My point of view

My point of view

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

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10 Things a Writer Shouldn't Do When Driving

Pen to PaperPosted by Ian Ashley 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.


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….

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Writer Beware! It’s a very distracting business.

Pen to PaperPosted by Ian Ashley 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.

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Getting a title that works for you Part II

Pen to PaperPosted by Ian Ashley 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.


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?


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.


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.


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.

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Getting a title that works for you Part I

Pen to PaperPosted by Ian Ashley 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.

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International reviews for Bell, Book & Handbag

Pen to PaperPosted by Ian Ashley 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

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

Pen to PaperPosted by Ian Ashley 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)

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Step Forward the Minor Players

Pen to PaperPosted by Ian Ashley 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.

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Creating the Perfect Setting

Pen to PaperPosted by Ian Ashley 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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