Saturday, 15 October 2011

The humble apron

Do our daughters, I wonder, appreciate the value and history of the humble apron? My gran wore one of the overall variety, a floral wrapover that completely covered her dress, and she thought little of the frilly version my mother wore. Yet they both served the same purpose, or rather multi-purpose.

The principal use of both was primarily to protect the dress they wore underneath, because they had very few of those and many aprons. It was also far easier to wash aprons than dresses, particularly at a time when fancy washing machines were in short supply.

But an apron had many other uses. It served as a potholder for removing hot pans from the oven, or to place a hot apple pie to cool on the window sill. It was perfect for drying children’s tears, rubbing clean a dirty face, or for a child to hide behind when confronted by strangers. It could be knelt on while scrubbing a step, and it was surprising how much furniture an apron could dust in a matter of seconds if unexpected company suddenly called, or how quickly it could vanish and leave Mum looking clean as a new pin.

Within the mysteries of its pocket could be found a boiled sweet, a few pegs for the washing line, a handkerchief for a child’s runny nose, a hair grip, scissors, and a bit of string in case something should need tying up or ‘fettling’ as my gran would say.

An apron often came in useful when a bag or basket wasn’t to hand. It could be used for carrying eggs from the hen coup, or vegetables picked from the garden. Logs and kindling would be brought into the kitchen in that apron, and after the peas had been shelled sitting on a stool at the kitchen door, it would carry out the hulls to the compost heap.

Mum would use it to wipe a perspiring brow as she bent over the hot fire or cooker, to wipe her hands on if called unexpectedly to the door. And when the weather turned cold she’d wrap it around her arms while she stood on the doorstep enjoying a bit of crack with a neighbour.

And on top of all this, it could also be seen as a sex symbol, as shown in the Lucille Ball picture.

Our daughters, not to mention ‘elf and safety’, would surely have a fit at the thought of all the germs that no doubt could be found upon that apron. But I don't think I ever caught anything infectious from any of them, only a great deal of love.

To Take Her Pride by Anne Brear

Recently I received the cover for my next historical novel, To Take Her Pride, which is set in Victorian Yorkshire and is due out in March 2012 under my new pen name of Anne Brear!
1898 Yorkshire.
 Aurora Pettigrew has it all, a loving family, a nice home, a comfortable life. She’s waiting for the right man to offer her marriage, and the man for her is Reid Sinclair, heir to the Sinclair fortune and the love of her life.
 But, Reid’s mother, Julia, is against the match and her ruthlessness unearths a family secret that will tear Aurora’s world apart.
 Unwilling to bring shame on her family and needing answers to the allegations brought to light by Reid’s mother, Aurora begins a long journey away from home. She leaves behind all that is familiar and safe to enter a world of mean streets and poor working class.
 Living in the tenements of York, surrounded by people of a class she’d never mixed with before, Aurora struggles to come to terms with the way her life has changed. By chance, she reconnects with a man from her past and before he leaves with the army to war in South Africa, he offers her security through marriage.
 Aurora knows she should be happy, but the memory of her love for Reid threatens her future.
 When tragedy strikes, can Aurora find the strength to accept her life and forget the past? 

More details coming soon....

Sunday, 9 October 2011

Changing Times

Changing Times

I always think of historical as 1900 and earlier, and certainly not within my living memory, even if the years are flying by far to quickly. Yet even yesterday was history.
Recently I have been re-reading the books I first wrote as a published author and uploading them on Amazon and Smashwords.With advice from Freda Lightfoot and Chris Longmuir). They were light romances published by Robert Hale. They were never intended to be historical but already there have been so many new developments since the 1980's. As an example my firt three books were written by hand and then typed on my portable typewriter - using plenty of Tippex I might add, as I was not a typist. Then along came the Amstrad computer - bought for me to do the farm accounts. It had a a word processor and I thought it was
magic. I wrote my fourth romance novel in a quarter of the time but how the details in the content have changed, already classed as history by
As an example there were no mobile phones at that time. If there had been my plot would not have worked. Writers find a way of getting round problems so I suppose I could have made the excuse of no reception once or twice - but not all of the time. Today even school children have mobile phones and can be instantly in contact.
Another novel has a query about the identity of the boy'd father. Although DNA was discovered in 1953 it is only in fairly recent times that an ordinary member of the public would, or could, insist on DNA testing to prove he was the father. It would have spoiled the first half of my plot entirely.
The word processor encouraged me to attempt a much longer novel - my first historical saga called Fairlyden. I went on to write three more in that series. So much as I love historical novels I shall always be grateful for modern developments which have made life easier. Whether we like it or not. Books to download do seem to be growing in number. There are a lot of pros and cons but the debate is not a topic for this parituclar forum at - least not until it becomes part of history.

Saturday, 8 October 2011

Flogged in the First World War

October - a very exciting time of year for me! IN THE BLEAK MIDWINTER, my eighth novel is set in 1919. There is, of course, a central romance between my heroine, Birdie Connor and her shop-keeper sweetheart. But Birdie's loyalties are tested when brother Frank, veteran soldier and accused deserter, escapes from prison. The idea for this story comes from the experiences I knew my grandfather had in the First World War. He was an infantry man in Belgium, judged to be a deserter, tied to the wheel of a gun-carriage and flogged. Many men were not strong enough to survive these merciless crimes of war. By a miracle, my grandfather did. Though unsurprisingly, he returned to Britain, a changed man. After his death in the fifties, my Nan was free to talk about his experiences. Many men couldn't bear to discuss what had happened to them for the stigma was shameful. And Granddad was no exception. But the truth was, the terrifying shelling and poisonous mustard gas had caused Granddad - and other young boys some only fifteen and sixteen who had lied about their ages to enlist - to become separated from their unit. Granddad was made an example of; a very successful strategy for the army as the shell-shocked and walking-wounded were classified as cowards if they were unable to perform their duty to King and country. I was a very small child during the last part of Granddad's life. He was racked by coughs and found breathing exhausting. This tall, gaunt, haunted-eyed man with whispered words and heart-felt pauses, tucked a few boiled sweets into a small brown paper bag for me every Saturday. I remember his long, artistic, gentle fingers curling over the paper as though it was something very precious. He did this right up to the end and there was something in his expression that bound me to him in a very special way. So IN THE BLEAK MIDWINTER expresses all I have learned about brave men who have been labelled cowards - and the support of their families who deal with post-traumatic stress syndrome. We have a name for it now, but in those days many  just said, "Pull up your socks and get on with it". Birdie Connor ( like my Nan and aunties), is a fighter. She won't back down and she believes in her man. It's stirring stuff and I'm so glad I was, at last, able to write it!