Bother, Trouble and an RAF childhood
Flying and travel are in my blood – as the daughter of an RAF officer and a Canadian teacher, I visited four of the world’s continents before starting school. My dad was stationed in Aden long, long ago in the 1960s, and my very earliest memories are of this exotic, magical but sadly so troubled place.
Slides that were made of wood as metal in that heat would have given your backside a nasty shock! Goats and camels wandering through the streets. The shark nets at the beach. And, best of all, a two week holiday in Kenya, where the sands were silver and the monkeys cheeky enough to steal a banana from your pocket!
When we returned to the UK my parents took the decision to stop the moving around – they had done plenty of that when my brother and I were little. We settled in Camberley, and my mum held the fort while my dad was posted here, there and everywhere around the country. We only got to see him at weekends, and not every weekend, either. In those distant days before mobile phones and FaceTime, it meant making the most of what time we had together as a family. Looking back, I think I must have subconsciously soaked up my dad’s RAF ways and expressions, so that I could keep him with me at all times.
My childhood was full of books. I read avidly and wrote determinedly in between plotting to become a spy and building brother-proof camps.
Once he’d retired from flying, my dad worked as a tutor at the Staff College, Bracknell, where he ‘…wrestled to impart some respect for the English language in our future leaders of the Royal Air Force,’ as one of his colleagues put it. He’d always planned to write his memoirs, but events took another course and, armed with logbooks, sepia-tinted photos and a few addresses of old chums, I set about the task that my dad never had a chance to start.
I was fascinated by what lay behind the hours in the logbooks and what happened before and after the black and white snapshots. And, while I was writing my dad’s biography, my young son asked what his granddad was like. A delightful “what if” question flitted into my mind, and with it a lost world, full of danger, dirty deeds and derring-do. My publisher described it as ‘a long-forgotten beauty – not fantasy, not ancient history, but something you and I had forgotten was magic: a Britain where country roads were bright and welcoming, where cars, motorbikes and aeroplanes – not to mention their pilots – still had an aura of adventure about them.’
What if a 21st century boy, used to Pause Buttons and Play Agains from his adventures in a virtual world, could go back in time to the days where his granddad had adventures for real? Back to 1962 and South East Asia in The Bother in Burmeon and 1957, the Cold War and a country not unlike Germany in Trouble in Teutonia?
I got scribbling, unlocked those childhood memories, brought the black and white snapshots to life, sprinkled in a few of my favourite books from my childhood, from Biggles to A Wrinkle in Time, and distilled all the RAF banter and expressions into the character of Grandpop. Before I knew it, I had a finished novel, and plans for more in the series.
Young Billy and Grandpop have visited South East Asia, and central Europe, so where next? Danger in Denmark? The Mess in Mesopotamia?
Well, do you remember the shark nets and camels?
Watch this space!
A huge thank you to Reading Force for having me.