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June 2024 From the author’s desk…

From the author’s desk…

The late, great queen mother…

‘It now gives me great pleasure to declare this magnificent new classroom annexe, built for the Hope Venture by the boys of Pitt College, officially open.’

Her Royal Highness, Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother, picked up the pair of gold-plated scissors from the crimson cushion and cut the coloured ribbon, which Ian had fixed across the front entrance two hours earlier. She walked along the red carpet and into the building: at one end the college quartet was singing sea shanties.

Standing in a line along the side of the carpet were Mr and Mrs Edgington, Bradshaw, now head prefect, and Ian Morris. Next to Ian was a very attractive sixteen-year-old Polish refugee, who was introduced to him as Katrina. She was the resident representing the Hope Venture. Ian was aware of her watching him as they waited their turn. He had never seen her before so she must have only recently moved in, because all of the girls, even the unattractive ones, were the subject of endless dormitory fantasies by the boys of Pitt College.

The Queen Mother’s aide, the Lord Lieutenant of the County, Malcolm Austwick, first presented the Edgingtons to Her Majesty and then the two schoolboys, explaining Ian’s role as Labour Organiser. The Queen Mother paused in front of him and, as he raised his head from the bow, he noticed that the Lord Lieutenant was speaking quietly into her ear.

‘Ah yes, I remember,’ she said, nodded and turned to him.

‘My aide has reminded me that you come from this City of Bath and the quite extraordinary circumstances surrounding your birth during the bombing in 1942.’

‘Ma’am?’ Ian replied hesitantly, puzzled by the reference to his birth.

‘How is your mother, she was so very brave?’

‘Not very well ma’am, she is in hospital.’

‘I am sorry to hear that, I do hope she gets well soon.’

‘Thank you, ma’am.’ And then she was gone, addressing the Polish girl next to him.

 

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

May 2024 From the author’s desk…

The Coronation, no not last year but the one before in 1953…

Ruth had secured two seats in the hospital lounge where Uncle Isaac used to work – she had actually won them in the hospital’s Coronation sweepstake.

Later on, led by his mother, he crossed through the crowded canteen, full of people holding glasses, cigarettes or both and all talking very loudly, even shouting. They all seemed to have red cheeks and many had a sheen of perspiration on their pallid foreheads. He was the only child present and felt trapped in the forest of white medical coats and nurses’ uniforms towering over him.

Being on the domestic staff, Ruth didn’t know anyone and so was greeted by no one as they threaded their way through the dens canopy of smoke and noise, into the staff lounge. All the sofas and armchairs had been removed, replaced by rows of canteen chairs with very little room between each. Those as the front were already occupied, so they took two at the back.

Facing them stood the television, placed on a pyramid of canteen tables stacked on top of each other. The first thing that struck Yann was how small the set was, it was tiny, much smaller than the one in the Liberman house. He wondered how he would see anything, before realising a large square magnifying lens had been fixed in front of its screen.

The room hushed as a man formally advanced from the front row and witched on the set as though it was the start of a magic show. The tiny screen lit up with a greenish light and the commentator’s reverential tones overlaid the images.

‘…and as I look at this vast throng of Her loyal subject from the four corners of this United Kingdom, her Commonwealth, and indeed, the world who have flocked to pay homage to their beautiful young Queen. The whole might of British industry is here, short stocky coalminers from deep below the South Wales valleys, alongside burly ship builders from the great yards on the Tyne, used to hammering white-hot rivets into steel plate of our mighty Navy. The tough men from Sheffield who made this steel. All standing shoulder to should with our colonial cousins, spanning a third of the globe. Australia, New Zealand, India, Pakistan…’

Why did they always mention these countries in the same order? Perhaps it was because of the test matches and the cricket.

‘Class and rank forgotten on such great State occasions…All men are equal, master, servant, professional, shopkeeper, labourer…’

What nonsense, Yann thought, to suggest that anyone ever forgot their class in England.

 

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

April 2024 From the author’s desk…

Never far from the headlines, Housing – 70 years ago – just three miles from Bath…

The bus dropped them off at the main gates and Yann was lulled into complacency by the imposing entranceway and long drive up to and past the main house. Then they reached the neglected cottage. An idyll in the summer when surrounded by wild flowers and roses rambling over the doorway, it looked drab and unwelcoming in the freezing drizzle of a dull December afternoon. Ruth leant her weight against the front door to coax the warped wood across the uneven threshold and Yann followed her into the gloomy front room.

Even to the child’s inexperienced eyes in the dark interior, it was apparent that as little as possible had been spent on fitting out and furnishing the cottage. He started to wonder if there was even electricity until he saw his mother reach up to a metal box by the front door and push some coins into it. Then, a bare overhead bulb glowed yellow above a few shabby items of furniture. He rightly assumed that the brightly patterned curtains hanging at the window had been made by his mother because they were so incongruously cheery in the dingy setting. He swallowed hard and did his best to conceal the growing horror he felt, as his mother showed him around the hovel that was now their home.

They managed to manoeuvre his school suitcase up the narrow staircase and into the cupboard-sized bedroom. There was just enough space for it to stand on its end and Yann wondered how they would manage in the summertime when his whole trunk would need to be accommodated.

Then there was the lavatory, or rather the lack of one. The tin Elson chemical bucket was in a small garden shed behind the cottage. Ruth quickly explained that it had to be emptied each week, but didn’t dwell on what that meant.

 

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

March 2024 From the author’s desk…

The Film makers will soon be returning to Bath…

 

After an excellent lunch, which Johnson insisted on paying for, Isaac headed away from the Circus, towards the Royal Crescent.

There was a great deal of commotion in the Crescent and he remembered the Chronicle headlines. Alexander Korda’s The Elusive Pimpernel was being filmed there. He halted beside a stack of inappropriate street lamp posts, which had been temporarily removed from the roadside – no effort had been spared to turn the clock back to the eighteenth century. He saw David Niven and Margaret Leighton emerge in splendour from one of the houses into the fierce arc lights of the film company and boarded a horse-drawn carriage.

“Another land of make-believe,” he said aloud as he turned away and walked back to the city through the Botanical Gardens.

 

 

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

 

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

 

From the Noticeboard

June 2024 From the author’s desk…

4 June, 2024 in From the author's desk

From the author’s desk… The late, great queen mother… ‘It now gives me great pleasure to declare this magnificent new classroom annexe, built for the Hope Venture by the boys…

May 2024 From the author’s desk…

2 May, 2024 in From the author's desk

The Coronation, no not last year but the one before in 1953… Ruth had secured two seats in the hospital lounge where Uncle Isaac used to work – she had…

Reviews

“Westcott has done it again, masterfully capturing the essence of magnificent Bath”

Jenny Lippett

“A young man buffeted by world events is left reeling, but survives to build his own empire in Bath. The ancient city has seen it all and has her own cards to play...  Douglas Westcott writes from experience of the chaos of history, business, and wild passions in this gripping trilogy.”

Tom Craigmyle

“A colourful and richly textured story worthy of this unique city”

Matthew H. Jacobs – Hampton, New Hampshire USA

“History, passion and big business – an awesome combination, powerfully written.”

Trish Traynor

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