It was probably inevitable that one day I would write a series set on a farm or small holding, because I grew up in the countryside, six miles from the nearest town, surrounded by farmland, on a few acres of land where my parents built their own home.
We were always surrounded by animals. We started out like most other people, with dogs and cats, but even that was taken further than the average family, and we ended up with seven dogs at one point. It was partly because my dad was a soft touch and when he took my sister and I to pick a puppy from a litter of Jack Russells, we wanted different ones. So, Dad being Dad, we came home with both! We’d also take in dogs that other people no longer wanted, including a beautiful Great Dane pup who was given almost no chance of surviving, so the breeder couldn’t sell her. She came to live with us and was aptly named Chance. My dad tried to insist he didn’t want another dog, but she became his devoted companion. She’d sit next to him while he was working at his desk, leaning her head on his knee. Sadly, before she was even two years old, Chance’s heart gave out. When she died, it was the only time in my life I saw my father cry, sobbing at the loss of the sidekick that had been his shadow since the day she’d moved in.
Along with the cats and dogs, we had chickens and horses – lots of horses – and my sister competed in showjumping competitions at a national level. We even ended up delivering a foal, when our parents went out for the evening. It was pre-mobile phones, so we couldn’t call them to come home, and there was no chance of Googling how on earth to deliver a foal. So, we stood in the stable, my sister at the business end and me with an Encyclopedia Britannica looking up how to get help the foal out safely. Things got a bit James Herriot at one point, with the encyclopedia dumped unceremoniously on to a pile of straw, but we did it.
We also helped the local sheep farmer to care for abandoned lambs in the spring. They’d come to us if their mothers rejected them, or didn’t make it through the delivery. I remember coming home from school and seeing lambs sitting in front of the gas fire, drying off, after being bathed by my mum. It was as normal for us as seeing a dog sitting there. We’d feed the lambs special formula milk, from re-purposed wine bottles with teats on the end, even getting up to do night time feeds.
We had loads of cherry trees and we picked cherries by the bucket load. My mum was always baking or cooking, and she was nicknamed Ma Larkin for her ability to put on a spread at the drop of a hat. There was one bus a day to the nearest town and no guarantee that it would be coming back again; it really was a Darling Buds of May existence. It all seemed so normal back then and I’m sure we took it for granted, but I think that idyllic upbringing was bound to influence my writing in ways I wasn’t even aware of.
I’ve undoubtedly recreated pieces of my childhood in the series and, if you decide to read One Last Summer at Seabreeze Farm, I really hope you enjoy it.
You can start reading your copy of One Last Summer at Seabreeze Farm here: https://mybook.to/onelastsummersocial