Crackers about animals? Well yes I am. Just as I can’t imagine life without them, I couldn’t imagine not writing some animal characters into the book: “Our Best Attention.”
In Chapter 1 Bluebell, Miss Murray’s cat, already displays behaviour familiar to all cat lovers: affection and dignity, as well as a determination to outwit Mrs Glen the housekeeper (not a cat fan!)
Sabre, the diminutive security dog , written about in Chapter 8 is a particular favourite.He’s an uneasy mixture of Dachshund and Corgi who happily accompanies his timid master through the dark of night at Murray’s. He doesn’t mind Stan having to sing hymns loudly to stave off terrors. Undoubtedly he’s that poor man’s best friend.
Meanwhile in Chapter 15, Henry the Mynah bird, while not strictly speaking an animal, is a big personality. He delights in whistling and singing “Scotland the Brave” while also terrifying pensioners by his extremely accurate impressions of an elderly person swearing floridly. A bird in a million.
Of the other animals I’ll say no more but will leave them for readers to discover for themselves.
Already in Book 2 currently in production, I have included several animals: a little Birman cat called Yum Yum and a black and white collie with depression. More will undoubtedly follow.
Over the past few weeks since the launch of “Our Best Attention” a number of things have happened. A guest blog on Gransnet (www.gransnet.com) led to a huge response and lots of, presumably, grans wrote in with reminiscences of department stores all over the UK. In addition, I’ve been talking at a number of author events and have met lots of really interesting people who also had tales to tell.
Among the stories, I heard of an elderly lady observed in a large, posh store in London (Harrods? Maybe) ordering a single kipper -and having it delivered! Another lady told of her aunt who used to live in the ladies dormitory in the attics of their local department store. One can only imagine the sort of life she must have led there. So many untold stories.
One person’s mother worker pre WW1 in the ribbon department of a large Edinburgh emporium. Its hard to imagine a whole department devoted to the sale of ribbons but hats and costumes needed trimming in those days and matching ribbons were a matter of tremendous importance.
World War 2 was another theme that arose in our discussions. A Gransnet member had memories of their large department store being bombed out and all the departments being dispersed among local big houses and nissen huts. How must that all have been organised? Moving the stock, informing staff where to report, keeping a grip on the financial side as well as the sheer admin around paying the staff not to mention the problem of coupons. In a time before the internet and with telephones relatively few and far between its so hard to see how it was all managed- yet it was. Full marks to British bulldog spirit. Ladies shall shop!
General sadness was remarked by many at the marked reduction in variety of china and glass. People remembered going to their local department store to choose their ‘wedding china’ and how they built it up over their married lives. No more it would seem. We buy our china now in chain stores and plain white reigns supreme. Ah well. You don’t know what you’ve got till its gone!
I have a feeling that as I go along to the various events I will hear more stories of departed department stores and their staff and customers. Can hardly wait!
Our Best Attention has been fortunate in receiving positive reviews on Amazon and Goodreads which is very reassuring. However, many readers don’t actually get round to writing formal reviews. Its hard to know why this might be. Some of them might feel intimidated and aren’t confident enough to put their views in print, others may not be very computer savvy and are unsure how to go about this. However, it has been gratifying to receive a number of emails and letters from people who have enjoyed the book. Here is a selection of their comments. Some brought a tear to my eye! Here’s a selection:
“I absolutely love your book! Almost finished and, yes, I recognized X right away! You have captured the essence, atmosphere and intricacies of the department store we knew perfectly! I adore your prose, your descriptive words are just that…..I can “see” who I am reading about, the place I am reading about, hear the person speaking. Well done you! In to second print already, wow!”
“I have read the book and broke my own rule of only reading a chapter at bedtime. I struggled to put it down. In many ways I feel that this book is similar to some of Maeve Binchy books. The chapters introduce a new character that I hope will be re introduced in later books as with Maeve’s characters. I especially loved the visit to the footwear department!!! That could have been me as a youngster. Keep writing – I await the swift publication of the next book.”
“I really enjoyed the book. It had great characters in it and you felt as if you really knew them well. I loved the style, with the common thread running throughout it. I guess because I know X, I know how well you described it. My Nana worked there as a young girl as a model, in the days when ladies did not try on their own clothes, the ‘Third Miss Patterson’ would have loved that! Think she was my favourite character, although I loved Martin too and think that I can easily identify with his critical eye for others clothes”
“I love the book when I heard it had no violence and sex I thought this is not for me but it has transported me back to when I first came to Scotland. I would catch the bus from Currie and visit all those wonderful department stores. I had a friend who worked in one of them and her stories are all there. She died several years ago but your book makes me feel as if I am having a conversation with her. Thank you”
Of course not everyone enjoyed the book. The rather sour comments from a student reviewer were found to be incomprehensible by people who had read the book. Phew!!