Showing posts with label Lancashire. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Lancashire. Show all posts

Thursday, 7 February 2013

Moving On, my second novel - out as an ebook TODAY

Moving On, my second novel, is published as an ebook today – and I’m over the moon. It’s the novel I’m most proud of so I’m hoping that new readers will enjoy it.

When the book was first published it had a lurid pink jacket with daisies scattered across the front but now publishers Piatkus Entice have given it a gorgeous mauve cover (I must say I rather covet the heroine’s green and black spotty shirt) and it looks far more stylish.

Like my first novel, Moving On is set in the world of newspapers. But this time round the main characters are two sisters, Kate and Laura Hollingberry. Their father, HH, is a mega-successful newspaper tycoon, but they know next to nothing about their mother, Clare, who walked out in mysterious circumstances when they were little.

The two girls are close but they’re poles apart in character. Laura is happy to get an undemanding job until she finds Mr Right, while Kate is fiercely ambitious and wants more out of life. Determined not to rely on her father's money or influence, Kate takes a job on the Bowland Bugle, a struggling weekly newspaper in the wilds of Lancashire. It's her first job and her first bid for independence. Anything can happen – and it certainly does.

Kate arrives in the north of England as a naive, inexperienced reporter (hmmm, shades of autobiography there), but is forced to grow up fast. Especially when she’s faced with a distraught couple whose teenage daughter has gone missing, a boss who seems hell-bent on tripping her up at every opportunity and a love affair that doesn't go according to plan. Meanwhile, back in London, Laura is facing her own heartbreak and the future of the family business is looking uncertain...

Moving On by Emma Lee-Potter (Piatkus, £3.99)

Monday, 16 July 2012

Line of Duty - the only TV drama worth watching

Line of Duty is absolutely the only thing worth watching on TV right now. Jed Mercurio’s script is witty, exciting and leaves you wanting more at the end of every single episode.

The BBC2 drama has a stellar cast that includes the likes of Adrian Dunbar, Gina McKee, Lenny James, Neil Morrissey and Vicky McClure. But up-and-coming Martin Compston gives a standout performance as DC Steve Arnett, a young copper who clocks that the target of the anti-corruption case he is working on is a top detective.

Compston began his career as a footballer, before realising that acting was his true vocation. And though his character in Line of Duty speaks with a London accent, he is actually Scottish. But he was so determined to stay in character that he kept his London twang going right the way through filming, even when he wasn’t acting. His fellow actors were nonplussed when he reverted to his real-life Scottish accent at the wrap party.

Compston’s ablity to switch accents at the drop of a hat reminded me so much of my mum. She grew up in Leigh, Lancashire, and spoke with a broad Lancashire accent till the age of 18.

But she always dreamed of making it as an actress and when she left school won a highly prized place at London’s Guildhall School of Music & Drama.

One of my favourite stories from her book, Class Act, was about ditching her accent en route to drama school. “I got on the train at Warrington Bank Quay station with a Lancashire accent,” she wrote, “and got off at Euston without it, which meant I had to speak very slowly for a very long time.”

Monday, 9 January 2012

Victoria Derbyshire and Radio 5 Live's move up north

What is Victoria Derbyshire thinking of? After giving her boss a hard time on her BBC Radio 5 Live programme about not “properly moving” up north, it turns out that she has only broadcast 60 per cent of her shows from Salford since the station relocated there.

Most journalists would give their eye-teeth for a job like hers. Her two-hour show, a mix of news, comment and interviews, goes out every morning during the week and is every presenter’s dream.

And besides, the north west is one of the best places in the country to live and work. Not only is Manchester an exciting, vibrant city, but it’s got stunning countryside on the doorstep. If you want to live in the wilds you can drive an hour north, just beyond Clitheroe, and find the most beautiful, unspoilt landscape imaginable. If I could get a job in the north west I’d move there like a shot. Even the Queen is reputed to have said that if she could retire anywhere, it would be to the Trough of Bowland.

We lived there for three years when my son and daughter were little and it was blissful. I combined working as a freelance journalist with doing an MA in novel writing at Manchester University so I was back and forth down the M66 all the time. The schools were fantastic, we made loads of friends I’m still in touch with 15 years later (a big shout-out to Katie, Catherine and Jennie) and it was the best place to bring up children.

A year after moving there my husband got a job in France and commuted between Manchester and Paris for two years. Then, just as now, jobs were in short supply, so we just had to grit our teeth and get on with it. I reckon that’s what Victoria Derbyshire should do too…

Picture: Lancashire County Council

Friday, 30 December 2011

From Noddy to Coram Boy - taking children to the theatre

Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas without a trip to the theatre. My mum always took us to the panto in Bournemouth and I’ve carried on the tradition with my two children. Over the years we’ve seen everything from the RSC’s The Secret Garden (fantastic) to Matthew Kelly in Peter Pan (not so fantastic.)

I first took my daughter to a show when she was two. We were living in a remote, windswept farmhouse in Lancashire at the time and I decided that Noddy, which was on at the Coliseum Theatre in Oldham, would be the perfect introduction to the magic of theatre.

Full of excitement, we took our seats in the stalls, the lights went down and Big Ears stomped onto the stage. “Hello children,” he roared at the top of his voice. My daughter was so overcome she burst into tears. After a few minutes of inconsolable wailing, I gave up trying to convince her that Big Ears wasn't scary and we hurried out.

But these days my daughter is one of the keenest theatre-goers around. So much so that her Christmas present to her dad is a trip to see The Ladykillers at the Gielgud Theatre, while she’s taking me to the new production of She Stoops to Conquer at the National.

Yesterday the Christmas theatre expedition was on me though when we drove to Bristol to see Coram Boy at the Colston Hall. The play’s based on the prizewinning novel (above) by Jamila Gavin and we were so bowled over by it when we saw it in London a few years back that we were keen to see Bristol Old Vic’s revival. I know infanticide in 18th Century England doesn’t sound like the most festive theme in the world but the show is a fantastic spectacle.

Sure enough, the Bristol Old Vic did it proud. By the time we emerged from the theatre three hours later we felt like we’d been whirled through an emotional wringer. We’d witnessed heart-stopping moments of cruelty and wickedness and uplifting scenes offering hope and redemption – all set against the exquisite backdrop of a massive choir singing Handel’s Messiah.

The one thing that puzzled me, though, was the number of tiny children in the audience. The theatre advises that the play isn’t suitable for the under-12s but there were loads of far younger children at yesterday’s matinee. How on earth parents explained the dark themes (often graphically portrayed) of dead babies, hanging, the slave trade and much more is beyond me. I couldn’t even reassure my tiny daughter about Noddy.

Thursday, 1 December 2011

Friday book review - Catching Babies by Sheena Byrom

When my son was born 17 years ago, we lived in a remote, draughty farmhouse halfway up a Lancashire hillside. The house didn’t have any heating, just a temperamental wood-fuelled Rayburn that was hell to keep alight. We all joke that the reason my son is so tough is because he spent the first two years of his life there.

A long, bumpy track led to the house (which we rented from a charming, aristocratic landowner) and I vividly remember the day the community midwife drove up to check that my son was doing fine. In most areas midwives visit new mothers and their babies for the first ten days and in my experience, they are a brilliant source of help and advice.

Out of the car stepped Sheena Byrom, the community midwife for the Ribble Valley. Dressed in a navy-blue uniform, she was smiley, ultra-supportive and compassionate. She seemed like a friend from the instant I met her and we stayed in contact for years afterwards. Sadly we eventually lost touch – mainly, I reckon, because of the crazy number of times I've moved house.

Anyway, idly scrolling through Twitter this week, I suddenly spotted a mention of a new book called Catching Babies: The true story of a dedicated midwife. It was by, yes, Sheena Byrom. I was so thrilled that I dashed out and bought a copy straight away.

As I expected, Catching Babies is a cracking read about Sheena’s 35-year career as a midwife, from her close-knit Lancashire upbringing to her nursing training at Blackburn Royal Infirmary. The chapters I enjoyed the most were about Sheena’s decision to move from a hospital-based job to work as a community midwife. I loved her descriptions of driving “through the most fabulous scenery, rippling green hills and groups of ancient, majestic trees” to check on babies and their mums. Just reading it took me back 17 years in a flash.

Sheena’s story, which has its share of heartbreak, is a fascinating account of how midwifery has advanced over the years. If you’re interested in babies, children and a woman who's dedicated her career to helping women in childbirth, then you’ll definitely enjoy this. As Sheena herself says: “Midwives are in a really privileged position and I believe that if a woman’s birth is positive then they will go on to be positive mothers. It helps women to be better mums.”

Catching Babies by Sheena Byrom (Headline, £6.49)

Sunday, 23 October 2011

Why I moved from the city to the country - and back to the city

My daughter was a year old when I got obsessed with the idea of moving to the country. We lived in Camberwell, south London, at the time and even though I loved the house, with its pocket-handkerchief garden and scruffy Georgian facade, I hated the traffic and noise.

In the space of a few weeks, one neighbour was mugged in the next alley-way and another had her bag snatched while her two small children looked on. One night I glanced out of the back window to see flames soaring 20 feet into the night sky. Joyriders had stolen a car down the road and set it on fire next to our fence.

Then out of the blue my husband was offered a new job in Blackpool. Within weeks we’d let our house and rented a farmhouse in the wilds of rural Lancashire. Our friends thought we’d gone completely mad. The way most of them reacted you’d have thought we were emigrating to Siberia, not 200 miles up the M6.

But it turned out to be the very best thing. Downham is one of the loveliest villages in the country. It looks like something out of a picture book – complete with pub, church, post office, stream with ducks, even a nursery school. What more could you ask for? We were entranced by the clear air, stunning views and hearty walks up majestic Pendle Hill.

My son was born in Lancashire (and still supports Blackburn Rovers in fact) and I’m sure the lifestyle there, playing on his bike and swinging on a rubber tyre hanging from a huge oak tree near the house, gave him a lifelong passion for outdoor pursuits. When a friend came up from Manchester with her young son she marvelled at the way he hared off down the field. “I’ve never seen him run that far before,” she said. “At home I always have his hand clamped in mine. I’m terrified to let him out of my sight.”

But sadly, after a few years of living up north, we had to move south for work. With the children growing up fast, the idea of living round the corner from schools and shops seemed oddly appealing. So we decided to have a change and moved to Oxford – where even now, the novelty of being able to walk out of the house at all hours to buy bread, coffee and a bottle of Pinot Grigio still hasn’t quite worn off.

PS: My husband's finally succombed to the inevitable and bought reading glasses. I helped him choose a chic tortoiseshell pair in David Clulow and texted a picture to our daughter. "Are you trying to make him look like Bill Nighy?" she texted back. Hmm, she's got a point. Since Bill Nighy's my number one pin-up, I think I probably am.

Picture of Downham: Lancashire County Council

Wednesday, 7 September 2011

Working from home, Brora and memories of Lancashire

Sitting in my study watching the Oxford traffic trundle past my window (above), I yearn to work in a sleek sky-scraper, with a state-of-the-art coffee machine, decent photocopier and the buzz of working alongside other people. There are lots of brilliant things about working from home – no commuting, no boss breathing down my neck and, until my children turned into ultra-independent teenagers, no last-minute panics when they were off school.

But I hate the solitude, the people who assume that just because you’re at home you’re lolling around doing nothing all day and in the winter months, the cold. Even though it’s only September, I’ve been so freezing this week that I’ve already started wearing my cosy Brora fingerless gloves in my office every day.

Even so, it’s nothing compared to the three years we spent living in a draughty farmhouse in the wilds of Lancashire. Our north-facing house was perched on the side of a hill and all we could see were fields and sheep. It was stunning but even in summer the temperature was always a few degrees lower than anywhere else. I frequently set off to collect my daughter from school wrapped in a thick coat and scarf to find everyone else basking in bright sunshine. The gales that whistled round the side of the house sounded like someone was being murdered and had to be heard to be believed. The sheep had to be stark, raving desperate to venture as far as the field next to us.

The house, which we rented from an aristocratic landowner, didn’t have any central heating at all so we had to light open fires all year round. We got through so much coal that Mr Wilkinson, the tough, no-nonsense driver who battled the wind, rain and snow to deliver our fuel, declared we were his very best customers. When I rang one Christmas to order yet more coal, I asked his wife how much we’d need to see us through until the New Year. “Tell her a wagon-load,” chuckled Mr Wilkinson from the background.
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