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February 2024 From the author’s desk…

Our children have returned to school, and was ever thus, but for a privileged few different…

The Beaconsfield Special, a steam train with four carriages and three guard’s vans, was drawn up alongside Platform Twelve of Waterloo Station.

Wide eyed and holding tightly to his mother’s hand, Yann followed the porter and the two-wheeled trolley carrying his school trunk into the mayhem; Naomi and Isaac were just behind them. The porter unloaded the large brown ribbed case, on which had been painted Y MORRIS in bold black letters onto the pile of other trunks stacked by the guard’s vans, ready for loading.

Clutching his mother’s hand tightly, Yann froze, suddenly frightened, and caused her to stop. Everyone he loved – his mother, Auntie Naomi and Uncle Isaac – had done their best. Told him how luck he was, but he didn’t want to go. He couldn’t understand why they were sending him so far away, to be with people he had never met. What had he done wrong? Was it because of Uncle Sebastian/s terribly accident on his way back from his new school? He didn’t understand why his mother didn’t love him any more, it made him feel very unhappy. He promised no more tears, but his eyes started to prickle.

Ahead were dozens of boys and parents clustered around two schoolmasters clad in black gowns.

He had never seen so many boys, most of them much older and bigger than him. Soon enough they reached the crowd and one of the schoolmasters pushed through towards them. He had a clipboard in his hand.

“Name?” He asked, look at the adults.

“Morris.” Isaac answered.

“Ah yes the little lad from Bath,” the master said pleasantly, finding the name and ticking it off. Then he looked down at Yann and held his hand out. “My name is Martin Kohn, I shall be your housemaster in Galsworthy. Now let me see,” he looked at his list again, “just stand by me for a moment and I will find one of the deputy prefects to look after you until we reach school.”

He looked up to the three adults again. “Best to say your goodbyes here and now. Short and quick I think is always best don’t you?” In a second he had turned to someone else.

Naomi bent down and kissed him on the forehead. Isaac just squeezed his arm.

“Good luck Yann and don’t forget your promise to write to your mother each week.”

Ruth knelt down, so that her head was level with Yann’s and hugged him so tightly that he was frightened she would crease his new blazer. “Remember that Mummy loves you more than anything in the whole world and you make me so proud. Goodbye, my beautiful little brave boy.”

“I am sorry about making Uncle Sebastian die, Mummy.” He hoped she wouldn’t start to cry, because it looked like she could and then that would make him want to cry too. But she breathed in heavily and quickly stood up.

He gave a small wave with a half raised arm, as he watched all three of them retreat down the platform. No one looked back.

The next think he knew, Mr Kohn had grasped him by the shoulder. He turned round and saw a large boy hovering next to him.

“Morris, this is Freeman. He is in Galsworthy too and will settle you into the train.” He turned to the boy. “Remember that you are responsible for delivering him to the Dame.”

Yann clambered into the carriage and Freeman motioned him to the corner seat by the door, with “A new sprog, Morris” as an introduction to the other senior boys. None acknowledged him. Unnoticed, he sat stiffly erect and unblinking. He had never been on a train and was with complete strangers. He wished he was by a window so that he could catch one last glance of his mother, uncle and aunt.

With a final flurry and whistle blast, the train lurched, lurched again and jerkily moved off, gathering speed. Freeman stood back against the closed door to the corridor, preventing anyone from entering; all three corridor window blinds were down.

Throughout the journey, Yann sat on his hands and looked down at his neatly laced shoes as he listened to the group of boys swapping stories about their summer holiday. He felt very conscious of his new purple blazer, with its bright crest and gleaming yellow piping, unlike the other boys’ dull and faded jackets.

Yann wept himself to sleep in the bleak dormitory that first night and for many that followed. To his shame and embarrassment, often he woke up in a wet bed the following morning. The Dame never said anything.

 

 

An extract from chapter twenty one of – ‘ Go Swift and Far – a Tale of Bath’ The first book of The Westcott Chronicles

 

January 2024 From the author’s desk…

As our loved ones depart after the family Christmas festivities…

As she was undressing, Ruth noticed the thin book where Naomi had left it open on her bedside table. She turned on the bedside light.

‘And a woman who held a babe against her bosom said,

Speake to us of Children.

And he said:

Your children are not your children.

They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.

They come through you but not from you,

And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.

You may give them your love but not your thoughts,

For they have their own thoughts.

You may house their bodies but not their souls

For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow,

Which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.

You may stive to be like them, but seek not to make them like you.

For life goes not backwards nor tarries with yesterday.

You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth.

The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite,

And He bends you with His might that His arrows may go swift and far.

Let your bending in the Archer’s hand be for gladness;

For even as He loves the arrow that flies,

So He loves also the bow that is stable.’

 Ruth turned to the cover – The Prophet by Khalil Gibrain.

Twice she read it before switching off the lamp. She didn’t sleep, with her mind turning over and over.

She couldn’t bear the idea of Yann being taken away from her; the whole reason for her existence gone. Waking up each day without him. His lovely laughing face was even more treasured now that Jancek was dead. The tears came back when she thought of her difficult husband and the emptiness he had left behind, along with their wonderful son.

She turned the bedside lamp on again and reached for the book. This time she spoke the lines aloud, slowly. It said so much and she kept coming back to the one line that caused her to reconsider.

…And though they are with you, yet they belong not to you…’

Yes she loved him so much but…

…their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow,

   Which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams…’

She had to think of her little boy first. What was best for him, no matter the sorrow it would cause her, was most important. He came first, he was the reason for her life.

Exhausted when the dawn arrived, she put on her dressing gown and went down to the kitchen. Naomi was already there and they sat in silence sipping hot tea.

“You are right, Yann must go.”

Naomi rose and pulled the tearful Ruth to her.

An extract from chapter eighteen of  –‘ Go Swift and Far – a Tale of Bath’ The first book of The Westcott Chronicles

 

Bath & North East Somerset Libraries Festive Author Interview with Douglas Westcott

Festive Author Interview with Douglas Westcott

 

DECEMBER 2023 From the author’s desk …

From the author’s desk …

I was recently invited to Morland Road Library, and very much enjoyed giving a talk about writing and self-publishing. I would like to thank everyone who came and who made me feel very welcome.

Does anything change…

When the Conservative Party lost political power after the Second World War and formed the loyal Opposition in Parliament…

   Marmaduke, the third Earl Lundy tapped his wine glass lightly with his spoon and room dutifully hushed.

    ‘It now gives me great pleasure to introduce His Majesty’s Loyal Opposition Spokesman for Foreign Affairs, the Conservative Member of Parliament for Bath, Mr Alan Buxton, MP.’

    The third Earl Lundy was very different from his late father. Although pleasant enough, he was a timid and shy man who, it was said, was ruled with an iron fist by a harsh wife ‘from a family in trade’. He had trained as an architect specialising in church restoration and as a result was reliant on the income from his late father’s estate for a living. Isaac surmised that the family fortune was destined to last only for the proverbial ‘clog to clog in three generations.’

    It was the first William Pitt Club dinner for two years and a poor shadow of previous ones; lounge suits instead of dinner jackets, poor food and indifferent wine. But everyone was there; Austwick, Groves, Sir Peter, Kohut, Bradshaw along with David Lloyd and Christopher Johnson, between whom Isaac was seated.

    The Annual General Meeting of Bath Estates Limited had preceded the dinner, and was a dismal affair. The company had gone backwards over the last twelve months, mired in the bickering of local politicians amidst an acute shortage of building materials, and a lack of cash reserves. The dividend on the preference shares was passed – so yet again, nothing for Naomi’s £10,000. Worse, the company was even struggling to meet the half yearly dividend due on the outside investors’ debentures, because of rising interest rates and increased mortgage payments to the bank.

    Marmaduke Lundy had taken the chair, but was clearly out of his depth. The mood had been sombre with the fear of loss starting to surface in some hostile questions. The atmosphere was clouded by dissatisfaction and Isaac wondered where the whole affair would end. Their guest, Alan Buxton, the Conservative Member of  Parliament for Bath and Shadow Foreign Secretary, had started his talk.

    ‘And so, as 1946 draws to a close, the first eighteen months of a Labour Government have produced precious little but grief.’

    He went on to summarise the austerity measures taken that his listeners were more than aware of. It was worse than it had been during the war, with the introduction of bread rationing a few months earlier, and other rations further reduced. The country was broke and waiting for Attlee to get his begging bowl out and crawl back to the Americans for more expensive loans. He also wondered at what price – more US military bases in the colonies? As for repayment, it would take generations before Britain could be free of the Yankee debt and become Great Britain once again.

    Turning to the international scene, which was Buston’s portfolio in the House, things were an absolute mess.

    ‘Just to mention a few,’ he paused before continuing in single staccato sentences, counting them out on his fingers, and pausing between each:

 ‘One, bread riots in Paris;

Two, civil war in China;

Three, famine in India;

Four, forced resignation of King Umberto II in Italy;

Five, King of Thailand assassinated;

Six, martial law in Vietnam, Ho Chi Min guerrilla campaign against the French;

Seven, riots in Bomby for independence;

Eight, violent demonstrations in Cairo, demanding unification with Sudan; and last, but not least,

Nine, Zionist bombings in Jerusalem.’

 

An extract from Chapter Seventeen of ‘Go Swift and Far – a novel of Bath’ the first novel in The Westcott Chronicles of Bath.

November 2023 From the author’s desk…

The Jewish community in Bath prepares for the festival of Hanukkah in two weeks time, as it did all those years ago.

 

Scrubbed and brushed, Yann sat between Sebastian and Ruth, who because of the occasion, was wearing a red woollen dress instead of her usual uniform. The silver menorah was unlit on the table in front of them. Yann wore a small beautifully embroidered white yarmulke, a Chanukah present from Sebastian, the skull cap given many years ago to Sebastian by his mother for his first Seder night. Amanda McKendrick remained dressed in her sober work clothes and quietened the room.

   ‘The youngest member of our little community, Yann Morris, is now going to light the Chanukah candles.’

   Ruth struck the match and lit the taper in Yann’s hand. The room was silent as Sebastian recited the first blessing. Then, To Ruth’s amazement, and without a pause, Yann took up where Sebastian had finished.

 

            ‘Baruch atah adonai eloheinu Melech ha’olam she’asah

            Nisim la’  avoteinu bayamim haheim baz’mahn hezeh

            Blessed are you, our God, Creator or time and space,

            Who performed miracles for our ancestors in the days

            Of long ago. And in this time.’

 

   As Sebastian recited the last of the three prayers, Ruth guided Yann’s young arm with the lighted taper to the candles.

   ‘That was the secret, Mummy. Happy Chanukah,’ he said, hugging her.

   The tears came.

   ‘What’s wrong Mummy, why are you crying?’

   ‘Nothing is wrong darling, it’s the most wonderful present I have ever received, and sometimes people cry because they are happy.

   She kissed Sebastian’s cheek. ‘Thank you so very, very much Sebastian.’ She couldn’t think what else to say, but knew that Jancek too would have been overwhelmed by their son’s performance. She was more determined than ever for Yann to achieve what his father would have wanted for him.

   ‘It was a pleasure Ruth,’ Sebastian replied, ‘he is a wonderful little boy. This is only the beginning.’

 

An extract from chapter sixteen  –‘ Go Swift and Far – a Tale of Bath’ The first book of The Westcott Chronicles

SEPTEMBER 2023 – From the author’s desk …

The politics of 1946…

Marmaduke, the third Earl Lundy tapped his wine glass lightly with his spoon and the room dutifully hushed.

    “It now gives me great pleasure to introduce His Majesty’s Loyal Opposition Spokesman for Foreign Affairs, the Conservative Member of Parliament for Bath, Mr Alan Buxton, MP.”

    The third Earl Lundy was very different from his late father. Although pleasant enough, he was a timid and shy man who, it was said was ruled with an iron fist by a harsh wife ‘from a family in trade’. He had trained as an architect specialising in church restoration and as a result was reliant on the income from his late father’s estate for a living. Isaac surmised that the family fortune was destined to last only for the proverbial ‘clog to clog in three generations’.

    It was the first William Pitt Club dinner for two years and a poor shadow of previous ones; lounge suits instead of dinner jackets, poor food and indifferent wine. But everyone was there; Austwick, Groves, Sir Peter, Kohut, Bradshaw along with David Lloyd and Christopher Johnson, between whom Isaac was seated.

    The Annual General Meeting of Bath Estates Limited had preceded the dinner, and was a dismal affair. The company had gone backwards over the last twelve months, mired in the bickering of local politicians amidst an acute shortage of building materials, and a lack of cash reserves. The dividend on the preference shares was passed – so yet again, nothing for Naomi’s £10,000. Worse, the company was even struggling to meet the half yearly dividend due on the outside investors debentures, because of rising interest rates and increased mortgage payments to the bank.

    Marmaduke Lundy had taken the chair, but was clearly out of his depth. The mood had been sombre with the fear of loss starting to surface in some hostile questions. The atmosphere was clouded by dissatisfaction and Isaac wondered where the whole affair would end. Their guest, Alan Buxton, the Conservative Member of Parliament for Bath and Shadow Foreign Secretary, had started to talk.

    “And so, as 1946 draws to a close, the first eighteen months of a Labour Government have produced precious little but grief.”

    He went on to summarise the austerity measures taken that his listeners were more than aware of. It was worse than it had been during the war, with the introduction of bread rationing a few months earlier, and other rations further reduced. The country was broke and waiting for Attlee to get his begging bowl out and crawl back to the Americans for more expensive loans. He also wondered at what price – more US military bases in the colonies? As for repayment, it would take generations before Britain could be free of the Yankee debt and become Great Britain once again.

    Turning to the international scene, which was Buxton’s portfolio in the House, things were an absolute mess.

   “Just to mention a few,” he paused before continuing in single staccato sentences, counting them out on his fingers and pausing between each:

   “One, bread riots in Paris;

   Two, civil war in China;

   Three, famine in India;

   Four, forced resignation of King Umberto II in Italy;

   Five, King of Thailand assassinated;

   Six, martial law in Vietnam, Ho Chi Min guerrilla campaign against the French;

   Seven, riots in Bombay for independence;

   Eight, violent demonstration in Cairo, demanding unification with Sudan; and last but not least,

   Nine, Zionist bombings in Jerusalem.”

  

 

An extract from Chapter Seventeen of ‘Go Swift and Far’ – the first novel in The Chronicles of Bath

 

AUGUST 2023 From the author’s desk …

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The day the world changed forever, 10th August 1945.

…After that Sebastian studiously avoided discussing Ruth’s personal life, but the subject of Yann came up by chance one evening. They were seated in their usual place in the orangery. Ruth had been reading aloud from that morning’s Times about the American bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

    Sebastian waited until he heard the rustle of the pages returning to her lap.

    “Who could have believed that just one bomb could be so destructive? What a dangerous thing to have created,” he said. “It will only need one power-crazy politician, and it could be the end. World War Three could be over in days, no winners, just utter destruction. I don’t envy young people.”

    “What do you mean?”

    “Well, they will be growing up in such an uncertain and dangerous world. Attlee was right when he said on the radio last night that the A-bomb meant a naked choice between world co-operation and world destruction. Young couples must wonder what sort of world they will be bringing children into.”

    “I disagree,” she said, “I am very clear what Yann needs. Love and security, with faith as a coat hook, available to hang his coat on, if and when he chooses to. And then there’s education. I still have to work out how he can get the best there is so that he’s got a passport to freedom, for when life gets tough.”

  

An extract from Chapter Fifteen of ‘Go Swift and Far’ – the first novel in The Chronicles of Bath

JULY 2023 From the author’s desk …

Eighty years ago, a vision of things to come?

…Bradshaw gazed appreciatively at it before he spoke.

   “I must stress that this map is highly confidential, and because of the effect on morale, will not come into the public domain until next year. The effect of the air raids two years ago was massive gentlemen.” He stepped back to the table, picked up a buff folder, and passed it to David for circulation among the listeners.

   “Again highly confidential – you will see it is marked ‘Secret’, which I think is over the top – but of more if not greater interest is the accompanying report by Mowbray Ashton Green and John Owens that lists every single property hit by enemy action, street by street and the local architects and builders appointed to deal with each.”

   The room was silent as everyone studied the map, and the particular areas in which they owned property. Bradshaw moved to the second easel and removed the cloth. Identical to the first, black cross-hatching had been added to a third of the coloured areas. As if to make sure that he had the undivided attention of everyone in the room, again Bradshaw paused for effect.

   “Every cross-hatched property is either owned or controlled by the people in this room: about forty per cent of the 19,000 buildings damaged in the air raids.”

   The room rustled with anticipation.

   His words hung in the air, and Isaac heard the slight intake of breath from David Lloyd next to him.

 

An extract from Chapter Twelve of ‘Go Swift and Far’ – the first novel in The Chronicles of Bath

 

From the author’s desk … June 2023

 

 

 

 

 

September 1944 and an important meeting in Bath.

Professor Stanley Frith, an expert from the Urban Town Planning Faculty at a leading university and engaged at a cost of many guineas, was drawing his speech to an end. The late morning sunlight flooded through the tall windows of Austwick & Co’s conference room., creating a halo behind his generous mop of unruly blonde hair, which was continually on the move as he attacked his subject with enthusiasm.

  “The challenge of rebuilding Bath after the war will be immense. The 19,000 properties, together with those of its finest buildings, like the Assembly Rooms, destroyed or damaged by the bombings, has reduced the city to little more than a collection of bomb sites. It is these large derelict areas, which provide a golden opportunity – probably the first in three hundred years.”

    His small but attentive audience followed his sweeping gesture towards the city outside, reduced to a honeyed blur by the strong autumn sunshine.

 “I anticipate costs in the region of many millions of pounds. That, gentlemen, is where you play a vital role.”

    The ten men, seated in two rows facing the professor, had enjoyed listening to the man’s vision, but as always it came down to cost.

 “The City Council has one invaluable tool – the ability to compulsorily purchase every single one of the buildings with the necessary land. But it will be private enterprise that will be required to provide the money and the development expertise. To put it succinctly, gentlemen, if the city can be persuaded to acquire the land, it will be for you to rebuild Bath.”

    The professor sat down to applause. Greed drove his audience’s interest.

    Ken Kohut stood up, belly amply filling his waistcoat, fob watch chain almost at full stretch.

    “Gentlemen, Professor Frith has kindly agreed to answer any questions before we break for lunch.”

  

The start of Chapter Twelve of ‘Go Swift and Far’ – the first novel in The Chronicles of Bath

From the author’s desk, May 2023

MAY 2023

From the author’s desk …

This morning my thoughts wandered back over 80 years to 1942, as I drove past Rainbow Wood –  a magical woodland situated about one and a half miles south east of Bath on Claverton Down, surrounded by National Trust nurtured walkways.

…This was not an area that Ruth knew, but as the car turned left they passed Rainbow Wood…

 …to those families who were conceived there, it was known as Pudding Club Wood

The car turned into North Road. Halfway down the steep hill, it slowed, and turned through two large stone pillars, on which ‘Lundy House’ was carved in faded lettering, and stopped…

…Ruth gazed out of her bedroom window at the spectacular view of Bath and beyond to Bristol. It was a crystal clear day and the city centre lay peacefully bathed in sunlight hundreds of feet below her. It looked deceptively undamaged by the recent air raids with the abbey dominating the city, completely unscathed. Nearby was the Empire Building, and perched on the hills opposite was the mirrored beauty of the Royal Crescent and Lansdown Crescent, all untouched by the bombs.

Her eye was caught by the bombed and blackened shell of the rugby stand at the Recreation Ground, and the collapsed end of St John’s Church. The mayhem of Kingsmead and New King Street were hidden…

An extract from chapter seven –‘ Go Swift and Far – a Tale of Bath’ The first book of The Westcott Chronicles

From the Noticeboard

February 2024 From the author’s desk…

6 February, 2024 in From the author's desk

Our children have returned to school, and was ever thus, but for a privileged few different… The Beaconsfield Special, a steam train with four carriages and three guard’s vans, was…

January 2024 From the author’s desk…

9 January, 2024 in From the author's desk

As our loved ones depart after the family Christmas festivities… As she was undressing, Ruth noticed the thin book where Naomi had left it open on her bedside table. She…

Reviews

“Extraordinarily interesting for many different reasons …These books made our stay in Bath an even more exciting experience … As a university lecturer in English Literature I am fascinated with contemporary stories of life in Bath … I could not put the book away. Ian’s life is such a captivating story.”

Ewa Welnic – Bydgoszcz, Poland

‘An absorbing read with a mix of history, emotion, ambition, suspense and soul searching’

Michael Bywaters

“Just finished reading your second book An Unfolding Soul which I have enjoyed as much as your first. As a Bathonian of 77 years I find it so scary and truthful as we currently experience The Third Destruction of Bath.”

Malcolm Mitchell

‘A masterly weaving of ambition and growing conscious both personally and publicly.’

Anna Jacka-Thomas

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