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My point of view

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My personal views on life and things that make me think twice.

To find out more about me and my work, please visit me at: www.ianashley.co.uk

10 Things a Writer Shouldn’t Do When Driving

Pen to Paper Posted on Thu, October 16, 2014 07:02PM

Writer beware! It’s a very
distracting business Part II

10 Things a Writer Shouldn’t Do When
Driving

Stop at accident
scenes

Unless you are a qualified medical professional it is not
nice to be seen elbowing your way through the rescue teams with your note book
in hand crying ‘let me through I’m a writer!’ Other people will not understand
that you might need a car crash scene one day and even dead people have
relatives and lawyers.

Look for possible
character inspiration whilst passing bus stops.

At best this could be seen as kerb crawling. If you do it
whilst the schools are coming out then it’s seen as something much worse.
Society will be quick to judge and so will the police especially if you have a
bag of sweets in the glove compartment and a One Direction CD.

Wind down your
window in times of stress

Of course all writers are human but yelling ‘arsehole!’ at a
pedestrian who has stepped in front of your car is ok for other people, but not
for you. Home town book signings are fraught with enough danger without a loud pointy
finger going ‘That’s the one!’ The same goes for parking bay disputes. ‘Local
writer in family bay slapping ’ may seem trivial to you but remember Mumsnet?
It’s not all cupcakes and willy-washing you know – some of their conversations are
quite serious.

Slow down and
follow an interesting looking person.

Not only is this allied to kerb crawling, especially at
night, but some people have weak hearts and might find it stressful. You may
call it an accident. A judge might view it as manslaughter. In which case carry
a weapon, preferably a sharp one, then you can plead social deprivation and
you’ll get away with it.

Try out dialogue
when stopped at traffic lights.

This one is probably not going to get you arrested as you
could be talking hands-free. But put yourself in a reader’s shoes. How many of
us have witnessed an in-car mobile phone conversation and thought – ‘bet
they’re a writer’? Not many. Most people will just think you have mental health
issues because that’s exactly what it looks like.

See driving as an
ideal time to try out that creative writing exercise.

Experiencing sensory deprivation may help with your
descriptive passages but do you need to know what flying through a windscreen smells
like, tastes like, sounds like? I’d say not. But you do need to look where you
are going. At all times please.

Write

I think that’s clear enough don’t you?

Have eureka
moments whilst approaching roundabouts.

Other drivers may not share your joy at finally working out
how the body got into the suitcase and who put it there. They are only aware
that traffic from the left is supposed to stop. Executing a sharp turn across
two lanes because you’ve just realised you were in the wrong lane won’t win you
any friends either.

Talk to others
about your book whilst behind the wheel.

After 200 miles you might still be blinded by your own
brilliance. Your passengers will just feel trapped, especially if your car has
child proof locks. If it doesn’t then assisted suicide is still an offence. You
have been warned.

Take advantage of
hitchhikers

Nothing sexual here, but not everybody with a mobile device
wants to log on to Amazon and buy your book immediately. Allow them to say
‘later’, and leave it at that. Threatening to abandon them on a lonely country
road during a thunderstorm may get you a sale but it’s also likely to get you a
1* review.

… I know it’s hard but
do try and leave the writer behind the desk when you’re behind the wheel. After
all I may be coming the other way with a knotty plot issue of my own….



Writer Beware! It’s a very distracting business.

Pen to Paper Posted on Thu, October 09, 2014 07:03PM

Writer Beware! It’s a very distracting business.

Ten reasons why writing and cooking do not go together (
unless you’re Mary Berry)

1)
The time it takes for your toast to turn to
charcoal under the grill, set off all your smoke alarms in your building and evacuate
the neighbours is exactly the same time it takes to post that extra tweet or
send an e-mail. Keep your eye on one or the other. The people on the top floor
will appreciate the sacrifice.

2)
Either its research or you’re just boning a ham.
Be very clear in your own mind which one you’re doing because unless you are an
established thriller writer or a trained chef you’d be surprised how much
concentration it takes to be a successful serial killer and keep all your
fingers.

3)
Bread making and resolving plot lines do not
necessarily go together. By the time you’ve resolved Lady Connie’s Dilemma or
rescued the Prime Minister from the clutches of a band of hard-core terrorists you’ve
probably knocked all the air out of the dough which is fine if you like surprise
pitta bread. Not so good if you were aiming for breakfast rolls.

4)
Setting things on a lowlight is great for the
first thousand words. Despite what you may think anything more than that will
require you to get up and give the pot a stir. Note – even copper based pans
will melt at some point.

5)
You can still type when you’ve overdosed on caffeine
whereas icing cakes requires a steady hand. The two skills are not always
interchangeable at three in the morning with a cake sale deadline looming.

6)
And just because you stayed up till 3am writing
the kids will still need breakfast at seven. Throwing them a packet of biscuits
isn’t judged to be good parenting even in creative households. If you can’t
manage to fry bacon with one eye closed manage their disappointment in you by writing
a scary piece about infant cholesterol levels and staple it to a packet of
cereal where they are bound to see it.

7)
Remember that food processors have lids for a
reason. Liquidising anything whilst pondering syntax and predicate is just
asking for trouble.

8)
Mary
Berry’s Victoria Sponge has its own plot. Just because you can tinker with
yours at will, leave hers well alone to avoid disappointed faces around the tea
table. Substituting pesto for raspberry jam may not pan out in real life. There
are no re-writes where cake mix is concerned.

9)
Depending on your typing speed you only have two
to three hundred words between al dente and mush. If you are making spaghetti then
that is what you are doing. If you must finish chapter six opt for a pot
noodle.

10)
Finally – you can switch off a lap top and
that’s that, done. On the other hand most labour saving devices in the kitchen
require intense hours of dismantling and rebuilding. So unless you’re planning
a ‘How To…’ book, buy ready meals and use the microwave. Even if you forget to
pierce the lid a quick wipe with a dish cloth is usually all it takes to get
you back to the keyboard in record time.



Getting a title that works for you Part II

Pen to Paper Posted on Mon, September 08, 2014 03:37PM

Getting a title that work for you Part II

In our previous quest to find a
title that works I looked at some past and present choices that could have led
to a very different career outcome for some of our most celebrated authors.

This time I’m taking a light hearted
look at the practical things we can all do to help us get that perfect title on
the cover.

Critique Groups.

There are people who swear by them but let me add a word of caution here.
Firstly jealousy, even at the amateur level is a dangerous thing so they might
try to scupper your chances at the first opportunity with a duff title.
Secondly if Louella has written five very different, unpublished novels all
called, ‘Love Beneath a Full Moon’ then maybe her suggestions just merit a tactful
smile. And avoid George at all costs. Remember how every one of his short
stories has the word ‘bondage’ in the title? Unless you would trust these
people with your very soul, stay quiet, go home and work on your own. And in
the case of George, always get a ride back with a friend.

Start with the genre.

Even the successful writers we love to hate didn’t get that way by accident.
Yes they may have massive marketing departments behind them and we don’t but by
the time you’ve finished that first draft you should have a very clear idea
which shelf your work sits on. So do your research. What do other writers in
your field call their books? Is there a common thread? Perhaps there is a genre
style, a short hand for fans that says, ‘you’ll love this one too!’ And how
long are the titles? One word? Two words? Lyrical? Punchy? Flowery? Are they to
the point like the label on a can of beans? If it’s called ‘Marriages Made in
Hell’ can we look forward to reams of domestic abuse and drudgery?

Think about your story.

What is the story about? If Jan loves Arthur, Pat loves Chris and Mary loves
Virginia there’s a lot love out there especially if they all live happily ever
after. But if Arthur dies or Pat shoots Chris or Mary and Virginia are abducted
by aliens you are suddenly in very different territory. So think about themes,
motivations, relationships and resolutions. What are these things telling you?
Write them down.

Now make a list of key words.

Having reminded yourself of the bare bones of what you’ve written, what
words spring to mind? These won’t make a title just yet but they will serve as
triggers. Just do not dismiss ones that seem at odds with the subject at first
glance. Think grit, oysters and pearls. Imagine you have written something
truly horrific and the word ‘beauty’ appears on your list. In that context the
contrast has a frisson all of its’ own that could work for your prospective
reader.

Atmospherics

I will readily confess to buying the Carlos Ruiz Zafon masterpiece ‘The
Shadow of the Wind’ simply because of the title. Winds are generally shivery
old things and the fact that this one was casting a shadow promised that I was
going to be taken somewhere dark and haunted. But haunted by what? It was a
book that just had to be bought. So is your atmosphere cosy? Is it chilling? Is
it bleak? Then edit your word list in the same way you edited your manuscript.
Which ones really work? Which ones do not?

Playtime

Try putting words together. Contrast them. Match them. Create families then
break them up. Be brave. This is just you, your desk lamp and a pen. Nobody is
watching. For heaven’s sake you’ve told all your friends that you’re writing a
novel so they already think you’re weird anyway. At this stage you have nothing
to lose and everything to gain because some of those groupings will leap off
the page telling your story in two or three words.

Brainstorm

Ok now you can go for it. You know you wanted to all along. Bearing in mind
your genre research guidelines pick a group of words and start scribbling. One
tip, the more you storm the more creative you get. It’s like falling in a
river. If you can’t swim you’ll soon become pretty proficient after swallowing
a gallon or so of water. Most of us are left-brain dominant by conditioning.
It’s what gets us through the day unscathed. Some people are naturally
right-brainers and find this bit easy to do. If you’re a ‘lefty’ you’ll be
surprised how different your first choice and your sixtieth choice are. You
haven’t gone mad, it’s just your brain switching over and accessing its’
creative side. Don’t worry. You’re not leaving home, just popping next door for
a visit.

Google.

It’s there so why not use it? You might be surprised. It could already be
the name of an adult movie so it’s always wise to check especially if you’re
aiming at the under 16’s market. Irate parents crashing your website are best
avoided and Facebook can be a very cruel and lonely place once the dribbling
gibbering troll- hounds are unleashed.

Finally – Things Legal

Under current UK law you can copyright your work but not your title. As it’s
a short piece it apparently does not count as intellectual property despite the
man/woman hours you put in trying to create it. However do not rush off and
Harry Potter your latest offering. Titles can be trademarked and JKR has wisely
done that with all of hers as have many others. Sadly it costs money. I was
quoted £175.00, so maybe not just yet…

…Incidentally, ‘Dead, Buried & Back’ became ‘Dead, Back& Dangerous’
and I got home safely from the right hand side of my brain without once
resorting to Sat Nav. So as they say, or in the case of Leo Tolstoy, almost
said, ‘all’s well that ends well’ even when it comes to choosing a perfect
title.



Getting a title that works for you Part I

Pen to Paper Posted on Mon, September 08, 2014 03:35PM

Getting a title that works for you Part I

Somewhere between that first word and the last full stop you’ve been
contemplating the title for your latest work. Short story, novella, play or
novel they all have to have one. That much we do know. But anyway all the hard
work is done now. You can sit back and relax can’t you? Pour that gin and
tonic. Be amazed at how tall the kids have grown since you last paid them any
attention. It’s there. It’s done. Unfortunately it’s not. The title page is
still blank.

So where to start? I must confess some form of OCD drives me to a panic
about titles before I’ve even hit the keyboard. But then that could just be
personal to somebody who Googles directions despite having Sat Nav in the car.
However having toiled for months under the banner of ‘Dead, Buried & Back’,
as the follow on to ‘Bell, Book & Handbag’, I’ve just discovered it belongs
to a horror movie website. So I’m thinking again. Thinking and envying the
‘greats’ who obviously scribbled away with a perfect title in mind. But did
they?

It doesn’t take much imagination to picture Jane Austen flinging down her
quill, popping the barely dry manuscript of ‘Pride and Prejudice’ in the post
and sprinting back home to get dinner on. Perhaps it was such a red letter day
that the idea for ‘Mansfield Park’ came to her as she mashed the potatoes.
However you do wonder if she would have earned much more than the cost of a new
shawl had she stuck to her guns and sent it off still called ‘First
Impressions’.

Or how about F Scott Fitzgerald? Did he push back his chair and announce to
Zelda that Gatsby was finished? And did she mutter, ‘great’? After all he’d
been boring her rigid with ‘Trimalchio in West Egg’ for weeks on end. And was
it Carol Steinbeck and not John who thought calling a novella, ‘Something that
Happened’ wasn’t going to put enough bread on the table to feed the mice let
alone the men? Even George Orwell’s publisher took a tactful route. He said
something like, ‘Indeed George, ‘The Last Man in Europe’ has a ring to it but
err…remind me…what year is it set in?’

You see, having recently struggled with landing on a title, I found all this
very encouraging. To me finding out Peter Benchley wrote, ‘The Terror of the
Monster’ when all along he meant to write ‘Jaws’ was good news. Knowing that
Leo Tolstoy, no doubt feeling a little bruised after all those names , happily
alighted on ‘All’s Well That Ends Well,’ before second guessing and finally
sealing the envelope on ‘War and Peace’ didn’t exactly help , ( Dead, Buried
& Russian? Maybe not) but it did make me feel better.

Of course sometimes the change of mind works in our favour. Little did
Virginia Wolfe know that when she screwed up, ‘The Hours’ and opted for ‘Mrs
Dalloway’ instead, the contents of her waste paper basket would give Michael
Cunningham the perfect title for his own novel many years later.

So despite basking in the rosy glow of other people’s failures it still
meant I was left with an untitled first draft and unless yours came to you in a
dream, carved in stone by unseen hands on a lonely mountain top, you’ve
probably been there too. I’m not saying that cannot happen. I’m just saying
it’s more likely that it didn’t. I’m also saying there are some steps we can
follow to get us out of that hole.

First of all, no matter how divinely inspired ‘A First Novel’ might seem, as
a title it is going to need some work. What does a title have to do? It has to
draw your readers hand to the shelf. Of course you could go straight to default
and brainstorm. There is nothing wrong with that except it is easy to get side
tracked by something catchy that bears no relation to the contents it is
describing. ‘Bell, Book & Handbag’ was originally going to be called
‘Marriages Made in Hell’ until a little bird told me that only one person got
married and it was a happy occasion. So no matter how good our brainstorming
abilities may be some of us need a little more structure to hang our thoughts
on….

Next time in Part II we take a light hearted look at some practical applications we can all follow.



International reviews for Bell, Book & Handbag

Pen to Paper Posted on Mon, September 01, 2014 07:13PM

International Reviews for Bell Book & Handbag

4.0
out of 5 stars A FUN ROMP

By
Lynn F (Rochester MN USA)

This
review is from: Bell, Book & Handbag (Kindle Edition)

Two
old ladies in a retirement community, one with a checkered past and one a
pillar of the community, add a few unnatural deaths and the walking dead, a
seance or two, and stir. Trust me, you will laugh.

5.0
out of 5 stars an engaging, fun read., June 20, 2013

This
review is from: Bell, Book & Handbag (Kindle Edition)

By Kiwi (NZ)

Just
when I thought that modern writers did not now how to write in a fun, camp
manner Ian Ashley came along. I loved the characters and the plot. I hope Mr
Ashley writes more books!

4.0
out of 5 stars Bell,book & Handbag, 28 Dec 2012

By
Danielle

This
review is from: Bell, Book & Handbag (Kindle Edition)

Action
packed and hilarious. One of the few books to make me smile as I read it. Who
knew a woman could name her wigs!

I
couldn’t put it down



What they are saying in the UK about Bell, Book & Handbag

Pen to Paper Posted on Thu, August 28, 2014 06:42PM

5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic – a great read!!, 11 Aug 2014

By Catherine –

This review is from: Bell, Book & Handbag (Kindle Edition)

Fantastic book from this new author. Loads of amazing comic imagery and packed full of laugh out loud moments. I took this on holiday, but great reading any time. I hear there might be a second book out soon, so am keeping my eyes peeled

5.0 out of 5 stars Funniest book since I read William Walkers first year of marriage,20 July 2014

By Carolann

This review is from: Bell, Book & Handbag (Kindle Edition)

Absolutely loved it , The Ghost and Mrs Muir meets Blithe Spirit, didn’t want the fun to end , so funny left me wondering which actress would be best to play Maureen and who to play Beattie

5.0 out of 5 stars Lovely book, 17 Nov 2013

By kim (UK)

This review is from: Bell, Book & Handbag (Kindle Edition)

This was a free download, which is a bit of a lottery. This time I got five balls 🙂 an enjoyable story, one of the main characters, a failed medium, fair lass from my home town, loved every madcap word.

5.0 out of 5 stars Love It !, 22 Oct 2013

By Abzz –

This review is from: Bell, Book & Handbag (Kindle Edition)

A great page turner as widow’s Maureen and Beattie battle Evil and each other. An imaginative but believable romp. Funny and thought- provoking. If you loved `Never the Bride’, you’ll love this !!

5.0 out of 5 stars witty and entertaining tale, 20 Jun 2013

By R. Craig Lawson

This review is from: Bell, Book & Handbag (Kindle Edition)

Really enjoyed this entertaining and funny story, have recommended it to friends who have kindles hope to find more books by the same author

4.0 out of 5 stars Enjoyable Read, 13 Jan 2013

By Amazon Customer

This review is from A fun enjoyable read that made me laugh throughout their adventure. The two main characters have struck up a friendship as they are neighbours. From here they reveal more about their past that they had tried to keep hidden to maintain their image. Easy read with Beattie having some great judgemental quotes, which Maureen keeps her mouth shut about to keep the peace. A great duo.

5.0 out of 5 stars Hilarious, 30 Dec 2012

By Gaga

This review is from: Bell, Book & Handbag (Kindle Edition)

Very witty and funny, the characters are very entertaining! And the story line keeps u guessing as you wonder what trivial disaster will accost them next!

5.0 out of 5 stars A truly funny read, 9 Dec 2012

By D.

This review is from: Bell, Book & Handbag (Kindle Edition)

I have to admit to being a friend of the author but even so he never let me read any proofs of his first book so getting hold of the published copy was my first chance to read his book that I had heard so much about.

It is truly a funny engaging read as we are taken on Maureen and Beattie’s first adventure and hopefully not their last. Beattie may be more to the right than your average Daily Mail reader but her views are probably shared the length and breadth of Hairdressing Salons across the UK.OK so I am biased but would urge anyone who fancies a good read to download this book.: Bell, Book & Handbag (Kindle Edition)



Step Forward the Minor Players

Pen to Paper Posted on Sun, August 24, 2014 05:52PM

Step forward the minor players.

We are told that minor characters in any novel are there to
serve one purpose and one purpose only, namely to move the plot forward without
distracting the reader. Handled badly they can drive the reader into a
narrative cul de sac. Handled well they can add colour and interest.

Sister Pauline in my short story , ‘Virgin in the Walls’,
serves the plot by forming the background to Deirdre Kerrigan’s down fall. We
know little about her except her unshakeable belief in her own faith. She
appears in the opening paragraphs of the tale and nowhere else. Yet her
presence runs through the whole work like a drum beat pulsing under the strings
of an orchestral piece.

Ezekiel Grangely doesn’t appear until the closing chapters
of my novel ‘Bell Book & Handbag’ but he weaves in and out of the plot as
the agent of Olive Mannering’s downward spiral into a life of drugs and alcohol
abuse. Even Beattie Hathaway’s late husband Arthur establishes a presence early
on in the novel and whilst he isn’t the agent for change he provides the spur
that ultimately brings it about.

The more I write the more I realise there are rules that the
minor players have to obey.

The Point of View
(POV)

For me this is a key one. Wherever minor characters appear
they need to be seen from the point of view of the novel/ story. Yes it’s
tempting to get carried away and have two minor characters working up a back
story but ask yourself why? What purpose is it serving? How does it impact on
the main character? Although writing in the first person adds its own
complications in some ways the restrictions make handling minor characters
easier. They can only be seen from the POV of ‘I’. They can have no secret
thoughts, neither can we tell the reader what lurks beneath unless ‘I’ has a
logical way of knowing. Easier? Yes. But we can all find examples where once
broken this simple rule jars the piece into the realms of disbelief or
incredulity.

The Point of
Difference

Having a cast of thousands is great if the story requires
it. Having every story peppered with minor characters just muddies the waters.
For me it’s like trying to drive with a shattered windscreen. All is refracted
and distracted. That said each one needs a stand-out factor otherwise they are
just members of the chorus, all wearing the same feather headdresses and
kicking in unison. It is no coincidence that producers audition chorus lines to
get the same height, build and looks. Each minor character needs to be
different, be that looks, age, situation or just some little detail we learn
about them. If you find yourself with two that are the same either make them
different or ask yourself if they can be combined into one and bring the head
count down. There is enough to do constructing a novel without having to herd
sheep as well.

The Point of
Preparation

Some of my writer friends compile detailed character notes
for everybody in their novel. From index cards to software programmes they can
tell you what the milkman had for breakfast, his religious beliefs and his
wife’s maiden name. Sometimes when we meet up they are still doing this, and
still doing this, and still doing this until three months down the line knowing
the detail of each and every one has become a job in itself. I’m not saying
don’t. If that works for you then fine. But how much gilding do you need on a
lily? Where the minor characters are concerned think about how relevant the
background story is to creating somebody you will never see in the story again.
Unless the main character plans to steal or borrow their shoes do we really
need to know the size of their feet?

The Point of it All.

Minor characters can add interest to your story or they can
confuse. Personally I’m not in favour of somebody who only occupies a small paragraph
or two holding the ‘secret’ to the plot. But what they can do is add light and
shade to the main characters of your story.
Of course there is nothing to say that a minor player cannot grow into a
key performer on a subsequent re-write and some of mine have. Some of yours
will to. However managing them is key. Without that the writer is just herding
sheep, losing the reader in the midst of an ambling flock.



Creating the Perfect Setting

Pen to Paper Posted on Sat, June 07, 2014 07:07PM

Oh I Do Like To Be Beside the Seaside

Maureen and Beattie, the two main characters of ‘Bell Book
& Handbag’ are just two ordinary pensioners and could have lived in any
town in the country, real or imagined. Or could they? I doubt it. So what led
me to create Biddermouth on Sea in the first place?

Seaside towns have always fascinated me. As a child they
were places full of forbidden pleasures, destinations where the normal
restrictions and routines of family life were somehow disrupted by the
strangeness of it all. Even the process of getting there involved a break from
the ordinary. This was not somewhere you went to on a whim, at least not in
those days of trunk roads and winding country lanes. There were rituals to be
followed, fearsome Gods that had to be propitiated.

Sandwiches have to be made. On this special day eggs are
allowed to boil well beyond their customary three minutes. It is flasks and not
tea pots that we fill with tea. There are other rituals too, centred round the
safe passage of our old Austin A30, all adding a further frisson of danger to
expedition. The vital signs of the tyres have to be read. The dipstick is
studied like entrails of some sacrificial beast. Maps are spread out and read
like the planetary charts of ancient seers. And if we need further proof that
we are heading into the valley of Death there is the travel sick pill to be
swallowed and the bag of barley sugar sweets locked with a silent prayer in the
depths of my mother’s handbag along with the spare toilet paper ‘just in case’.

This all made the seaside a place apart. If it wasn’t
exactly at the end of the rainbow then certainly it was somewhere you arrived
at after traversing miles and miles of unfamiliar terrain. Gaudy, noisy, filled
with colour it was also made vaguely sinister by the warning of ‘not to wander
too far’. It was a place of danger and the unexpected. Unguarded children
drowned or simply vanished hand in hand with strangers. Others would fall prey
to the ever present danger of sun stroke. Things, both pleasant and terrifying
could and did happen there. No wonder then that the seaside with its mix of terror
and anticipation has always been a place of fascination for writers. And in
that regard I am no different.

Of course looking deeper than my own personal memories of
candy floss, sand castles and anxieties there are other reasons why Biddermouth
on Sea makes such a perfect place for Maureen and Beattie to live in. Since the
rise of foreign holidays many of our once great seaside towns have slid into
decline and theirs is no exception. This allows the once-respectable
Biddermouth on Sea to have developed a darker less salubrious under belly
whilst at the same time struggling to maintain its’ old time gentility. Of
course that social stratification would have always existed but economic
decline and social mobility have led to a new mix amongst the inhabitants and
exacerbated the conflicts.

There is vandalism on the seafront. Shelters are smashed.
The ‘Sunnyside’ and Bella Vista’ guest houses are now bed and breakfast
accommodation for the victims of broken Britain. The candy floss stall is
derelict. There are no longer decent shows performed at the Town Hall Theatre.
This is a town like so many, steamrolled by Thatcherism and picked clean by the
grab-all cronyism of the Blair years.

Nowhere is this decline better illustrated than in the area
inhabited by Olive Mannering. We assume that The Lanes have always been a haunt
of ne’er do wells but the one-time petty thieves and good time girls have been
replaced by organised crime, dodgy Thai massage parlours, drug dealers and the
more wild fringe of the gay community. Neither is Biddermouth on Sea immune
from the supposed social tensions of immigration.

Being a long term resident Beattie remembers it as it was,
when living in The Avenues meant something before its’ grand Victorian villas
were carved into ever smaller self contained flats. This suits her social
pretentions allowing her to be an anachronism struggling to come to terms with
living in the present day but existing on the memories of when her late husband
Arthur ruled the local chamber of commerce.

Maureen is the relative newcomer. She is an outsider in more
ways than one. That somebody who once worked on a fun fair and served three
years in gaol for fraudulent clairvoyance can live cheek by jowl with a Beattie
shows how the decline of Biddermouth on Sea has made such social overlaps
possible. Being a woman on the run from the past she has settled perfectly well
into the cracks that have appeared in Biddermouth society.

In the same way that the animals of the African plains are
driven to form wary partnerships around an ever dwindling water hole the
decline of Biddermouth on Sea allows Maureen and Beattie to become unlikely
friends and surprising allies. Because she only sees life getting worse Beattie
readily falls prey to the urban myths of the tabloid press. Romanian immigrants
eat their own babies and anybody under forty is probably on drugs. Like many
people her narrow views and prejudices spring from imagined rather than real
threats.

Maureen on the other hand has led a larger life. This allows
her to see the new Biddermouth on Sea in a different light. Not everybody
wearing a hoodie is going to steal your handbag. Many young people are
unemployed through no fault of their own. Women like Olive are driven by
circumstances to do what they have to do to survive. Drinking in the Jolly
Seaman with drag queens can be fun.

Set anywhere else, as Beattie never ceases to point out,
this unlikely pairing would never have met let alone become friends.
Biddermouth on Sea may well be fictional and fractured but like many of our
towns it remains fascinating in the conflicts thrown up by its decline.

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