Wednesday, July 6, 2016

The Downside of Village Life?

So a lot of my blog posts have been about the golden positives of village life--the sense of community, the quaintness, the pleasant feeling that you are living in an Agatha Christie adaptation--but hopefully not as the murder victim! I love all the villagey things--school and church fetes, neighbors who know you, allottment and post office shops (one per village only, of course!) and a milkman who chats to you on a regular basis.

However village life isn't one long rosy montage of those moments. There can be some downsides--and one of them is a tendency towards gossip. Gossip, or crack, as the Cumbrians call it, is an important issue in my new Hartley-by-the-Sea book, Now and Then Friends.

It's hard to avoid gossip when living in a small place. Much of it is harmless, a lot of it well meaning, but some... not so much. Even the well-meaning gossip can be a bit disconcerting. A few weeks into our village life in Cumbria a complete stranger stopped me in the street and asked me if my two-year-old daughter was sleeping better. Stunned, I stammered a reply, only to realize as we continued the conversation that the woman was the anonymous stranger who had left two gorgeous crocheted blankets on our doorstep without even a note--her way of welcoming us into the village. She called them her 'magic sleep' blankets.

But of course there is a nasty side to gossip, and while I haven't experienced it personally (at least not that I know of!!), I know it exists. The inevitable twitch of the net curtains, the meaningful look, the whispered word... It's hard not to get paranoid sometimes.

On the flip side, it can be hard not to be drawn into gossip. More than once I've been standing in the schoolyard happily chatting with other mums when suddenly someone who is not present is getting skewered, usually under the guise of false sympathy and a lot of sorrowful head-shaking. It takes some will power to stay silent or better yet, walk away.

Ultimately though, for me the positives win out, and they do in Now and Then Friends as well. You can learn more about the book or buy a copy here

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

It's been awhile...

So if you've followed this blog at all, you'll see it's been quite awhile since I've last written, and that's because life started avalanching, for want of a better word!

In November my father became very ill with leukemia (he'd been diagnosed in April and then gone into a wonderful but brief remission) and he died on December 23rd--something that still feels surreal to write. The six months after his death have been a bit of a blur of keeping life going with five children, writing deadlines, and helping my mother to sort out her life in the aftermath.

Things got even trickier in March, and a variety of difficult events led my husband to resigning his job, finding another one, and us upping sticks in a few weeks to move to Monmouth, Wales. So our village life will become our market town life, after only one year of experiencing the ritzy version of village life in the Cotswolds! For a year I exchanged the wild coast of Cumbria for the gentle, rolling hills of Oxfordshire--and charity shops and chintzy tea rooms for organic farm shops and lots of Barbour! In our short time here I've met loads of friendly people, and after 11 months have just reached the point of feeling settled--no matter what anyone says, it always seems to take a year. But now we're off again to the wilds of Wales (although only a mile from the English border!)

In the meantime, life soldiers on, as it must. The dog must be walked, dishes must be washed, and books must be written. Now and Then Friends, my second book in the Hartley-by-the-Sea series, is out next week. You can learn about it here 

And meanwhile I will try to update this blog more often, and let you know about our progress in Wales!