Category Archives: Channel Islands

Who’d have thought it? ~ 60!

images3As I approach my 60th birthday, in between a dream of a lifetime trip to Venice and a quiet celebration with my husband, mum and dad up here in Scotland (God willing), I have been reflecting on my ‘path’ to this moment in time in my writing life.

I have penned stories and poems since my teens for my personal pleasure, much inspired by Mrs Yates, my English teacher to A Level. However, it wasn’t until my late forties, the first time in my life I was made redundant, that I was inspired to write my first novel Riduna, (the Roman name for the Channel Island of Alderney) which was finally published in 2009.

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Fort Albert, Alderney

It was on a family holiday to the island of Alderney in fact, that I learnt about my wayward Great Grandmother Harriet. She tragically lost both parents at sea when she was eight, then in her teens she became too much to handle for her grandparents, who ran a public house and guest house, and was shipped off to live with her aunt on Guernsey. Her misdemeanor was allegedly too much fraternising with the soldiers stationed in the newly built forts of this ‘Gibraltar of the English Channel’!

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My family history inspired its sequel Ancasta Guide me Swiftly Home (Ancasta is the Goddess of the River Itchen, Hampshire), which was published in 2012. Then a series of chance remarks in emails led me to write Murder, Now and Then (published in 2014)a book which linked where I lived in Bedfordshire to the Channel Islands in two time zone murders 100 years apart.

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Nellie Rault’s grave in Haynes churchyard, Bedfordshire

That same year Fife beckoned us, with a work transfer for my husband simultaneously to me being made redundant for the second time in my life. The Healing Paths of Fife naturally transpired from this life changing move north to Scotland. It is  a special book for me and a way of saying thank you to my new community, friends and the lovely Kingdom of Fife, which has welcomed us.

…and so in the months leading me up to my 60th birthday I have been writing once more in earnest. This new novel is a very different venture. It is a mystery inspired by social areas of need pertinent to our age, all of which we are all struggling to address. I hope it challenges perceptions but also that the reader warms to the colourful characters.

I will say no more at this stage because it has a few stages to go through before publication, but I am very excited about this project and feel full of hope for my 60th year.

For a more personal reflection on my 60 years visit http://www.selectionsofreflections.wordpress.com in a few days time.

Thanks for all your support!

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Filed under Channel Islands, Fife, Southampton, Writing

In WW1 Victor returns injured to Riduna (Alderney) ~ the island of his birth

In Ancasta Guide me Swiftly Home I have tried to tell less well known tales of the Great War. Having said that, each of the Newton family from Woolston, Southampton played plausible roles in WW1 taking them as far as Turkey and even India. Here Victor, an injured soldier, returns to Riduna (Alderney) the island of his birth, to play his part in the ‘home guard.’ In order to support his family he also went fishing ~ for solace as well as sustenance – although it did not always achieve the peace he longed for: 

When Victor first returned to Riduna (Alderney) he could often be seen fishing on the rocky shoreline to the right of Fort Raz on Longy Bay, a lone silhouette of a figure standing statuesque off an outcrop not far from the sweeping sandy bay. In fact, at first glance he almost looked like a dark rock himself, protruding upright from the shore: a reflection of the Hanging Rock nearby.

Unfortunately, this familiar place where he had always loved to fish with his father and grandfather before him gave him no peace. The coast of France was clearly visible to him. Even with the sound of the sea, it was impossible to block out the echo of distant gunfire, fetching the true reality of the war right to the shoreline. There was no real way of escaping the horrors and the memories.

Instead he began to join the many young lads, fishing for mackerel and mullet off the Breakwater. He stood cheek by jowl, with just enough room to cast the twine into the sea from his long heavy pole. His younger brother William stood on the ledge behind him, attaching the bait and retrieving the captured mackerel, which Victor flicked expertly, as near to William as he could. Their catch was certainly adequate to fulfil the bodily needs of his family, although he still yearned to fish in solitude.

One afternoon he could bear it no more and so, instead of heading for the Breakwater, he began to clamber over the rocks by Fort Doyle. With his brother William holding the rod and bait, skipping lithely from rock to rock, Victor was embarrassed as he struggled and slid over the wet rocks, using both hands to steady himself as he coped with his painful shoulder and injured leg. Many times William looked back and wanted to give Victor support but in the end looked onwards, knowing full well that his older brother would be too proud to accept help. Finally they reached a ledge of rocks which jutted right out into the swirling waters and Victor settled there to gain his breath. William prepared the line for him, untangled the twine from the quill and cork float and attached some mackerel flesh to the hook as bait, carefully squeezing it between his thumb and forefinger. He handed the rod to his brother, knowing instinctively that Victor wanted to fish alone and then went to look for shrimps in the rock pools nearby.

                Before Victor cast the line he sat and looked around him. His eyes spanned between Fort Groznez to his right, standing with pride to defend the harbour and breakwater, to the imposing sight of Fort Tourgis to his left, and the long barracks sweeping down from the horizon towards the stony shores of Clonque Bay. Just across the sea from Fort Tourgis lay the deserted island of Burhou, with dangerous waters swirling around outcrops of rocks as far as the eye could see. As Victor’s eyes swept along the bay and out towards the open sea, he sighed with a rare moment of contentment. He cast his line and as he watched the float bob in the waters in front of him he began to relax. He breathed in the salty air, filling his lungs and clearing his mind. His thoughts drifted in and out of a pleasant emptiness.”

Ancasta Guide me Swiftly Home is Diana Jackson’s second novel, set between 1910 and 1920 telling the stories of members of the Newton family as they embark on their own role on The Great War.

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Filed under Alderney, Ancasta, Channel Islands, History of Alderney, The Great War, WW1

Jersey Lass Murdered! ~Haynes Bedfordshire in 1919!

‘Did you know that a Jersey girl was murdered close to where you live in 1919?’ wrote a lady from the Channel Islands Great War Study Group in an email whilst I was researching for ‘Ancasta ~ Guide me Swiftly Home.’

Here’s a link to their website, which is packed with interesting information and photos relating to The Channel Islands in WW1.
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERADriven by curiosity we cycled over to the churchyard in Church End Haynes, Bedfordshire which looks towards the imposing building of Haynes Park stately home (used for other purposes now but it was once Hawnes School and then Clarendon School)

Here’s a potted history of Haynes Park.

The grave stone was not hard to find, a WW1 military grave with an unfortunate tilt, almost as if the resident below was trying to get out! We sat on a bench close by, looking out over thegravejigsaw park where men trained in an army camp during and after the Great War. Church End Haynes must have changed little from those days, a tiny hamlet nearly a mile from the main village of Haynes.

Several walks in the surrounding countryside, around the park and over towards the hangers at Shortstown I began to feel an affinity to this young girl, who I have renamed Lucille Vardon. I made a couple of trips to carry out research in the Bedford Archives, pouring over newspaper cuttings of the original trial and photos of the day. Next we planned a trip to Jersey, which I had visited as a child but only a couple of times as an adult. Armed with copied pages, photos and notes, the idea for ‘Murder, now and then’ was born.

My plot weaves in and out of the original murder, but it is set in 2019, with descendants inspired by people from the original murder case. Here is one the photos which set my imaginative brain to work overtime and inspired my murder mystery:

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Haynes Park Camp 1915

 

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Filed under Channel Islands, Murder Now and Then, The Great War, WW1