The setting for my latest novel Lil’s Bus Trip is a special one for me. Lil, the main protagonist, takes the ferry from Southampton and, with her daughter Cassie, her friend Maggie and a minibus load of other people from the local pub, she travels through Normandy, to Belgium. Then she stops off in Bruges before heading for Amsterdam, where she has several adventures and takes the opportunity to rethink her priorities in life.
Choosing northern Europe as a backdrop for Lil’s story was an easy decision for me. I love the warmth of the people there, the equally open and beautiful scenery, the history and the culture. Amsterdam is a most vibrant and welcoming city, and I have been there more times than I can count. Whenever I’m there, like Cassie in the novel, I wonder why I don’t just stay. And, like Cassie, there are so always many reasons to move on.
In Normandy, Lil and her friends visit the sites of the war battlefields, spending time in Thiepval, where there is a World War 1 cemetery. The memorial bears the names of more than 72,000 men of the United Kingdom and South African forces who died in the Somme before 20th March 1918 and have no known grave. Lil has a moving and quite uncanny experience there, and I write from first-hand experience as the same thing happened to me when I visited, as I took photos of the unknown soldiers’ resting place.
There are uplifting, fun times to come, as Lil visits Bruges and samples the local beer and chocolate. They stay overnight at a farm in Boom, where Lil discovers much more than she bargains for.
Travelling north to Amsterdam, Lil immerses herself in the culture of the city, with far too much exuberance. While Cassie is experiencing the delights of the Rijksmuseum and singing at a nightclub with a very friendly local man, Lil drags Maggie into trouble.
On the way home, Lil and the other minibus travellers have a brush with misadventure and, again, the idea for the scene comes from an experience I had on a coach trip years ago when, in Cassie’s place, it fell to me to sort out a confrontation that might have resulted in several members of our bus being detained by the authorities.
Lil’s Bus Trip is a story of an 82-year-old woman who needs a break from the routine of her life in sheltered accommodation, and she gets much more than she expects from the impromptu holiday. She, Cassie, Maggie and the others share fun, laughter and a few tears. They become closer, but not before there are some moments of agony and ecstasy. It is a journey I wanted to share, not only because of the fabulous location, the culture and the special warmth of the local people, but because it’s a journey of self- discovery and a tale of friendship, a story of what can happen when people who think they have little in common let their guard down and start having a good time.
I hope you’ll enjoy Lil’s adventures. Welcome aboard!