last twenty-four hours when Irene knows she needs to make a decision.

The book. published 19th March 2020 by Honno>. Purchase here: Honno ~ Amazon

Where to find Judith online: Website ~ Blog ~ Twitter ~ Facebook

FINAL WORDS FROM CHELLE…

Thank you Judith for this wonderful interview.  I think we’ll all agree that the story of Mr & Mrs Wilson is quite hilarious – what a shock it must have been for your Mother!! I definitely think we can get away with not including the local animal rescue as a charity – I’d be donating my money them too.  A cancer charity is always a good cause that is close to so many people’s hearts and I’m glad that you were well looked after.

I’m also lucky enough to have been gifted with a copy of The Memory by Judith and Honno so keep an eye out as there will be a review up in the coming months! (Thank you Judith!).

I hope you’ve all had a good day and stayed in and safe.

Any comments for Judith, just drop us a comment or contact her using the links above.

Chelle x

Our Holiday in Ciovo, Croatia – and ‘I Like Your Writing.’

All the world appears to mill around Gatwick. The stress is obvious, the security a necessity, the patience of everyone varied, the wait tedious.

It’s with great relief we settle into our seats on the plane knowing that, on our arrival in Split, we will be met by Mr V, the taxi driver, kindly arranged for us by the owners of  the apartment where we will be staying in Okrug Gornji: https://www.homeaway.co.uk/p443630

We are met there by Bozena, the owner’s representative who, despite having to wait for us to arrive over an hour late, due to the delay of the flight (it is past eleven at night), greets us with a wide smile, picks up my suitcase and almost runs up the thirty-two stairs to our pent house apartment. A quick tour around, helpfully explaining the air conditioning, shutters and lights and off she goes. We go out onto the balcony and wonder at the vast expanse of lights reflecting on the sea below us.

 - Night view

 

The sun, pouring through the window, wakes me at 5.30am.

I pull up the shutters in the living area and go out onto the balcony. Below, the red roofs of the houses contrast with the stark white walls. The clumps of trees that intersperse them, soften the lines of the whole village.The sun lights up the sea, revealing the shifts, the currents,  in the expanse of  water. In the distance I can see the mainland and the various blue-grey hills of the islands around us with the stretches of dark trees and pale shingle-edged inlets. Too much beauty not to share. I wake my husband.

 - Main balcony with 3 seater swing and sun lounger

 - Light airy lounge with satellite TV/DVD/CD player

 - View from bedroom balcony

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Our holiday begins with a stroll down through the narrow streets to the Mali Raj restaurant for a  tasty and  nutritious  breakfast  (this is a restaurant recommended many times in the apartments’ visitors book and we are to have most meals here throughout the week. None disappoint.)

Then a short stroll down to the harbour and a walk along the beach path. people smile, greet us, are friendly.

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A lazy day that ends with a glass of wine and a glorious sunset.

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On the second day we walk to Trogir; a walk along a busy road but with interesting sights to see; the buildings, the wild flowers, the gardens, the houses. It takes us thirty minutes and we’re glad to be walking on the long bridge over the water to the town to search out a refreshing drink in a cafe on the wide promenade.

Trogir is set within medieval walls.. The cobbled streets are fascinating; narrow, old buildings with Romanesque and Renaissance architecture  including a magnificent cathedral and castle.

Since 1997 Trogir has had World Heritage status.

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Later, before setting off on our walk back to  Okrug Gornji, we sit and enjoy a local beer at a bar by the water and near the busy, fascinating market.

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But before leaving, we stand and admire the yachts … and dream of winning the Lottery!
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The next day we go on a route march to Dango

The photos speak for themselves

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And we have a wonderful lunch at the Konoba Duga restaurant there.

 

 

 

 

 

 

At night the heavens open… we have a glorious storm that lasts until the following morning

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The rain stops and we’re off walking again.

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Over the next three days  we explore the area in the daytime. At night we sit together on the swinging hammock on the balcony, reading and enjoying a glass (or two)  of wine until the light goes

It’s our last night. We enjoy the final sunset of our holiday

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Then:

‘I like your writing.’ he says.

We’ve known one another for almost fifty years, been married for forty-six.  But he’s looking at me as though he’s never seen me before.

He’s just finished the last book of my trilogy, Living in the Shadows. He sits back and says it again. ‘I do, I like your writing.’

I want to ask why but I know he thinks he’s said enough. And it is. He’s read all three books over the last week. I’ve not known him do that before, he’s a man who barely sits still, who loves being outdoors, loves walking. But we’re on holiday and we’ve walked during the day. In the evenings we sit and read on the balcony of this lovely apartment.

I hadn’t realise he’d brought the books with him; they’re the ones I’ve used when I give talks and readings and the first, Pattern of Shadows, is, after five years, looking distinctly tatty. I’ve said nothing about it even though it’s been hard not to watch him while he’s read; tried to figure out his expressions.

Pondering on his words later I realize why I didn’t ask him why he liked the books.  It’s enough he told me. There are times when we’ve been walking, or watching a programme on the television when he’s said,’you’ve gone again… you’re thinking.’ And he’s been right; I was writing in my head. And times when I have actually sat in front of the computer writing and before I’ve known it hours have passed. I’ve dragged myself away to make a meal, to see if he wants a coffee, to flick a duster around the rooms to salve my conscience. And I see him watching me as though puzzled.

The expression on his face makes me feel guilty sometimes. But not often. I wrote in secret for years. Sometimes for long stretches of time – but mostly – when life takes over ( work, moving houses, illness, the family, other commitments) – sporadically.

I’ve loved our life together. There have been many ups and downs, celebrations, disappointments, exciting times. There are not many things I would have changed – perhaps the petty arguments, the struggles in our early years when we fought to find our places in this thing we call our marriage. But those times passed and we made this ‘thing’ our own, learning from mistakes ( or making the same ones over and over again until they became a family joke/tradition/ something to be sighed over in resignation).

I know this man I met so many years ago. We were both hesitant in commitment, both lacking in confidence, both coming from parents whose marriages were acrimonious, where quarrels were never resolved.

I’ve seen him grow into the man he is and I know – I’ve always assumed – he knows me. We finish sentences for one another, I can be thinking, planning something we should do, and the next moment he says the words. We share the same sense of humour, laugh often. We make love – okay, not as often as thirty years ago but it’s not a bad record. (I’m hoping he never reads this post, by the way!). We hold hands when we walk, when we sit together. We know each other’s needs: a touch of empathy, comfort, sympathy, reassurance.We know one another better than we know anyone else in this world.

Yet, never before having read anything I’ve written, he’s now looking at me  as though he’s just had the answer to a question  that’s been hovering in his mind forever.

I like your writing ,’ he says again. He leans towards me and we kiss.

It’s enough. I know he understands why I need to write.

 

Links:

Amazon. co.uk

Pattern of Shadows: http://amzn.to/1OpM6TI

Changing Patterns: http://amzn.to/1PPmzki

Living in the Shadows:  http://amzn.to/1PWBLiV

Amazon.com:

Pattern of Shadows: http://amzn.to/1QyPHN6

Changing Patterns: http://amzn.to/1JOTMxc

Living in the Shadows: http://amzn.to/1PGK108

 

Hey-Ho!! – Glorious Pembrokeshire – a County of Contrasting Weather

Two weeks ago we walked along the coastal path from Bosherston Lily Ponds, Broadhaven Beach and then on to Castlemartin. A glorious day.

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So calm …

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So warm …

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Wait for it ...

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View from the window of St Govan’s Chapel – well worth a visit

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Lovely isn’t it?

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Yesterday we had a High Tide

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 Cold and windy

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Roiling seas

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Who’d have thought it?

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 Oh, I do love Pembrokeshire!!