My guest today is Miriam Wakerly.
Miriam launched Gypsies Stop tHere in Waterstones in 2008, the day after she retired. No Gypsies Served followed in 2010, as she felt there was more to say. To be self-published was pretty daring then!
This excerpt is from Miriam’s third novel, Shades of Appley Green, a heart-warming story that has nothing to do with Gypsies but is set in the same fictitious English village.
She lives in Surrey close to Hampshire with her husband, but hails originally from Tetbury, a small Cotswolds town that is local to Highgrove, home of Charles, HRH Prince of Wales and Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall. As well as Surrey villages, this lovely place helped inspire the sense of community that shines through in her novels.
We have been taking a closer look at turning points in a novel; a point after which nothing is the same for one (or all) of the main characters.
Miriam will share a “turning point” excerpt with us from one of her novels, Appley Green.
Years after the event, Steph looks back in her diary to a point she is about to make a momentous decision, blaming herself for ever entering into this mistake of a marriage. How will she extricate herself and her children?
‘There’s a blackbird’s nest Barnaby has been watching closely while Faith is at school. It’s lodged in the woody tangle climbing up one side of the west wing.
“Look Mum! Is that the Daddy bird or the Mum one?” It strikes me he’s learning the concept of fatherhood in an unconventional way! We are watching the parent birds go back and forth with twigs and feathers and Barnaby is looking forward immensely to the day when the eggs will finally hatch. (All down to good parenting!) We can look down into it from Faith’s bedroom window and count the speckledy-blue-green eggs. I explained to Barnaby today how the tiny baby birds would be fed for a while before they could begin to fly. Barnaby runs around the house flapping his arms in a keen display of empathy.’
‘Small events help bed in my initial seeds of doubt. (I am turning poetic). This morning, Saturday, Richard decides to do a spot of tree pruning and casually mentions that he came across a nest that had fallen down with the detritus of branches resulting from his task. I wanted to beat him over the head with the axe still in his hand, as he stood there on the back terrace. I was sure I’d told him how excited Barnaby was about this nest, but he could not have heard or been in any way interested. Barnaby’s tears were hard to bear and, for Richard, rather tiresome.’
‘Last night, we lay in bed after having sex – it could hardly be termed making love as the act involves no affection from him, and no passion from me. He seemed content with this arrangement. Usually he turns straight over and slips into an untroubled sleep.
So it came as a shock when he said, “How long will it be before we have a baby, I wonder?”
I am on the pill. Absurdly, in retrospect, it never occurred to me that he would want to have children with me. His question came as more than a bit of a surprise, although I see now I am naïve and really pretty stupid; we’re married, he has none of his own and in theory the question was entirely natural. But we’re both living under different, unspoken, assumptions. He has never raised the subject before and he seems entirely lacking in paternal instincts, scarcely exchanging more than a few words in passing with either Faith or Barnaby. I could kick myself for being so blinkered, not appreciating this particular shortcoming of his before accepting his proposal – blindly, rashly, naively. I can detect no evidence of him understanding what children are, or are for! He must have been one himself, I tell myself.
I hesitated in my reply long enough for silence to supply a clear answer to his question.
I now fully realise that my own identity is slowly shrivelling, being eaten up and swallowed whole by this deceptively demanding husband of mine. My overall strategy must take a different course. I shall go back to work. Eventually I’ll escape this marriage from hell. How could I ever have entered into it?’