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Archive for the tag “wartime”

THE OTHER SIDE OF THE STREET

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Big news today! My new novel, THE OTHER SIDE OF THE STREET, comes out.

Published by Headline Books in the UK, Europe and Commonwealth, and by TSAP in the USA and some other territories, THE OTHER SIDE OF THE STREET is my fifth Lavender Road novel, and like its predecessors it can be read as a stand alone, or as part of the series.

THE OTHER SIDE OF THE STREET is mainly set in London in 1944, and as well as the inevitable problems of war, one of the themes this time is about someone (Louise Rutherford) trying to become a better person. That is never an easy thing to do, especially perhaps in wartime, and when Louise finds that she has to join the ATS, the Women’s section of the British Army, things become even more difficult for her.

I love writing about the Second World War. For me it is a fascinating period of history. So much happened in those eventful years, even for those who weren’t actually fighting. With almost constant Luftwaffe bombing, plus Hitler’s V1 and V2 revenge missiles, people on the Home Front were also in considerable danger. I have always been impressed by the extraordinary courage and resilience that people showed at that time, and I think, more than anything else, that is what has always drawn me to the period Putting characters in difficult circumstances is always interesting, and for the posh, pretty, somewhat self-centred young widow, Louise, the grim realities of as ATS training camp come as a nasty shock!

I very much hope you enjoy reading THE OTHER SIDE OF THE STREET, and as always, if you have the time or the inclination to pop a review of this or any other of my books on Amazon, that would be great. It all helps enormously!

To find out more about any of my books do visit the Books page above.

All best wishes, and Happy Reading,

Helen

To celebrate the launch of THE OTHER SIDE OF THE STREET in the USA, all the American eBook editions of Helen’s books have been given a new look covers.

us covers launch

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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WW2 in pictures

babies in shelter

Underground maternity unit – note babies on shelf!

During my research for my second world war Lavender Road novels I’ve come across some extraordinary photos. I sometimes share these on Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest, but I realised I haven’t shared many of them with my Blog readers yet.

Some of them relate directly to my novels, some of them don’t. But they all give a flavour of that incredible time when people (and animals) in Britain were struggling to survive under extremely difficult and dangerous circumstances.

Here are just a few …

 

war carrots on sticks

Tough times for children too

 

farringdon market V1

Keep calm and carry on

 

bombed library

Keep reading ….

 

ats with princess

Do you recognise the ATS girl centre back (the only one sitting on a chair)? Yes, it’s Princess Elizabeth – our current Queen!

 

balham tube station bus

The Balham Bomb, 1940

 

wvs rifle practise

WVS rifle drill

 

eton ww2

Eton rifle drill!

 

untitled

Nurses disembarking in Normandy soon after D’Day

 

wartime pet

Battersea Dogs Home trying to rehouse dogs orphaned in the bombing

 

dog and soldiers

Awww!

 

This is just a small selection – more to follow in due course …

 

 

Helen Carey’s new novel LONDON CALLING is now available at Amazon and in all good bookshops.

WARTIME CHRISTMAS

Snoopy xmas cardThis is just a quick message to wish a Happy Christmas to all my lovely blog followers.

I can’t believe another year has nearly gone by. It’s been an up and down year for me. I signed my new amazing book contract with Headline Books in the early part of the year. Then almost immediately after that my mother died. We had looked after her for eleven years so it was a terrible sadness for us, and left a big hole in our lives.

It took me a while to be able to get back to writing, but now I’m glad to report that my latest contracted novel, the fifth in my LAVENDER ROAD series, is coming along well.

And once again I can’t help comparing what life was like at Christmas in London during the war years.

In 1942 there were very few fresh turkeys or chickens to be had for love, money, or food coupons! And of course there were no frozen ones either. In my next novel, LONDON CALLING, which is being published in February, one of my characters preserves a gifted turkey in salt ready for Christmas Day!

The best most people could manage for their festive lunch was a chicken and dumpling pie. Sugar, suet and dried fruit was in short supply too, so Christmas puddings were either very small or non existent.

Toy shops were pretty much bare of everything and fathers found themselves making toys and/or dolls from salvaged bits and pieces. One old lady I spoke to told me of a treasured necklace she had been given by her fiancé made from cherry stones!

Crackers and paper hats were often made out of newspaper, and if you fancied a tipple, the likelihood was that your local pub would have asked you to bring your own glass!

The British government wanted people to give each other War Bond savings vouchers as gifts and the Red Cross encouraged people to ‘Adopt a Prisoner of War’ (rather in the same way as people sponsor endangered wild animals nowadays!)

This year, in the UK alone, millions have already been spent on gifts for pets. In 1942 it was illegal even to put breadcrumbs out for the birds.

So there you go – enjoy the festivities, and remember to relish your freedom, your food and your gifts – and don’t forget to raise a glass to all the stalwart souls (like my characters in LAVENDER ROAD) of 1939 – 1945 who made it possible!!

 

*Helen Carey’s new novel LONDON CALLING will be published by Headline on 25th February 2016. It is now available for pre-order on Amazon.*

Time flies?

Nearly everyone I meet at the moment comments on how quickly this year has gone. At first I thought it was an age thing. But then my teenage niece (great niece actually, but I don’t dwell on that!) said the same thing. The old adage says that time flies when you are enjoying yourself. In that case, everyone I know must be having a very jolly time.

And then I began to wonder if people felt the same sense of time passing too fast during the Second World War. But I can find no mention of it in wartime diaries or letters. On the contrary, there are lots of comments about how slowly everything was progressing; the interminable Blitz, the endless backwards and forwards of the North African campaign, the pitifully slow Allied crawl up through Italy, and the long wait for the invasion of France.

If the old adage is right then the obvious conclusion is that people were not enjoying themselves. But, however odd it may seem, much of the evidence says they were.

Indeed many of the people I have talked to during my research look back on the war years with fondness and a sense of nostalgia. Yes, unbearably awful things happened, friends and family were lost, people suffered horrendous ordeals, privation and tragedy, but on the other side of the coin there was a sense of comradeship, both on the home front and on the battlefield, of being in it together. There was also a life affirming sense of surviving difficult odds, and of playing a part in a great struggle for justice and freedom. A Hungarian doctor attending survivors of the bombing of the Bank underground shelter said afterwards, ‘If Hitler could have been there for five minutes with me, he would have finished this war. He would have realised that he has got to take every Englishman and twist him by the neck – otherwise he cannot win.’ Another old Londoner who had been bombed out of his house was asked if he wanted to be evacuated. ‘No,’ he replied. ‘Nothing like this has ever happened before and it will never happen again. I wouldn’t miss it for all the tea in China.’

Nevertheless, it is clear that everyone was longing for the war to end. And perhaps it is the act of waiting for something that makes time go more slowly. Maybe nowadays, in our quick, convenient, instantly gratifying world, we lack that sense of expectation and anticipation. It is rare that we have to wait very long for anything.

I certainly know that some of my fans feel they have waited quite long enough for the next novel in my wartime Lavender Road series.

But it is finished and will be published next year. It’s called LONDON CALLING and takes the story up to Christmas 1943. I am so sorry it has taken so long, but I hope it will give you something to look forward to and perhaps make the intervening time pass a little more slowly!!

Snoopy xmas card

Does all this constant judging spoil our pleasure?

not judgingYesterday I had a brief telephone conversation with a young customer service person at my bank. Afterwards I had to rate the poor boy 1-5 on a number of criteria, his speed of response, his effectiveness with dealing with my query, his general helpfulness, his manner, and whether I would recommend him to my friends.

Returning to the edit of my latest wartime novel (yes, it is coming soon!), I reflected that nobody in 1943 was ever asked to rate anything, never asked to mark a customer service operative out of 5, (5 being delirious, 1 being disappointed) never asked to give a star rating, or to fill out a satisfaction form.

My research indicates that most of the petty frustrations of life in those days were either accepted with a kind of gritty resignation, or firmly laid at Adolf Hitler’s door. Nobody expected too much. Rationing and privations inevitably made perfection difficult to achieve. Queues and delays prevailed. But people were prepared, eager even, to try to enjoy what pleasures they could find. Shows were well attended despite ragged costumes and bomb-damaged sets. Restaurants served dull, utility meals, but it was still a treat go eat out. And holidays consisted of a week in a strict, under heated guest house, where you had to be out of the building between 10 and 5, whatever the weather. Nobody minded. Or if they did, they didn’t feel obliged to say.

It is so different for us. We all spend so much time assessing and critiquing, I sometimes think we have forgotten about enjoying.

We are so used to giving star ratings or marks for customer service, utilities, television programmes, hotel rooms, books, holidays, products and contestants on TV shows, that we are quick to notice when things fail to come up to our exacting standards.

Instead of relishing a meal out, we are wondering what Michel Roux might think of it. We have been programmed to expect so much that almost everything is a disappointment. There are a few ‘Fab-u-lous’es but they are few and far between, outweighed by the frequent longing to say ‘You’re fired’ to irritating waiters, salesmen, public servants or doctors.

But I am doubtful whether this critical thinking really helps to make anything better. It certainly doesn’t make us any happier. Especially when it transfers, as it inevitably does, to things that probably shouldn’t be judged, like friendships, colleagues, people in our community, our family.

The mantra of the war was that everyone pulled together. That may or may not be true, but what is certainly true is that people expected less. They hadn’t been influenced by endless soap operas to fight with their neighbours, nor to find fault with their friends and families. Perhaps as a result, communities were tighter, and friendlier. The war helped of course. They really were all in it together. But in a sense so are we. Maybe the time has come when we should try to expect a bit less and to enjoy a bit more!

Any chance of a vote?

WAAP0-123Just to let you know that my second world war novel, ON A WING AND A PRAYER, has bobbed up as a finalist in the eFestival of Words ‘Best Historical Fiction’ section.

ON A WING AND A PRAYER is the third in my London wartime LAVENDER ROAD series. It covers the period 1941-1942 and follows the lives of the people living in Lavender Road through that eventful year, leading to the German occupation of Vichy France and the blowing up of the French Fleet in Toulon harbour. One of the key characters in this novel is Helen de Burrel who, having joined the SOE, soon finds herself in difficult circumstances. As she faces up to the rigours of war and the treachery of her colleague, she realises she may have to make a tragic decision, between her country and her love.

I’m obviously delighted to be shortlisted for this award – it is particularly nice that this has happened without me knowing anything about it!!

The only thing is (and there is no point in beating about the bush!) … now I need people to vote for it …

I’m so sorry, I know my heart sinks when anyone asks me to vote for anything, but if you had two minutes I would be so grateful if you would cast a vote? It really is pretty quick and easy.

This is how you do it:

Go to: http://www.efestivalofwords.com/2014-finalists-for-best-of-the-independent-ebook-awards-t513.html
I’m afraid you have to register first, (click on the tiny ‘register’ box at the top of the page,) but it is very easy, just the usual user name/email address business.
Then you go back to the original page, or re-enter the address in your browser, find On a Wing and a Prayer in the ‘Best Historical Fiction’ section, and …. vote!!

THANK YOU SO MUCH!

For anyone who hasn’t yet read ON A WING AND A PRAYER, you can find it at viewBook.at/B006OUEUDI.

Italy is …

capenaI was thinking about writing a piece about recent trip to Italy (to research my next wartime novel) but my lovely husband Marc Mordey has summed it up so well in this poem, he has saved me the effort! Find more of his work at http://themarcistagenda.wordpress.com

Italy is:

Sunlight slicing the morning apartment
Gracing the piazza too,
Streaming over the crimson and cream banners.
Caressing cappuccino coffee cups,
And lighting the way for the young baristas to be
Who are hawking cups of rosemary water,
Whilst bric a brac trembles in the spring wind.

It’s Antonella’s pasta with fennel
And basking in her salted, amber glowing cellar,
Graced by Roberto’s gentle, courteous conversation
It’s Crodino, Americano, cat motifs, cornettos,
And Enrica’s charming welcome.

It is you and I dozing alongside the Tiber
As it flows greenly by,
Kingfishers calling,
A chestnut cob rolling in a dust bath
Amidst the sylvan spring countryside.
Smoke whisping through the olive groves,
And a farmer raking fresh mown grass.

It is forcing ourselves up vertical cobbled streets.
Sipping lemon soda on a tiny terrace.
Being amazed at the crazed musings and meandering
Of medieval planning.
A Moroccan lamp catching the sunlight
Above a dusty wood bandaged and padlocked door.
Madonnas and St Francis sitting serenely in relief
Above ancient archways.
And it is pistachios purchased in the lee of history.

Italy is lakes and splendour
Fettuccine and ravioli consumed
High above the water,
Local white wine honeyed and soft.
The Italian Airforce museum, and
Planes hurled aloft.

It is gambling with hectic traffic in Tivoli.
The mossed water delights of the Villa d’Este,
Intense, green chiselled pleasure gardens.
A bride, beside the Cypress pencilled skyline.
Wild cyclamen, purple flag irises,
Gargoyles, monumental architecture,
Dwarfing statues and confusing the gods.

It is Hadrian’s Villa
The insistent clamour of modernity,
Juxtaposing
The silenced weight of the ages,
Muffling the shadow stained ruins.
Pierced by the delight of children, untroubled by time,
Yet to become their own slight slice of history.
The might of erstwhile empire
Captured by omnipresent electronic aids.
A terrapin floating serenely in the great pool
No carping about the past there.

Italy is an ice cream diet.
Being woken by words at 5 in the morning,
Grappa fuelled brain stumbling.
An early evening promenade,
A carousel in the park,
Evening’s silky silence, punctuated by footballing children
Twisting, tumbling.
The gossip and smoke of their elders.
The riot of oranges, artichokes, tomatoes
Pastries, flatbreads, pizza slices and olives.
Wine stained plastic bottles
Peroni filled shelves.
Hustling bustling restaurants,
And a woman gently selling Chinese novelties.

Italy is:

The curling call of the hoopoe,
Pining in Farnese woodland.
The sonorous symphony of church bells,
And the threading road
That laces up to the Palazzo Farnese,
Cluttered and steeped with mourners,
Gathered, sombre coated and 10 rows thick
Though not for that, once great family,
Now extinct,
Who left us frescoes and blue gold maps of the world –
The impressions of exploration –
The vulgarity of GPS yet to be discovered.

It’s you in new Ray Bans,
Gracing my movie,
Dreaming downstairs.
Giving me,
As only you know how,
La Dolce Vita.

It’s life, vigour, the weight of history
For this one week
It’s the street where we live
Carpe Capena
Pot planted and balconied,
Lamplit and almond blossomed,
Monastic, mosaiced and modern.

It’s the joy of today,
Of spring and of sunshine
Balanced, cushioned and unclouded.

Italy is – a holiday.

wearing my poppy with pride

I’ve had terrible trouble with my poppy this year. The first one’s stalk broke within ten minutes. I replaced it with a stick-on one which had disappeared before I had even got home. The third one fell to bits today as I put on my coat after a delicious lunch in a tapas bar  (aubergine stuffed with pine nuts, fresh anchovies, a warm beetroot salad and tortilla). As I scrabbled under the tables to retrieve the various bits, the cardboardy red flower, the flimsy leaf and the black centre button, I heard someone mutter, ‘Why do you bother?’

Straightening up I glanced at him, wondering whether he meant why did I bother rescue the poppy pieces, or why did I bother wear one at all. I was tempted to say that I bothered because, whatever the rights and wrongs of it, young men just like him had died fighting in wars. But my friends were waiting at the door and I didn’t want to get into a big discussion (and judging by the look of him it wouldn’t have been a fruitful discussion anyway). So I just smiled apologetically and left. Later of course I wished I had said something.

Several years ago we spent a week in Sicily with some friends. Before setting off we happened to visit my elderly aunt who reminded me that her brother Basil (my uncle, a  wartime glider pilot) had died during the invasion of Sicily in 1943 and was buried in Siracusa.  ‘It would be so lovely if you could go and put some flowers on his grave,’ she said and we promised that we would if we could.

Unfortunately when we arrived in Sicily we discovered that we were staying right at the other end of the island. ‘It’s too far,’ we said to each other. ‘It would take hours to drive all over there.’

But we felt guilty – after all my uncle had sacrificed his life and we wouldn’t sacrifice one day of our holiday. So we decided to go.

It took us seven hours solid driving to get from from Capo San Vito to Siracusa. (Sicily is somewhat bigger than it looks on the map.)

We arrived at about three in the afternoon, bought two bunches of flowers and made our way to the cemetery.

We were completely unprepared for the emotion that hit us. Lines and lines of small white headstones, each engraved with a young man’s name. We found my uncle’s grave quite easily, it was in the front row. Capt Basil Beazley, 29 years old.

The glider assault had been a disaster. They were launched from too far out to sea and the winds were too strong. Most landed in the water, some even crashed into Mount Etna. Military planning at its worst. Those young men must have known their chances were slim, but they did it anyway. Amazingly my uncle survived the landings but was killed later trying to hold a crucial bridge.

Seven hours later we arrived back at the villa in the pitch dark. ‘Did you have a good day?’ Our friends asked as we staggered in.

We looked at each other. For some reason I wasn’t on the car insurance so my partner (now husband) had had to drive the whole way. ‘Oh yes,’ I said. ‘We drove for seven hours, cried for twenty minutes and then drove seven hours back again!’

But it had been worth it.

We had picked up some pebbles and a bit of dry earth from the grave and when we gave these to my aunt a few weeks later she cried too. ‘I still miss him so much,’ she said.

That’s why I rescued my poppy.

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