Edna is a member of both DAWG, the Didsbrook Authors and Writers Group and DADS, the Didsbrook Amateur Dramatic Society. She is blessed with an unwavering self-belief that she is about to join the ranks of world-renown authors, convinced she is Didsbrook’s answer to J. K. Rowling, hence her rather suspect non-de-plume, E. D. Fowling. Edna is one of my favourite characters from The Doyenne of Didsbrook because every inch of her reminds me of one of Roy Clarke’s wonderful characters, Hyacinth Bucket.
Novels by Tessa Barrie
I would like to introduce you to the gin-swilling Miss Laverty, one of the characters from my first novel, Just Say It. The year is 1963, and my main protagonist, Lisa Grant, is four-years-old. Her mother, the self-centred Elizabeth, has hatched a plan with two families living down the road to employ a governess to teach Lisa and the neighbours’ young daughters.
He stopped his tirade and got up to pour himself a stiff whiskey and, realising he was trembling, knocked it back in one.
‘Damn you, Will! If we are going to make our marriage work, the least you can do is be civil to me. You’re widely regarded as being exceedingly bright. So, you should be able to work it out.’
‘Work out what?’ He turned to glower at her, and hissed ‘insufferable as well as insane,’ before slamming his glass down on to the drinks tray and poured himself another one.
‘The dates, Will, they don’t add up. Not with Jeremy anyway, and Grandbo only wants to walk a virgin up the aisle. He told me to get out when he found out I wasn’t.’ Elizabeth started to sob. ‘He was about to put his grandmother’s engagement ring on my finger. It’s a sapphire… the size of a quail’s egg. Oh, Will, I really thought he was going to be the one. Unfortunately, he’s not interested in marrying a woman with a desecrated hymen, let alone one carrying a developing foetus. My life is ruined, and I never wanted children, and it’s all your fault!’
A chick, in my book, is a baby chicken covered in downy, yellow feathers up until the age of 6-weeks. I’ve always bristled when the term is applied to young women, and I have always subconsciously disassociated myself from Chick lit, believing the genre to be driven by scantily clad, sex-driven female main characters. I couldn’t have been more wrong and, although I’m not a fan of categories, it’s time to reassess the genre I think I’ve been writing in.
‘Of course, men always look at the mother first to see if they are ageing well. Hopefully, you will age well, Lisa, dear, but that is one reason I always spend time making myself look as good as possible. Mind you, I look so young you and I could easily be sisters. I look at myself in the mirror every morning, and I find it impossible to believe that I’m thirty-six. On a bad day, I only look twenty-five. Unfortunately, you’ve inherited more of your father’s genes on the facial front. I think it’s fair to say you look more like him than me.’ The mention of her father sparked disinterest, and Lisa turned back to look at her typewriter.
This is the bittersweet story of the first four decades of Lisa Grant’s life. Growing up with her narcissist mother, Elizabeth, has a knock-on effect in her adult life. When she finds out the truth about her mother’s early life, can she find it in her heart to forgive Elizabeth for her appalling behaviour over the last forty years?
The first time they set foot on the parched earth of their new home and future source of income, it came as a shock. Dropped by taxi during the late afternoon, they stood like a pair of refugees, surrounded by their modest collection of baggage. They were both still under thirty, blond and, outrageously good looking. Two young men that you would expect to find on the front cover of Vogue magazine and not embarking on a seriously get-your-hands-dirty project.
HAPPY SATURDAY! I hope this finds you rude with health and feeling bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, which is not like Lisa Grant is feeling in today’s snippet from Just Say It! She has recently moved to London and is sharing a flat in Notting Hill with two school friends. Waking up the morning after her twenty-first birthday, which turned out to be one hell of a party, suffering from the KATZENJAMMER to end all KATZENJAMMERS.
After seventeen years apart, Lisa realises she is still in love with Jack, but after he misinterprets a fond farewell between Lisa and Rory, he flounces off home to NYC. This extract leads up to the agonising moment Jack realises he has got things horribly wrong. FEBRUARY 2000 Jack was holding the neck of an empty miniature …
There was always a distinct chill inside the cottage, which was responsible for the black clusters of mould marching across its walls like aggressive armies of Unsullied. It was impossible to heat. She ran the tips of her fingers across the top of the old storage heater in the kitchen. It had only just come on so she would keep her coat on a little longer and there was no point in lighting the fire in the living room as she was going out later. No significant other, so no candlelight dinner, but a night out with the girls, which would inevitably end up being pretty wild.
Jack put Lisa down gently on the spare bed in his sister’s room that she had used since she was a child, before kneeling down to study her face. She looked so vulnerable. Hypnotised by the rise and fall of her chest, the beat of his heart accelerated, taking him by surprise. The urge to lie down next to her and hold her in his arms was overwhelming. Why hadn’t he realised before that she was so beautiful?
‘How would I know Mother? I haven’t seen him for eleven years. But you can’t be serious? Why on earth would you want to look good for anybody interested in me? Is it some sort of sexual fantasy you have? I don’t have to dress up like a bloody tart to attract a man. I want somebody to love me for who I am and not what you look like! I’ve read The Female Eunuch, and I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. I also know what I want to do with my life, and I don’t have to dress up like a bloody Barbie doll to achieve it. For God’s sake, Mother, why do you always have to talk such bloody rubbish? I don’t have time to go clothes shopping and please, close the door on your way out.’
It’s just dawned on me that cows feature in both Just Say It and The Secret Lives of the Doyenne of Didsbrook. I grew up on a dairy farm, so maybe that’s the reason? My main character in Just Say It grows up on a farm with a herd of Dairy Shorthorn cattle, as I did. …
The reading of Arthur’s Will was expected to be straightforward and that he would dutifully leave his fortune to his grieving widow. A few minutes before her outburst, Lisa had been fighting to control her anger and Elizabeth, as usual, was the focus of her irritation. She’d arrived late, dressed like the Queen about to meet a head of state but, thankfully, not wearing a hat. She waited for the solicitor to pull up a chair for her and sat in wide-eyed anticipation waiting for the reading to start, whilst stifling the odd theatrical tear.
It is the 8th of October 1980, and it’s Lisa Grant’s twenty-first birthday. She has recently been reunited with her father, Will, who lays on a party for her at her favourite restaurant in Soho, Fanny’s Bistro. The tables are hastily rearranged to accommodate two uninvited guests, Lisa’s mother, Elizabeth and her lover, Jeremy. …
Lisa Grant is leaving the UK for good to live in The Algarve to work at father’s vineyard. Her car breaks down at Portsmouth where she bumps into old flame Rory who, fortunately for Lisa, is also headed for Portugal. Rory gallantly offers to drive Lisa there and they decide to take their time travelling through Spain and Portugal to do a bit of sightseeing.