It seems to have been quite a while since I last blogged – a combination of events coming rapidly one upon another (Barnard Castle, Middleham, Tewkesbury, a local school visit – then a much-needed holiday) leading me to be less at my desk than usual…. And then of course, there’s been the weather. Glorious, golden, sunny summer weather – even in Yorkshire.
Much of it has reminded me (and many others) of a summer in my far-distant youth – the summer of 1976. It became legendary very quickly in the UK. The year of ‘The Heatwave’ and ‘The Drought’ – you can almost hear the capital letters when people talk about it. It occurred before the majority of people had ever heard of global warming and climate change – and seemed to be a perhaps once in a lifetime event. At least here in the UK – where a typical summer might consist of a couple of weeks of sunshine interspersed among rather more days of rain and wind. Well, here in Yorkshire anyway.
Another summer that for a short time seemed to echo a little of what happened in 1976 was 2003, though the heatwave then was measured in a few brief weeks, not the months of the earlier one. But it was enough to prompt me to think about that time back in my childhood. And, together with a discovery on a holiday in France the previous year, it inspired my first novel for children, Time out of Time.
Time out of Time follows the adventures of Allie, an eleven-year-old girl who, during the long hot summer of 1976, moves with her family to an ancient, ramshackle house in the country, away from her friends and the familiar house in the suburbs which is all she’s ever known. To say she’s unhappy about the move would be an understatement. But gradually she’s drawn into discoveries about the house and its secret history – all against the backdrop of The Drought….
Not only the current heatwave in the UK, but also a realization about one of the themes of The Order of the White Boar has led me to revisit Time out of Time and think about whether I should be publishing it soon. Because I realized that both books (and another that I started in between the two of them) are very much about the transition that children in the UK make at about the age of eleven – from primary school to senior school.
At age eleven, I made that transition – and alone, without my friends, who were all going to different senior schools. I was nervous and worried about the change, and it took me a while to make new friends at my new school. Just like Allie – and like Matthew Wansford when he arrives at Middleham Castle in the summer of 1482. And while preparing a brief talk for some primary school leavers at Barnard Castle earlier this month, it occurred to me that each of my books so far addresses that change – and perhaps is me working through the issues of my own transition all those years ago.
So that was the talk I gave – about the transition that these children were about to face. And yes, they did say that they felt worried and nervous about it themselves. But I hope that when they took away and read their copies of The Order, the fact that Matthew finds fantastic new friends may have helped their nerves to settle, if only a little.