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!

Date for the Diary: Simon Dawson at the Simonsbath Festival

Wednesday 11 May @ 7:30pm – St Luke’s Church

Simon Dawson

London Suits to Welly Boots

the true and funny story of how I accidentally fell in love with the Good Life

Following a drunken misunderstanding, Simon Dawson agreed to give up his Simon Dawson 1 London life and move to the wilds of Exmoor, where he and his wife Debbie started from scratch a 20 acre self sufficient smallholding, cram-packed with opinionated, characterful free-range animals. 

Simon is an author of several books including, The Self Sufficiency Bible and two comic memoirs, Pigs in Clover and The Sty’s the Limit. He is also a journalist and radio personality. He has cooked on TV with Gary Rhodes, appeared on Countryfile with Adam Henson and was featured in Ben Fogle’s New Lives in the Wild UK on Channel 5.

Simon Dawson 2For more details about Simon and Debbie please see the Hidden Valley Pigs website (external link).

Advance booking: £10 to reserve the seat of your choice; £5 for unreserved seating (£6 on the night); 14 year-olds and under free.

To book tickets and snacks please use the online form at Order Tickets or contact Marian Lloyd.

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

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Exmoor Memories: Summer on the Exmoor Coast

IMG_6677A.G. Bradley, “Exmoor Memories”

(first published in 1926)

 But Lynton, whether at the first boyish encounter, with its high, uplifting scenery, or at eighteen, when I had come to feel its attractions more deeply, was always my favourite place for these exhilarating trips. (…) Sometimes we took the rough moorland road, as it then was, turning off left-handed on the way to Simonsbath and heading across the open moor for Oare and Brendon, by Brendon Two-Gates, nowadays so familiar to tourists, and so down the glorious valley of the East Lynn. At other times we would take the Combe Martin road, and turning right-handed at Blackmore gate, in those days what its name portended, a turnpike, follow the coach road through Paracombe and on down the valley of the West Lynn. This was the route from Barnstaple for the comparatively small number of visitors that then found their way to Lynton. A long and hilly road of nearly twenty miles, over which agonised honeymooners from flat counties clung together on the coach roof as, with groaning brakes, it rocked down the steep hills, over loose stones and a stream-riven surface. Even Ilfracombe  had only as yet talked of a railroad.  Lynton had not even dreamed of such a thing. It would have seemed to us nothing short of sacrilege. (…)

What can one say of Lynton, or Lynmouth, that has not been told by pens innumerable since those old days of the ‘sixties? It is not so much the bold coast scenery, because that extends with equal, if intermittent grandeur all the way past Ilfracombe to Barnstaple Bay, and eastwards into Somerset, but rather those two lovely winding valleys, wrapped to their summits with foliage, and cloven by white streams foaming to the sea, which make it unique among English coast resorts.

Arthur Granville BRADLEY 1850-1943

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Exmoor Literally: Crowcombe Gate

By Caro Ness
(reblogged from her blog)

CROWCOMBE GATE

 

images-8Across the cattle grid and wind uphill,

Through ancient, twisting burr oak trees,

That unfurl above your head until

You reach the gorse and honey bees.

Here the heather starts to grow

In patches on the open moor,

Amidst ivy, balls of mistletoe,

And pine cones strewn on forest floor.

Wild ponies graze here, shy and quick202 Exmoor Foal

To move away from passers-by,

The woods are lush and they are thick,

So dense you cannot see the sky.

Ancient paths carve through this place,

Tracks that somehow man forgot,

You sense a timelessness and space,

Leading to some unknown spot.

Slopes drop very steeply down

Into a sparkling cobalt sea,

And high up there upon the crown

Of land, buzzards spiral lazily.

704 Peter French Red KiteFrom here on sun-drenched summer days,

A real tranquility prevails,

And if not for a smoky haze,

You’d see clear across to Wales.

This place is beauty at its best,

This is truly god’s own land,

This is calm and peace expressed

By Nature’s loving hand.

About Caro Ness

Caro Ness was born in Kingston, Jamaica but returned to England with her family at the age of 6 and has lived here ever since. All her working life she has been in the publishing industry as author’s agent, editor, rights director and author. Her second children’s book, THE OCEAN OF STORY, won the bi-annual Anne Izzard Award in the USA for an Outstanding Contribution to Storytelling. Her two books in Dorling Kindersley’s SECRETS OF… series have been translated into 19 languages and published in 21 countries. To date she has published, on both sides of the Atlantic, 3 adult non-fiction titles SECRETS OF ALEXANDER TECHNIQUE, SECRETS OF DREAMS and A SPACE FOR SILENCE/SPACES FOR SILENCE and four children’s books, LET’S GET A PUPPY, LET’S BE FRIENDS, THE OCEAN OF STORY and STAR SIGNS. She has also translated MOST AMAZING MAZES from Spanish for Liber Press and was instrumental in the publication of ISLAND IN THE SUN, by Harry Belafonte and Lloyd Burgess for A&C Black. She is now happily ensconced in Crystal Palace, London, in a beautiful home, with the love of her life…

You can follow Caro on Twitter

Exmoor Literally: All around the year

AATY Front cover

 

NEW BOOK BY POPULAR LOCAL AUTHOR

 

Liz Shakespeare 022The name of Liz Shakespeare has become well-known in the South-West as an author who brings to life the people and landscapes of Devon. Her first three books, The Turning of the Tide, Fever: A Story from a Devon Village and The Memory Be Green: An Oral History of a Devon Village are still selling well and she has now written a fourth book.

All Around The Year’ is a collection of twelve poignant stories, deeply rooted in the Devon landscape, and each linked to a month of the year from January through to December. The reader is transported from a sleepy village square to the wilds of Exmoor and from a summer beach to the narrow streets of a small Devon town, and introduced to a variety of memorable characters.

In January, a young Croyde surfer tries to come to terms with her uncertain future. As signs of spring appear in the hedgerows, a farmer’s wife starts a new venture. In August, a bereaved woman is deeply affected by an unexpected sight on Lynmouth beach. A Bideford man searches for a special Christmas present.
All are at a moment of reckoning in their lives as they experience the subtle but significant events that make up everyday experience. These stories of love and loss, of separation and reconciliation, stay with you throughout the year.

Liz has previously concentrated on historical research for inspiration, but this new collection is set in present-day Devon and brings to life characters that are so convincing, the reader soon feels that they are personal friends. Liz was born and brought up in Bideford and has a long Devon ancestry; she feels that the sense of being deeply rooted in the area has given her a good understanding of Devon and its people. For each story, she has created a character whose life is influenced by the landscape around them. With stories set in North, South and Mid-Devon, All Around The Year is sure to be popular throughout the South-West and beyond.

Liz will be signing copies of her books at the Appledore Summer Festival on August 3rd, at Everything Westward in Westward Ho! on Sunday August 4th, in the Crafts and Gifts Marquee at the North Devon Show on August 7th, and at Waterstones, Barnstaple on Saturday August 24th from 11.00 – 2.00. She will be giving readings at a special evening event at Walter Henry’s Bookshop, Bideford (booking essential as space is limited) on August 15th.

Readers can buy Liz’s books from their local bookshop, from www.lizshakespeare.co.uk or post-free by sending their name, address and a cheque for £8.99 made payable to Letterbox Books at The Old Post Office, Littleham, Bideford EX39 5HW.

 

Title: All Around The Year

Author: Liz Shakespeare

Publisher: Letterbox Books

ISBN: 978-0951687932

Pages: 144

Price: £8.99

Publication date: 01-08-2013

Available from: www.lizshakespeare.co.uk and from bookshops.

Contact Liz Shakespeare on 01237 471165, 07944507005 or liz.shakespeare@virgin.net

Follow Liz on Twitter @LizShakespeare