NEW SHOES

I have always enjoyed the delicious smell and buttery feel of new leather shoes. When I was a child, the shop assistant would always ask, ‘Do you want to wear them home?’ and I always replied, ‘Yes please,’ and took my old ones home in the bag. Totally fascinated, I kept looking at my new shoes and wouldn’t want to take them off until bedtime when I reluctantly placed them next to my bed. They were the first things I saw when I woke up and the first things I put on in the morning.

Every summer I had a pair of white kid sandals with crepe soles. My mother kept these in tip-top condition with Meltonian shoe whitener, a liquid put on with a sponge and left to dry. It had an unforgettable scent, almost intoxicating. One year I had a pair of brown sandals bought from a door-to-door salesman but they didn’t have the same appeal somehow.

Ballet shoes were an added pleasure – the soft pale pink leather was divine. Tap shoes also. I could never resist sniffing them before I put them on.

We had a shoe shop in the village but we only used that as a last resort because we could only buy Clarkes or Start Rite there. We preferred to go to Bexleyheath Broadway where all the brands were located: Dolcis, Lilley & Skinner, Saxone. Barratt, Freeman Hardy & Willis. Curtis and Bata were at the cheaper end of the market and mostly synthetic.

I remember going with my parents in 1961 to buy my first pair of ‘grown-up’ summer shoes. I would have been about twelve. We visited Dolcis on this occasion. I chose a pair of white shoes with pointed toes, punched holes and bows and a low stiletto heel. My mother remarked that they had ‘everything but the kitchen sink’ on them but I got my way and walked happily out of the shop wearing them.

On holiday, in the 1950s beach wear included a pair of rope sandals and later, Roman sandals, now referred to as flip-flops, but we kept them solely for the beach and wouldn’t have dreamt of wearing them anywhere else.

At senior school we girls would compare shoes in the playground. When I wanted a new pair I would walk home, down the length of the Broadway, looking in all the shoe shop windows until I had decided which ones I liked best. I would then tell my father what I had seen and ask him if I was allowed to spend 59/11. ( £2.19s 11d) He usually agreed.

In 1965 I took a job as a hairdressing apprentice and most of my first wage packet went on a new pair of shoes. In the mid sixties the square toes were all the rage, then came the chunky heels, platform soles and wedges. But hairdressing took its toll on my legs and feet so I bought a pair of leather Scholl exercise sandals to wear during the day. They were bliss, like slipping me feet into a hug.

To my wedding in November 1970 I wore a pair of white leg-hugging, knee-high boots with chunky heels, a white mini dress with a brick-red knee-length coat with a self colour fur trim, a white Cossack hat and white gloves. I felt like a film star.

During the seventies boots and shoes became wilder with thick platform soles and all manner of designs. I had a pair of beige sandals with cork platforms and even drove in them and wore them to work. Accompanied with a pair of Oxford bags I looked as if I was walking on stilts.

In recent years shopping for shoes has lost its appeal for me; the high street has seen a decline of all our old favourites and we are left without the choice of yesteryear. Sadly, I am now reduced to wearing ‘comfortable’ styles but at least I can still take pleasure in the smell and feel of the new leather.

 

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FEAR OF THE DENTIST

It doesn’t seem to matter how old we get we still don’t relish the thought of going to the dentist. Check-ups are fine, I go in full of bravado, confident that I won’t need to have any work done, and this is usually confirmed. So when I had a toothache this week, after already been for a check-up at the beginning of July and a hygienist appointment only two days ago, imagine how I felt at having to see the dentist again today!

I still remember all the dentsts I’ve had in my lifetime. The first, a Mr Sanders, was a big man with and fumbling fingers. I was only 5 years old when he took two of my teeth out  (with gas). Enough to put anyone off dentists for life! After that, I didn’t visit a dentist until I fell off my scooter aged 9 hitting my face on the pavement. My mother found a new dentist, a Mr Flett on the new housing estate, and promptly whipped me round to see him. He confirmed that my two front teeth were perfectly sound, only one had a crack in the enamel. Phew! Mr Flett remained our family dentist but I didn’t go again until I was 15. He took one look in my mouth and said,’Oh, dear, we are overcrowded, aren’t we?’ After eight fillings and  another two teeth out (with gas) and a brace fitted to straighten my top teeth, I vowed to visit the dentist regularly. But I hated it. Mr Flett seemed to find an ‘aclusal’ ( not sure of spelling) no matter how well I looked after my teeth, hence I have a mouthful of silver crosses. When I got married and moved away, I had to find another dentist when one of my wisdom teeth decided to give me pain. I was dreading it. But I had been recommended to Mr Nightingale so off I went, my stomach in knots and my legs like jelly. I think he was my favourite dentist out of all of them. He was young and jokey and put me at ease straight away.  He simply took out the offending tooth there and then ( with an injection) and he’d won me round. I stayed with him for about ten years then we moved again. I was reluctant to find another dentist but a Mr O’Sullivan was a close second. He treated the whole family, gained my confidence and I stayed with his practice for twenty years.

Since then, having moved house twice, there have been a succession of dentists, from various countries, at two different practices. It seems I just get used to one and then he moves on. I now have a very good young Indian dentist who takes his time to explain everything.  I was dreading what he  might find today ( the crown that My O’Sullivan fitted 19 years ago is causing a problem)  but sat in the waiting room trying to talk myself into feeling perfectly calm. I had another X-ray to see if anything had changed. It hadn’t. But he explained why I might be getting the pain and if I it gets worse or infected I will have to have it out! Instantly an image of Mr Sanders with the big fumbling hands came to mind but I’ll put my trust in my new dentist who is more like Mr Nightingale. He puts me at ease. I just hope he doesn’t leave.

SWEET DELIGHTS

Recently in Sheringham, I was with a friend in an old-fashioned sweet shop where we were delighted to see shelves full of jars containing our old favourites: winter mixture, cough candy twists, Tom Thumb drops, and rhubarb and custard, to name but a few. This prompted memories of the sweets we loved when we were children.

On my walk to the primary school in Bexley, I never passed the sweet shop without buying something with my pocket money. Liquorice novelties, sherbet dabs, flying saucers, and lemonade powder that turned our fingers bright orange were all displayed invitingly on the counter. I consumed Fruit Salad and Black Jack chews (four a penny) and numerous packets of sweet cigarettes. Many a time I was told off for chewing in class. The teacher would call me out to the front and demand I hand over my sweet bounty. Sometimes I never got them back. Maybe she kept them for herself?

Posh sweets like Palm Toffee in strawberry, mint or banana flavours, pink and white nougat and chocolate bars were our weekend treats bought from Mr Lloyd’s sweet shop in the High Street. You could buy five bars of chocolate for half a crown (twelve-and-a-half new pence) in fruit and nut, whole nut, caramel, mint cream or strawberry flavours. My grandmother bought her Pontefract Cakes and Mitchum Mints here to eat whilst watching television; Coronation Street (which had only just begun) or No Hiding Place, a police drama with actor Raymond Francis, and Wagon Train were her favourite programmes.

Mum and Dad’s treat was a box of Macintosh’s Weekend which I would sneakily dip when they went to the pictures on a Friday evening. My grandmother would take me to the cinema on Saturday afternoons.  During the intermission, ice-cream sellers would display their wares in trays hung round their necks. I was bought either a Lyons Orange Maid or Strawberry Mivvy ice lolly while my grandmother had a sedate miniature ice cream tub or a choc-ice.

During our beach holidays Mum and Dad would sit in deck chairs with a tray of tea from the kiosk, while I would try to keep the sand off my ice lolly. On leaving the beach the ice cream parlour beckoned. This was rare treat, sitting on wicker chairs to eat a Peach Melba or Neapolitan ice cream in silver dishes, but I would gaze longingly at the Knickerbocker Glories which I was never allowed.

On the way to secondary school in Bexleyheath there was a little sweet shop that used to sell delicious homemade red and green lollipops 1d each and frozen Jubbly orange cartons which were very tricky to get into. At lunchtime Mr Whippy would park enticingly outside the school gates where I bought and consumed numerous soft ice cream cones dipped in chocolate sauce and chopped nuts. On the walk home to Bexley in the summer, my friends and I could never pass Lovell’s sweet shop in the Broadway without buying a quarter of chocolate coconut macaroons. The three of us would pool our money and savour the shared out sweets on our way home. In the winter we would buy penny currant buns or ‘yesterday’s’ cakes from the baker’s to eat on the bus journey.

At the sweet shop in Sheringham my friend bought 100 grams of winter mixture but we were disappointed that they tasted nothing like they used to. Either sweets the have been modified or our taste buds have changed with age. Who knows which?

 

 

PEN TO PAPER, TO PUBLISHED BOOK

In 2008 my husband and I retired to a little village in Cornwall called Rilla Mill, on the edge of Bodmin Moor. Our bungalow was situated on a hill with views over the surrounding countryside and three different hilly walks from our front door. Each one of these took us about an hour to complete with beautiful vistas through farm gates along the way. Our nearest beach was at Looe which was about a twenty minute drive. We would park at Hannafore and walk down a steep hill into the harbour where we would sometimes buy fish and chips and eat them on the quayside, always mindful of the seagulls of course!

But after a few months of doing the walks and the beaches I was looking for a pastime, something creative that I could get my teeth into. One day, I was coming out of the local village stores when I spotted a poster for a creative writing course. I took the number, went straight home and rang. The woman’s voice on the other end was very cheerful and friendly. The six week course was held in Stuart House in Liskeard. I had never attended a writing course and didn’t know what to expect but after the first session I was fired up with enthusiasm. There was a book in me gasping for air, a part of my life I wanted to share with the world. I had already written it chronologically in 1997, in three A4 notebooks taken from my old diaries and had  put them away in a safe place hoping one day to do something with them. Now was my chance.

Next, I joined some writers’ groups, one of which was a critique group where we discussed our work.  I found this exptremely helpful. I showed the members some of my work and gradually gained confidence to talk about my ‘magnum opus’ which I had now transcribed to Microsoft Word. I wanted to put my heart on the page but I didn’t know in what format. I tried it in several different ways  – was it a novel or a true story? A novel felt too remote, I wanted the reader to feel my emotions. I finally decided to write it in first person, in diary form with flashbacks. Next I had to decide what genre it fitted into. This was discussed at length at the writers’ group and as it was only part of my life I eventually decided it was a memoir.

The next thing was to approach literary agents and publishers. But after six months I knew I had a niche genre that they were reluctant to take on because I wasn’t a celebrity. I was classed as a ‘bad risk’.The memoir was once more put away.

We moved to Norfolk in 2015. I was still eager to publish my memoir and whilst attending a Writers’Day I learned that there was another way. Self-publishing. This was a huge learning curve but I persevered and finally self-published NO ONE COMES CLOSE in September 2017. I felt very proud of my efforts. The whole process took me twenty years from first pen to paper to proudly holding a copy of my book in my hand.

 

Memory – The Scribe of the Soul.

I fancied a slice of toast and jam this afternoon with my cup of tea. The taste instantly transported me back to my childhood – Saturday tea time, sitting in front of the black and white television, watching Doctor Who or Thunderbirds Are Go! Mum would make a huge plate of buttered toast and we would help ourselves to jam, chocolate spread, marmite or peanut butter. This would all be washed down with copious amounts of tea, after which we would delight in the cream choux buns topped with chocolate icing, licking our sticky fingers.

Beans on toast transports me back to Hide’s restaurant in Bexleyheath where I used to tag along with a friend after ballet lessons. We thought ourselves very grown-up ordering our food, sitting in the wicker chairs like the grand ladies and gentlemen.  Even then, people-watching was a favourite pastime. Hide’s was a department store that was a constant in my youth. After paying our bill we would browse the shelves in the food hall and have a giggle over the delicacies such as ants in chocolate! To this day I wonder who on earth would eat such a thing.

Roast lamb and mint sauce takes me back to Sunday lunchtimes, sitting in the breakfast room with the French doors open onto our large garden and our cats Pim and Smudge stretching lazily on the step in the sunshine. It was my job to make the mint sauce – the  mint picked from the bed beneath the kitchen windowsill and chopped on the wooden board, placed in the green and white dish with sugar and vinegar added. I only have to open a jar of mint sauce to be taken straight back to that kitchen.

Memories do not fade with age but stay as vibrant as the day they were made, like replaying a favourite film, stored in our data banks waiting for us to return. As writers, this is very useful when writing memoir but can be equally valuable when writing a novel. We all have a store of memories on which to draw that can enrich our writing, especially when it comes to using our senses.

Not only mine but memories of previous generations are being used in my current W.I.P. I can remember the stories my mother told me about how she met my father, the hardship they endured through the rationing years and the places she took me as a young child. She was an excellent story-teller and I am really enjoying revisiting these experiences.

 

Thanks to Claire for this Interview

Authors 40+ Series: Julie Newman!

Welcome to my Authors 40+ Series – sharing the stories of amazing authors who published their first book over the age of 40. The series features talented, experienced and inspirational writers who share their (often non-conventional!) writing and publishing journeys honestly and articulately. Next to feature, is Julie Newman!

1) What is the title and synopsis/premise of your first book and how old were you when you published it?

NO ONE COMES CLOSE is my memoir. I published it in 2017 when I was 68.

‘When Julie meets Ron at a jazz club in South London in 1966, she falls for him in a big way but he is reluctant to relinquish his freedom. They are both very young, she seventeen, he nineteen, and after a few months they go their separate ways after a misunderstanding.

Twenty years later Julie is in a loveless marriage and dreams of finding Ron again. She sends him a 40th birthday card hoping it will reach him. Weeks pass. She’s about to give up hope when the phone rings one evening. It’s Ron phoning from Sydney, Australia! He’s coming to England and wants to meet her, and he’s still single.

After three clandestine meetings in London, Ron declares his love for Julie and wants to come back to England for good and for her. She can’t believe it. She can’t help blurting all this out to her husband one evening but he is devastated at the news. He reminds her she has a daughter; what does she think she’s doing? How can she even think of leaving them both? After a very traumatic few weeks, Julie goes to stay with Ron. But things do not go according to plan.’

2) Tell me about writing the book e.g. where did the idea come from / how long did it take / what did you learn along the way?

I first wrote the whole story from my original diaries, in longhand, in 1997. I found it very cathartic but I didn’t know what I was going to do with three A4 notebooks, although I desperately wanted to set them free.

When my second husband and I moved to Cornwall in 2008, I took a creative writing course and joined a writers’ group. I was 59. I transcribed the notebooks to ‘Word’ and the members of the group were very helpful in critiquing my work and loved the story. I chose to keep it in diary form with flashbacks and approached various agents and publishers but was always met with the same answer – you’re not famous so who would want to read your memoir? They were not prepared to take the risk of publishing my work unless it was a safe bet. Time was running out – it had taken me twenty years to get the manuscript into a publishable state, so in 2017 I took the bull by the horns and decided to self-publish. This was a steep learning curve but I felt very proud of myself when I finally held NO ONE COMES CLOSE in my hand! Since September 2017 I have had some wonderful comments from my readers and eleven 5 star reviews.

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3) Tell me about your publishing journey step by step – what happened once the book was finished?

As I have said, I was disappointed every time a publisher or literary agent turned me down but I was determined I wasn’t going to give up. It took me three days to structure the book in the required format for CreateSpace. I then had to go through all the requirements it takes to actually display the book for sale on Amazon. Being a complete novice at all these stages I then had to market and promote my book. This I find harder than writing the book, formatting it and publishing it!

After the success of this book I decided to publish my début novel WHERE THERE’S A WILL. This is a rom-com set in South East London that started life at one of the creative writing evenings in 2008 when we were asked to create a character and put them in a situation:

‘Struggling to pay the bills and unsure of her future, Jess thinks all her dreams have come true when she meets Giles Morgan, a wealthy lawyer, who stumbles in front of her motionless car one Monday morning.

Eddie, Jess’s former boyfriend, has never stopped loving her or given up hope of them getting back together but he can’t give Jess the lifestyle she craves.

Will Jess listen to her heart of choose a life of luxury?’

Having self-published once I didn’t bother taking the traditional route. Now I have two books on Amazon.

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4) Who or what has helped you the most in becoming a published author?

Without a doubt the most help I received was from the critique group in Cornwall. It’s so important to belong to a writers’ group, I cannot stress this enough. Writers are, by nature, very solitary beings and writing ‘in the dark’ you’re never sure how your work will be received until someone reads it. The members of the group were invaluable in spotting things I’d missed and we discussed the story structure, format and dialogue. I looked forward to my turn to have my work critiqued and was very heartened by their favourable comments. Although online groups have their place, face-to-face writers groups are far better. It helps tremendously to be able to talk to others and hear their reactions.

5) What are the main obstacles you faced / overcame when writing and publishing your book(s)?

I think the main obstacle was deciding whether or not to publish my memoir or turn it into a novel. By nature a memoir is sensitive because it’s a true story and the people involved could be very upset that you have ‘laid them bare’. For this reason I changed the names of the people concerned and wrote a disclaimer in the front of the book.

6) How do you promote/advertise your book(s)?

I am not accustomed to promotion or marketing of any kind. I have used social media and Amazon book promotions. I have given author talks at a writers’ day and at my local library where I sold some signed copies. It was a lovely surprise when the local paper came to photograph me and published an article on me, but I think the best surprise came after writing an article for my local paper about both my books – this was seen by my library and they bought my novel! I was on cloud nine to think people were taking my book out and reading it.

I also took my books to a Christmas fair and sold some. I have asked another library if I can do an author talk in the next few months and I have emailed BBC Radio Norfolk to ask if they can interview me on air. I have also done radio interviews in Cornwall to promote the short story anthologies the ‘Caradon Hill Writers’ produced. This was another writers’ group to which I belonged. In fact, I belonged to four groups in Cornwall, all very inspiring in their own way, but since moving to Norfolk I am struggling to find any.

7) How did you celebrate the incredible achievement of your first book being published?

I did a happy dance and shouted from the rooftops! My husband doesn’t share my enthusiasm for my writing, so we didn’t go out to celebrate.

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8) What advice would you give to other authors about to begin their publishing journey?

Join a writers’ group! Having your work read and critiqued is invaluable. Apart from that, read all you can on the subject of writing and publishing and always have your work edited by a reputable editor. There are so many books out there that have not gone through this process. They are peppered with typos and grammar mistakes and look totally unprofessional.

9) Where is/are your book(s) currently available to read and where can people find you online?

Both NO ONE COMES CLOSE and WHERE THERE’S A WILL are for sale on Amazon.com.

NoOne Comes Close: A memoir by J A Newman

Where There's a Will

WHERE THERE’S A WILL is stocked in two Norfolk (UK) libraries.

You can find me on www.facebook.com/J.A.Newman.author and on my blog:  julieannnewman.wordpress.com.

10) Are you working on anything new we can look forward to in 2019?

I am currently rewriting my NaNoWriMo novel titled THE BAY that started life in 2014. I hope to publish this later in the year. This is the story of a family who owned a guest house in Cornwall in the 1960s and the effect this old house has on its previous occupants in the present day.

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WHERE DO STORIES COME FROM?

As some of you may know, I am rewriting my NaNoWriMo novel that I initially wrote in 2014. Since then, it has been bubbling away in the background, gaining pace and crying out for me to add a backstory.

The subconscious is an amazing thing. While you’re asleep it gets to work digging around in your memories, and making sense of what you can’t fathom in your waking hours. The plot is being fully fleshed out thanks to my subconscious. Two mornings lately I have woken up with connections to the past and the present in the novel and answers to the questions I have been asking. This is exciting! I also have a very different ending to the one I had intended back in 2014, one that makes everything more complex and adds to the mystery of the story.

When I started writing the novel I had no outline, no plan and just wrote by the seat of my pants to see where the story took me. NaNoWriMo does not allow for much planning because you have to write 1,677 words a day to keep up the momentum in order to reach 50,000 words during the month of November. I managed to do this and felt very pleased with myself. Having completed the book in the allotted time there were certain offers given by some of the publishing companies. One of these was a hardback book of the novel as it stood, without editing. I ordered a copy and was surprised at how professional it looked without much intervention from me! But of course, I didn’t let anyone read it as it wasn’t properly formed.

Now I am into researching life in the 1940s in London’s West End and in Cornwall. ‘Write what you know’ was my mantra whilst embarking on nano but now my subconscious is tapping into what it was like for my parents during that time. My father was a commercial artist in the West End at a place called Phoenix Studios. He was a lettering artist while others he worked with drew the illustrations for the products to be advertised in magazines and newspapers. Names like Wall’s Ice Cream, Cutex Cosmetics and B.O.A.C airlines. I remember my mother taking me to see him at work when I was  four years old. There were about eight artists working at their drawing boards and the room was filled with cigarette smoke. These memories are all part of life’s rich tapestry, gifts indeed for any writer.

As my characters have their honeymoon in Cornwall I am researching the public transport in the 1940s. Luckily I have a very good friend in Cornwall who’s husband is a railway enthusiast and is proving invaluable where the railways journeys are concerned. I will have to rely on my imagination for what a Cornish guest house was like in the post-war years but there again, I was brought up in that environment so I have used some of the rooms in my childhood home.

Mystery and imagination are at the root of the novel and I’m enjoying the way it’s shaping up.