REMEMBERING 1984 …..

In commemoration of the 30th anniversary of the Miners’ Strike of 1984, I am putting my novel NEVER STAND ALONE on at a special price.

99p on Amazon.co.uk9780956642660

When Carol Shannon, the unruly daughter of Brassbank’s pit manager, falls for young miner, Mick Todd, their defiant relationship causes a storm in the close-knit mining village. For the bitterness between their families runs as deep as the coal seams that are Brassbank’s lifeblood. But the hardest battles are still to come for rebellious Carol. With 1984 dawns the year long Miner’s Strike that divides the nation and sets communities at war. Hardship not only threatens Brassbank’s survival, but pushes Carol and Mick’s passionate union to breaking point, leaving tragedy in its wake. Set against the fascinatingly vivid backdrop of a momentous time, Never Stand Alone is an impassioned novel of a woman’s fight for her community, her family and the man she loves.

‘A tough, compelling and ultimately satisfying novel … another classy, irresistible read’
Sunderland Echo
‘She pulls no punches, tells it like it is and taps directly into your emotions. Excellent’ 
Northern Echo 
‘A vivid picture of courage in the face of injustice…Never Stand Alone ought to increase the author’s growing band of fans’ 
Northern Review 
‘The gritty, unforgettable story of families torn apart by the conflict that divided a nation…a powerful story’
World Books

$1.65 on Amazon.com

$1.78 on Amazon.com.au

CDN $1.76 on Amazon.ca

HERE COMES THE BRIDE! – *New Novel out now*

THE PLANTER’S BRIDE – sequel to THE TEA PLANTER’S DAUGHTER – is now available as an ebook.

9781908359360

The story is partly inspired by my maternal grandparents, having discovered diaries and letters written by them, giving rich detail of their lives in India in the 1920s and 30s. Granddad Bob worked for the India Forest Service and my intrepid Granny Sydney followed him out from Scotland to marry and live the itinerant life of a forester’s wife.

My granny in her wedding dress in a garden in Lahore is featured on the cover!

They trekked through remote parts of the Himalayan foothills – and when they became parents, the kids went too! My mum Sheila, as a baby, was hoist in a pram on poles and carried through the jungles and along mountainous pathways along with the tents and supplies! Mum being carried through foothills of Himalayas

 

 

The new novel follows the fortunes of two cousins, Sophie and Tilly, who leave post 1st World War Britain behind and head for adventure in India – Sophie determined to find out the truth behind her parents sudden death in the tea planting area of Assam 15 years previously …

 

Available now on Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk and other Amazon sites, as well as Kobo, Nook, Apple and other tablets and ereaders.

STEP BACK IN TIME TO LAHORE IN THE DAYS OF THE RAJ …

Researching my latest novel, THE PLANTERS’ BRIDES (a sequel to THE TEA PLANTER’S DAUGHTER ) I came across this great collection of old photos of Lahore.

http://nativepakistan.com/photos-of-lahore/

Great inspiration for my novel which is partly set in 1920s Lahore in the Punjab!

My grandparents lived there in the 1920s and 1930s, and many of the places are mentioned in their diaries and letters: they arrived at the magnificent station, were married in the Anglican cathedral off the Mall, stayed at Nedous Hotel, had a friend who was curator at Lahore Museum ….

My mother and uncles at their home in Lahore - my forester grandfather calls them, "Our Forest Nursery"!

My mother and uncles at their home in Lahore – my forester grandfather calls them, “Our Forest Nursery”!

Granddad was working for the Indian Forest Service. After Independence he stayed on to work for the new country of Pakistan and was based in Lahore.

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In 1976, on an overland bus trip to India, we stopped in Lahore and camped for a couple of nights. I wish I had known then the rich details of my grandparents’ life there which I now know from their recently discovered diaries and letters ….! (Above is a game of cricket going on near the Mall in 1976)

FREE NOVEL ABOUT SUFFRAGETTES!

TO CELEBRATE THE CENTENARY OF SUFFRAGETTE EMILY WILDING DAVISON I am giving away ten signed copies of my novel NO GREATER LOVE which is inspired by northern suffragettes such as Emily.perf6.140x9.210.indd

All you have to do is follow the link to GOODREADS to have a chance of winning one of the 10 FREE paperback copies.

http://www.goodreads.com/giveaway/show/53475-no-greater-love

Good luck!

Janet

 

 

ANYONE FOR TIGERS AND TENNIS? – forgotten diaries of India in the 1920s

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Recently, I have come across old diaries and letters written in India by my maternal grandparents in the 1920s and 1930s, where my granddad was a forester with the Indian Forest Service. Bob Gorrie had been a gunner in the First World War and survivor of trench warfare (one of the ‘mortar-mongers’ as he nicknamed them).  He kept diaries of that ‘adventure’ too, but that’s a whole other story!DSCF1002 - Copy

 

On his return to Scotland, he trained in Edinburgh at the University – there’s seems to have been a lot of rowing, tea dances and theatre trips in between lectures on tree species and Hindustani – Bob was relishing life post Flanders. There was a whirlwind romance with sophisticated Sydney Easterbrook (a wow on the dance floor) and then he was off to the Punjab, leaving his fiancee to follow a year later …

 

As a writer and researcher, I am absolutely hooked on my grandparents story – their life in India leaps off the page – and I’m drinking tea, marking trees, auctioning timber, riding under moonlight and playing ‘topping’ games of tennis alongside them!

Oh, yes – and I’m wearing a brooch made out of a tiger’s claw from a man-eating tiger that my grandfather shot and named Gwendoline …

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My next novel – a sequel to the Tea Planter’s Daughter – is taking form and taking my characters back to India in the ’20s. Over the next few months I’ll share slices of that long gone era on this blog – with the help of Bob and Sydney.

 

 

Tea And The Opium Wars

My research for The Tea Planter’s Daughter into the Victorian / Edwardian tea trade eventually took me back to the murky world of early British capitalism. This was the time of the British East India Company prising land off rulers in the North of India to grow opium crops.

These were used in the Opium Wars: with the loss of its trade monopoly, the East India Company needed to gain access to China’s lucrative, protected markets, and one of the main products they wanted to buy on an open market was tea. The trade in opium through intermediaries and Chinese smugglers weakened the Chinese economy by simultaneously draining it of silver while creating increasing numbers of addicts.

At it’s peak, it is estimated that ninety percent of all chinese males under forty in the coastal regions were addicted to opium.

Almost by chance, the opium growers discovered that something else grew naturally on the hot, humid slopes and rich soils of Assam – the evergreen camallia. The tea bush was growing wild, right under their noses!

So they switched to tea growing, sending out eager young men (often Scots) to chance their luck as tea planters. Judging from the cemetery records, many died young of malaria, fever and dysentery. Their isolation and misery was more than matched by the dire conditions of their bonded workforce. Lured by the chance of work from the drought-stricken areas of India, they were heded like cattle onto ferries up the Brahmaputra River, and often died of cholera or smallpox before even reaching the tea gardens.

What these early pioneers succeeded in doing though was to change the palette of the British. They were weaned off the delicate, smoky China teas, and onto the stronger, earthier varieties grown in India and Ceylon.

I found a colonial report into the industry that sums it up nicely:

It is a remarkable fact, in the British Empire that though British tea-drinking proclivities were nourished on China teas, the taste has gradually changed until Indian and Ceylon teas are now predominant. A great part of the credit for this development is due to the blenders for careful blinding in the early days of the industry, the public having been led on by gentle steps to appreciate a good ‘body’ in its tea.

The British people, wherever domiciled, are the world’s greatest drinkers of tea, and their preference is for afine, full-flavoured tea with stimulating properties… China teas are not popular in any part of the Empire, and while it may be too much to say that China tea-drinking in this country is merely a fashionable fad, that expression does approach somewhere near the truth.

By the end of the 19th century, the tea industry in India was big business. the gardens were run like factory farms and the processing – the withering, rolling, fermenting and drying of the leaves – was all highly mechanised. And those machines? They bore names like Britannia and Victoria, and were made in the industrial heartlands of the the Empire’s mother country.

Like so many products of the age, they were built to last, and some are still in use today:

FROM PONTELAND TO PORT STANLEY – FALKLANDS WAR 30 YEARS ON

John wearing his Falklands medal by the River Tyne

30 years ago, Geordie matlot John Mew was heading south on HMS Coventry as part of the British Task Force. He didn’t know then that his ship would be bombed and he plucked from the South Atlantic during the Falklands War. We knew him from his involvement with Ponteland Rugby Club in Northumberland where my husband Graeme played in the 1980s and 90s. When he was home on leave John would lead them in vigorous training and fitness sessions – with exacting Royal Navy standards!

After the Falklands conflict, John was generous in talking about his experiences and knowledge of the Navy when I was researching my novel, FOR LOVE & GLORY.

Amy, myself and John by the River Tyne

It is set in Wallsend on the River Tyne from where my husband’s family come. I have them to thank for much of the background information on this vibrant community where many of the world’s greatest ships were built. The Falklands material was inspired by veterans I’d read about – ordinary people who’d shown extraordinary courage – long after the short war was over and out of the news. But in particular, I’m indebted to our brave friend, John.

We met up recently to launch a new version of the novel. It’s now available as ebook for the first time. My daughter Amy is the model for the new cover!

These days it is John’s sons who are playing rugby for Ponteland – but I’m sure he can still teach them a thing or two about fitness!

FOR LOVE & GLORY ebook

The Falklands War of 1982

This week marks the 30th anniversary of the start of the Falklands war, which is being commemorated at the National Memorial Arboretum with the lighting of a single flame. This will burn for the length of the conflict – 74 days:

Several of the hundred ships that sailed for the South Atlantic less than a week after the invasion were built on the Tyne – HMS Bristol, HMS Glasgow, HMS Exeter, HMS Glamorgan, HMS Argonaut, HMS Penelope, HMS Cordella, RFA Omleda, RFA Stromness, SS Atlantic Conveyor and SS Atlantic Causeway.

It was through discussion with my husband’s family who lived in Wallsend, and a meeting with John Mew who served on HMS Coventry that I came to write For Love and Glory.

Over the next ten weeks, I (along with the rest of the British media!), will be covering the events in the Falklands from thirty years ago. Later THIS month, a new edition of For Love and Glory will be published – initially for Kindle, but the paperback version will be ready soon after.

SUFFRAGETTE REMEMBERED WITH SONGS AND FLOWERS

To mark International Women’s Day, we gathered in the ancient church of St Mary’s in Morpeth to celebrate the life of Suffragette martyr, Emily Wilding Davison

Wearing suffragette ribbons, our gathering of North East women (and a few men!) sang hymns, joined in songs with Werca’s Folk, listened to amusing and spirited words from Northumberland’s female High Sheriff (who happens to be a reverend too – how Emily would have approved!) and the Romanian consul – also a woman.

Afterwards we were given long-stemmed white carnations and processed behind Emily’s descendants to her graveside.  Flowers were laid to the sound of Werca’s Folk singing the rousing Women’s Marseillaise that Emily would have known well.  Then there were hot drinks and a buffet in the nearby hall – the whole event laid on by Northumberland County Council.

(I took this with my phone, balanced against the railings, so that’s why it’s on a tilt!)

Next year is the centenary of Emily Davison’s death – there will be many events to mark the occasion – I’ll keep you updated here.

“The tranquil graveyard was so overrun with mourners that Maggie and Rose could not get near to see the coffin lowered into the ground at the Davison burial mound, so they patiently waited their turn among the lofty pines. Some time later they were able to approach the iron-fenced memorial which was almost hidden under the heaps of wreaths and floral messages. The scent of the flowers was overpowering as Maggie tossed her own modest purple iris onto the coffin.

‘I’ll fight on, I promise!’ Maggie whispered, as around her women openly wept.”  

Extract from my novel THE SUFFRAGETTE

A Jolly Nice Cup Of Tea

You’d never know it, but thanks to the wonders of modern technology, when I was writing last week’s post about Ringtons Tea, I was actually sitting in a salon de thé in Antibes. We were over there taking a few days well-earned R&R.

Tea shops suddenly seem to be quite the thing in France – très chic in fact. Trendy boutiques sell everything you could need to make a really good cuppa – I bought one of these little tea infusers, which now that we’re home, I’ve been using to make endless cups of green tea:

The only thing you can’t buy is a tea cosy – maybe with the warmer weather in the South of France, they don’t think they’re necessary ;-)

In the salons de thé, things are obviously quite different from a British tea room like one run by Clarissa Belhaven Tyneside. There’s none of the ritual that we have – when you order a cup of tea, you get a tea cup full of hot water, with a tea bag on the saucer brought to the table. Once, the waiter even forgot to put the tea bag on the saucer – much to his embarrassment!

Maybe they could all do with learning the secret of how to make a brew – as shown in this film from 1941: