Dabbling in the shallows . . .
When I sat down to write this my head was rattling with a series of questions:
If you sat opposite me on a long train journey (preferably on the Bluebell steam railway), what would make you want to get to know me better?
Why would you be interested?
How could I ensure you weren’t so bored by my company that you changed seats?
And I came to the conclusion that – as in all relationships – it will come down to your initial curiosity becoming spiked by shared interests. So, right now, here are the bare bones of who I am. We can explore my hidden depths together later.
All Bluebell steam railway photos courtesy of Ben Brooksbank
I was born behind the left-hand window of Sheffield Park station house. Now central to the Bluebell Line steam railway, it’s lovely to think that the place where I spent my early years will never be pulled down.
I guess I was about 3 here. The first – and last – time I have ever grinned unselfconsciously into a camera. Obviously a glorious day on Bexhill beach.
Once Sheffield Park became the Bluebell Railway’s headquarters, we moved to Sidley Station near Bexhill-on-Sea on the Sussex coast. Here is my family (before my sisters came along) dressed in our best in front of the rarely-used front door which faced down towards the allotments.
I call this photo: A Study in Seaside Alienation. I expect I was going through an uncooperative phase at the time. I like the way the modernist backdrop of the De La Warr Pavilion sets off my mood of dislocation.
The First World War and it’s aftermath features heavily in my fiction – in fact it is at the core of all my novels – and as we have recently commemorated the centenary, I thought I’d share some family photographs from that period. I don’t know who the young men are but they all bear a facial resemblance to my dad. I’m sorry to say I don’t know if any of them survived. You can read more about the Great War on my Research page.
And here are some of the women in my family from the same period. Again, I can’t put names to faces but they formed part of my great-uncle Arthur’s collection (Arthur Lissenden: variety theatre artist amongst other things. See below the photos for more evidence of his influence) so I am certain of the provenance:
You can find more of my inheritance from my great-uncle Arthur here:
Variety theatre: Chiswick Empire playbill 1927
Variety theatre: Ardwick Green Empire playbill 1927,
Variety theatre: Shepherds Bush Empire playbill 1927.
Variety theatre 1918 show in aid of St Dunstan’s
Music hall and all things theatrical, darling