An Audience with G. D. Abson, author or “Motherland”

G. D. Abson, author of “Motherland” will be at the Exmoor Store on 16 February 2019 from 2pm till 3pm.

Headshot of writer Garry Abson by Photographer Jonathan Bowcott

G.D. (alias Garry David) was born in County Durham and brought up on army bases in Germany and Singapore before returning to the UK. He developed a lifelong obsession with Russia after studying the revolution at school and Russian politics at university. He is the author of MOTHERLAND, the first in a series featuring Senior Investigator Natalya Ivanova battling crime, chauvinism and corruption in Vladimir Putin’s Russia.

 Motherland was shortlisted for a Crime Writers’ Association Debut Dagger, and this Summer the novel was a “Star Pick” in The Times/Sunday Times Crime Club.

This is what people had to say about the gripping crime thriller set in the dark heart of Putin’s Russia:

‘The dark heart of Putin’s Russia beneath the glitz of St Petersburg provides the heady setting for this excellent and gripping debut. Abson, who was shortlisted for a Crime Writers Debut Dagger for Motherland, is surely a name to watch. A Child 44 for Putin-land, this classy page-turner oozes with atmosphere.’ –David Young, bestselling author of STASI CHILD and STASI WOLF

‘Senior Detective Natalya Ivanova does for St Petersburg what Martin Cruz Smith s Arkady Renko did for Gorky Park… taut, fast-moving and compellingly believable.’ –Tom Callaghan, author of A KILLING WINTER

‘Gripping, authentic and fast-paced this is a fine thriller that will delight fans of Martin Cruz Smith.’ –William Ryan, author of THE HOLY THIEF and THE BLOODY MEADOW

ORDER YOUR TICKET HERE

The Green-Eyed Monster of Exmoor

Guest Post by Tracey Gemmell

Is it possible for clotted cream to evoke jealousy? Yes, as it turns out, because clotted cream leads to hireth, and hireth ‒ the Cornish word for homesickness with a sense of longing and loss ‒ wakes in me the green-eyed monster. Of course, that silky, smooth nectar of the cows is not the only trigger for this chain reaction. It may be an Exmoor pony on North Hill, or thatched cottages at Selworthy. It may be Landacre Bridge, the Doone Valley, the beach at Porlock Weir. I could go on and on. No matter the image flitting across my laptop portal out here in Wisconsin, USA, jealously follows; directed at those living on Exmoor.

I know, I know. It’s not your fault I don’t live there anymore. The blame for that lies squarely on the shoulders of my American husband. Well, maybe a little bit on my shoulders for leaving my Porlock-based equestrian life to marry an American. Anyway, not a day goes by my soul doesn’t return, and I’m fortunate to get to physically visit twice a year. But I have to leave again, and it gets harder every time. Oh, to live in that place where I sleep the best and breathe the deepest! There’s something otherworldly about Exmoor; a small world, or vast, depending on my mood or exact location. I can walk along Horner Water and feel cocooned, as though swathed in the combe’s deep, comforting folds. Or, from the crown of Porlock Hill, I can gaze up at the entire nightly universe, stunned by its ability to reduce me to nothingness. Sheltered from the world or dwarfed by the universe; my choice on Exmoor.

I selfishly began writing ‘Dunster’s Calling’ as a personal balm for hireth. I could sit 3,842 miles away from Exmoor ‒ though who’s counting? ‒ and hear again the winds whipping across Dunkery Beacon, and hooves clip-clopping through Luccombe. In time, the balm turned into a novel; a humorous, yet poignant, tale of an expat’s search for home. Based on reviews, the tale struck a nerve for other hireth-sufferers ‒ and clotted cream lovers. Readers who’d never heard of Exmoor vowed to visit, and readers who’d never owned a horse fell in love with Dunster, the cheeky Exmoor pony character who guides Sam through her trans-Atlantic dilemma. It seems many can relate to the pull of home.

As I plan my permanent return, I know this for certain: when I finally get there, I’ll recognise the green-eyed monster in the faces of visitors unable to call Exmoor home. And I’ll understand. One question: does clotted cream count as a liquid in carry-on luggage?

Tracey Gemmell’s novel, ‘Dunster’s Calling’ is available worldwide on Amazon. A percentage of royalties is donated to the Moorland Mousie Trust, working to promote and protect the endangered rare-breed Exmoor pony.
Visit Tracey on Twitter @TraceyGemmell17, Facebook https://www.facebook.com/author.traceygemmell/, Instagram traceygemmellauthor or at www.traceygemmell.com
.

Tracey Gemmell will be at the Exmoor Store
in Minehead (1 Friday Street, TA24 5UB)
on 10 November 2018, 2pm:

Book your tickets  now

10 Nov ’18: An Audience with Author Tracey Gemmell

10 November 2018 * 2pm
Exmoor Store, 1 Friday Street, Minehead TA24 5UB

Tracey is a self-confessed Exmoor addict who would like to make it perfectly clear she’s NOT seeking a cure. In fact, after many years living in the United States, she’s planning her return to the area where she ‘sleeps the best and breathes the deepest’.

Join Tracey at the Exmoor Book Fest for a humorous conversation about life as a homesick expat. Then follow her through her writing process. Dunster’s Calling is now a tale of the bond between a girl and her pony, and a woman and the country she left behind. But it didn’t start out that way …

Dunster’s Calling was a runner up in the 2016 Shelf Unbound Best Indie Book Competition. Tracey’s short story, ‘Scooby-Doo and Hobnobs’, received an honourable mention in the humour category of the 2018 Jade Ring Contest. It’s been published in the Wisconsin Writers Association Anthology. Visit http://www.traceygemmell.com for more details.

Reviews for Dunster’s Calling:

‘It is a remarkable writer that can take you on a journey that allows you to feel something beyond the scope of your own experience and leave you changed because of it. Tracey Gemmell is that writer, and Dunster’s Calling is that book.’ Kashmira Sheth, author of Boys Without Names

‘Perfect for Anglophiles, horse-lovers or anyone who wonders if their life has played out the way it should.’ Pauline Wiles, author of Saving Saffron Sweeting

‘I would read this book again just for pure enjoyment! Moreover, this book has piqued my interest, big time, for a visit to Exmoor one day… it’s been added to my bucket list!’

5-star Amazon review

Book your ticket now!

Wild Herd Whispering: New book out about Exmoor Ponies

The latest book in Dawn Westcott’s series about Exmoor Ponies is now available, just in time for Christmas!

Wild Herd Whispering is about the incredible Exmoor ponies as they reveal their true natures through the world of herd energy and dynamics.

“Starting with the dramatic winter arrival from the moor of a tiny five week old wild-born foal who faces the bleakest future, it is the big herd at Holt Ball Farm that decides how she will survive and thrive. The book follows the adventures of the ponies, revealing characters and behaviours that take you on a heart-rending, thought-provoking and enriching journey of equine enlightenment. This is an opportunity to catch up with adorable orphan Monsieur Chapeau and his friends and majestic stallion Bear, as their lives evolve and entwine with the wild herds of Exmoor. It follows the endearing, exciting and at times perilous experiences of the ponies – including unwelcome night time adventures, the quest to find foals lost in the wilderness and an entire moorland herd in jeopardy. With an expanding herd and challenges to face, author Dawn Westcott looks to the ponies themselves for help and inspiration: they in turn respond in a way that offers magical insights into what is going on in their hearts and minds.
This book is an invaluable reference for people interested in better understanding and winning the trust and friendship of ponies. It also highlights the challenges of safeguarding the endangered Exmoor ponies of Exmoor National Park.”

You can order your copy here: Wild Herd Whispering: How the enigmatic Exmoor ponies reveal what is in their hearts and minds

The first two volumes in the series are:
     

 

The Edge of Exmoor

The Edge of Exmoor

By Leigh Cripps

<

p class=”p1″>I sleep amongst the lichen on stunted ancient oak,
and drift with the thistledown above fern and heather
amid the summer’s hazy overgrowth.
A hardy place, where silver birch sway
their merry winters dance and snowdrops light an
enchanted path through dark hidden valleys.
You will find me where the wild winds blow,
across rain swept moorlands and where
only the purest of waters flow.

Leigh Cripps.

https://www.facebook.com/secretsoftheseasons

Leigh Crisp

Looking for Lorna

98f543_c03eafe99ffe401089e690211644b68cPleasure Dome Theatre are back in the summer of 2017 after the success of their critically acclaimed production of Macbeth in The Valley of the Rocks. This year they are turning their attention to the story that runs through the heart of Exmoor: Lorna Doone.

Helen Payne, Creative Director of Pleasure Dome Theatre said: “What could

Helena Payne, Creative Director

Helena Payne, Creative Director

be more compelling than experiencing this timeless tale of love and loss immersed in the environment that inspired it? To help bring R.D.Blackmore’s vision to life we are recruiting local talent to swell the ranks of our professional cast.”

All ages, abilities and levels of experience are encouraged to attend the open auditions on 15th and 16th of April at Lynton Town Hall. There will be four sessions: 15th-10:00-1:00 and 3:00-6:00 and 16th-10:00-1:00 and 3:00-6:00.

Please only apply if you have good availability for the run August 29th-September 2nd and the preceding three weeks rehearsal. The audition will comprise of: an introduction to the team and the project, some drama games to get everyone working as an ensemble, some text work and scenes that will be workshopped with the director Scott Le Crass.

“Please arrive in good time to register before the sessions begin. We’re really looking forward to meeting as many of you as possible. Kindly RSVP with your preferred session to pleasuredometheatre@gmail.com,” Helena added.

For further information, please contact Elke Winzer, Tel 07881 504863 or elke@cultureline.co.uk

Date for the Diary: Alas Poor Johnny…. Birdie Johnson at the Simonsbath Festival

Birdie Johnson – Wednesday May 13 – 7.30pm – St Luke’s

Alas Poor Johnny –

Buster Johnson’s memoir of life on an Exmoor farm, edited by Birdie Johnson with a foreword by grandson Boris

Birdie Johnson, Buster Johnson’s daughter, talks about Alas Poor Johnny, her mother’s highly entertaining memoir of life on an Exmoor farm in the 1950s, and how, after all these years, it has finally come to be published.

In 1951 Buster moved with her husband Johnny and their four children to West Nethercote, a remote farm four miles from Winsford. Cut off from the world she used to know, of domestic servants and bridge parties, she threw herself into her new life. Her world shrank, revolving around Johnny and the children, an assortment of friends and neighbours, and, above all, around the animals. Isolated as she was, Buster kept in touch by writing letters, sharing with friends and family the seemingly daily dramas of life at Nethercote; it is these letters she drew on, some ten years later, when writing Alas Poor Johnny.

Refreshments available in the interval and an optional snack, costing £4, may be booked in advance for the interval by telephoning Marian Lloyd on 01643 831451.

Admission: £10 to reserve the seat of your choice; £5 for unreserved seating; 14 year-olds and under free.

 

Birdie JohnsonBirdie Johnson, editor of Alas Poor Johnny, is the youngest of Buster and Johnny’s four children. Brought up at Nethercote, she spent a large part of her life there, moving back twice as an adult and continuing to live there after Buster and Johnny had died. In 2002 she produced the Exmoor Oral History Archive (www1.somerset.gov.uk/archives/exmoor) and, with photographer Mark Rattenbury, co-authored Reflections: Life Portraits of Exmoor, the book of the archive. In 2009, with some reluctance (looking to the future), she made the final move away from the isolation of the Nethercote valley to the High Weald of East Sussex, where the landscape serves as a replacement for the Exmoor she has left behind.

For more information about Alas Poor Johnny go to http://www.troubador.co.uk/shop.

ALAS POOR JOHNNY

Buster Johnson’s vivid and entertaining account of life on an Exmoor farm in the 1950s, edited by Birdie Johnson and with a foreword by Boris Johnson, her grandson

“It is wonderful to hear her voice again”
Boris Johnson

Alas Poor Johnny cover“Few people can have been less qualified than I was to become a farmer’s wife. Town bred, I had been groomed by my French mother for the diplomatic arena.”

In 1951 Buster Johnson moved from Surrey to Exmoor with her husband Johnny, four children, a couple of dogs and a vanload of pigs and poultry. Naturally gregarious, she exchanges a life of domestic servants and bridge parties for a remote and spartan existence at West Nethercote, a farm in the heart of Exmoor national park. Alas Poor Johnny, written some ten years later, is her vivid and fascinating account of their life there, and of farming on Exmoor in the fifties, told with a strong sense of drama and of the absurd.

The void left by her lost cultural and social pursuits becomes filled by the minutiae of everyday life, and by her husband Johnny and their four children. Above all, it is filled by the animals. These take the place of absent friends in her affections, their personalities permeating the book. There is a small but strong supporting cast, including busybody Mrs Stevens at the next door farm; Arthur the ex-cowman who moves with them from Surrey; SRN Tommie, the butt of an aggressive ram – and Alby the rabbit catcher, who plays the mouth organ and dances wild dances, enchanting the children. Finally, threading through all this with a glint of steel, is Johnny. He is her antithesis; strong and undemonstrative, generally preferring animals to people. Their relationship is the heart of the book.

Alas Poor Johnny is a first-hand account of life on a farm in the 1950s, written at the time but reading with the freshness of the present. It will appeal to anyone, whether interested in Exmoor and old farming practices, a lover of the countryside and of animals, or just wanting to cheer themselves up with a good story, well told. It is a delight to read, hugely funny and, at times, touching.

Buster and Johnny spent the rest of their lives at Nethercote. She died in 1987, without ever publishing her book. Her daughter Birdie, who herself lived there for many years, has now done so on her behalf. Boris Johnson, Buster’s grandson, has written a foreword.

Alas Poor Johnny…. Boris Johnson’s Grannyfesto

Alas Poor Johnny coverBoris Johnson announces his ‘Grannyfesto’ to a packed and appreciative audience of friends and family at the launch of Alas Poor Johnny, a memoir of life on an Exmoor farm written by his grandmother Buster (Granny Butter), Dulverton Town Hall, Easter Monday, 6 April 2015

“It is fair to say that no one in our family has much of a reputation for meeting copy deadlines – and indeed one of the reasons my brother Jo has had to zoom back to London this morning is that someone rang him before breakfast and reminded him that they needed 4000 words by 7pm for the Tory election manifesto – don’t worry – it’s going to be superb. 

But Granny Butter has today beaten all comers by producing her book not just late but fully 28 years after her death – to call her the late Granny Butter is an understatement, my friends – and it is a triumph. 

Her memoirs have been brilliantly edited by Birdie and every page of them evokes a world that has almost vanished – Exmoor in the 1950s. A world without television and the internet, a world without central heating and mains electricity. Where life is an elemental struggle to start the fire and light the tilley lamps and pull the cows from the bog and save the sheep from an appalling disease called blackleg, to which they invariably succumb.

And yet I am sure that Jo would agree with me that there is so much we can learn from this book. And in this tense pre-electoral period I believe it is time to cull the 10 key points and put them to the people.

Yes; here it is – the Grannyfesto.

1. Abolish VAT on hearing aids.

2. Apply to the UN for immediate recognition of the superior intelligence of rats, geese and other animals.

3. Create a fourth emergency service, staffed by volunteers, to perform that humanitarian function essential to any civilised society of pulling your husband, and his landrover, from the river when he has had one too many at the Royal Oak.

4. Institute forthwith an NHS for animals, funded out of general taxation, to help cope with the appalling and vaguely obscene consequences of terrier tail baldness.

5. Admit asylum seekers from Italy and other Eurozone disaster areas on the strict understanding they speak English and help with the lambing.

6. Bring back hunting to Exmoor. While always respecting the feelings, and indeed the wishes, of all animals involved.

7. Relax planning bureaucracy so that hard pressed hill farmers can build attractive tractor sheds for machines that ceased to function at least 20 years ago.

8. Negotiate an immediate opt out from all burdensome and intrusive EU legislation on vacuum cleaners and other electric appliances, because sometimes the wood is so wet that the only way to get the fire going is the old Electrolux on reverse thrust, and put it to the people in the form of an in-out referendum.

9. Make scrabble an Olympic sport, provided that joey with a small j is globally recognised as a valid term for a baby kangaroo.

10. Finally, above all, bring back MANNERS, in young people. So that they stand up when all grown-ups, particularly ladies, enter the room. And so that they eat crisps in the proper way, with a knife and fork, as Granny Butter was taught to do when she was brought up in the Pavillon du Barry, Versailles.

That is the Grannyfesto my friends, these are the ten key policies that I think will carry this country, or indeed any country, on May the 7th. If you seek any further elucidation it is all here in this wonderful book, for which we thank Granny Butter, as indeed we thank her for so much else. So well done Birdie on a brilliant job – and forwards to victory with Granny Butter.”

 

Alas Poor Johnny by Buster Johnson

Edited by Birdie Johnson, with a foreword by Boris Johnson

paperback £7.99 and ebook £3.99. For more information go to www.troubador.co.uk/shop

image001

Exmoor Literally: Pets Aplenty

FRONT COVER (422x640)

 

MY HEART BELONGS IN CULBONE.

by

Malcolm D. Welshman

Malcolm & Dora ((460x640)I’ve a special place in my heart for Exmoor, with its sweeping moorland vistas, rugged coast and villages steeped in history. My love for the area is all the more ardent as I was married in Culbone Church, that tiny jewel tucked into the cliff top to the west of Porlock. Often my mind floats back to that glorious sun-kissed  day in May of 1976 when Maxeen became my wife. So it’s an extra-special pleasure to be returning to the area for the Porlock Arts Festival 25-28th September where, on the Sunday, I shall be talking about my life with animals and how they have influenced my writing. Little did I realise when I signed Culbone’s register – only the 49th signature in the past 163 years – how varied and engaging my life would be as a vet over the next 30 years. From working at London Zoo, travelling across Africa in a truck, treating a camel and ostrich along the way, to escapades in a small animal hospital on the Sussex coast which formed the basis of my three pet novels. The first of those, Pets in a Pickle, has a foreword by James Herriot’s son and reached number two on Kindle’s bestseller list. My third, Pets Aplenty, published this August, continues the exploits encountered by my alter-ego, Paul Mitchell, and his relationship with Lucy, the junior nurse at the hospital. So far, it’s been very much an on-off romance. Readers of the earlier books have been keen to know how things might develop. Let’s just say that in the next book after Pets Aplenty, readers will be transported to a magical spot on the edge of Exmoor, drawn into a tiny church on the cliffs, while May blossom spirals confetti-like round a blissfully happy couple, echoing the scene of nearly forty years ago.

I’m a retired vet and author. My first novel, published by John Blake Publishing in May 2011, was Pets in a Pickle.  This has a foreword by James Herriot’s son and quotes by Sir Terry Wogan and Richard Madeley, amongst others. The ebook version reached number two on Amazon Kindle’s bestseller list. The second book in the series, Pets on Parade, was published April 2012.  The third,Pets Aplenty, will be published in the summer of 2014.

For further info: www.malcolmwelshman.co.uk

 

DATE FOR THE DIARY:  Meet Malcolm at the Porlock Arts Festival on 28 September 2014.

Memories of Exmoor: The Small Farmer

by David Hill

In the 1950s there weren’t the number of large farms there are today around Exmoor. By and large small farmers were the norm, and if you were farming land with an acreage of over a hundred acres you were considered a big farmer.

One Monday, dad sat down at the dinner table with a broad smile on his face, “Apt us should be having cold pork,” he said as he ladled out a large dollop of bean chutney, made from a recipe passed on to us from my two Methodist Sunday school teacher great aunts, who were really first cousins once removed. Before speaking again, he added the customary mountain of salt to the side of his plate.”Little Leslie have had an accident.”

I pricked up my ears. Little Leslie was a near neighbour and he was a little, short man.

“What sort of accident?” Asked mum. “It’s no smiling matter.”

“Just let’s say he’s a smaller farmer now than when he got up this morning. Out feeding the pigs when one upped and bit one of his fingers off.”

I wanted to ask which finger, but a look from my aged maiden aunt indicated she knew what I was thinking, and I thought better of it.

Grace was said, and dad, having heard the five to one weather forecast, turned off the wireless. “He was lucky,” continued dad.

“How do you make that out. He’ve just lost a finger,” added my aunt.

“Lucky the pig wasn’t really hungry, otherwise he might have eaten all of little Leslie and not just his finger,” laughed dad.

As mum and my aunt joined in the laughter I stared at my cold pork, my appetite not quite what it was, wondering to myself if the pig that I had eaten yesterday and was about to eat again today had ever chewed up a finger.

***

There are only fifty copies left of THE FARMHOUSE TREE now so that’s pretty good from  900 copies, and they should go quickly following the Radio Devon readings. My editor and publisher is thrilled and says it is very good for a small publisher.I’m thrilled because so far my two charities have each received £500. I owe my little primary school at Bishops Nympton so much.

Christopher Lillicrap, a children’s  TV presenter, will be reading five 6 minute extracts from my book THE FARMHOUSE TREE  on Radio Devon. Book of the month on The Judi  Spiers Show. First reading around ten past ten on March 21st and then on the next four consecutive Fridays at the same time.

You kindly did a feature on the book back along.

My royalty cheques have been sent to my old primary school at Bishops Nympton and Michael Morpurgo for the Farms for City Children.

Am now hard at work on, what will hopefully be, a  follow up book  – LEAVES FROM THE FARMHOUSE TREE. Have finished third, and hopefully final draft. Less sadness in this one,with more recollections of my aged maiden aunt and the life of a nine year old boy on the family farm Eastacott, at East Knowstone.It includes the tale of the two brothers who lived in a hen house and also my aged maiden aunt’s recipe for her yum-yum-pig’s-bum home made butterscotch which I wrote about in my first book. Up and coming article in Western Morning News is about the old smithy at East Knowstone.