In March of this year, I heard my short story, An Honest Review, had been Longlisted in the Fiction Factory’s 2018/2019 competition.

‘It has just the right mixture of ingredients in carefully measured quantities. The introduction puts us perfectly the mood, the descriptions and the buildup put us clearly in the picture and the revelation of the characters make us smile.’  I was happy with that.

 It is a tongue-in-cheek story about a writers group, somewhere in the Home Counties.  I was encouraged to develop the story further, which wasn’t hard to do because I had fallen in love with all the members of the Didsbrook Writers Group.

Weeks ago I planned to start introducing you to these characters and their new storyline which is evolving into a  murder mystery spoof.  The truth is, I have still been working on Just Say It… even though I’ve been saying for months that ‘I’d finished it.’  Ah, well… there goes another one, but An Honest Review the novel is now beginning to take shape, and I am finding it liberating to, finally, be sinking my teeth into a new project.

I would now like to introduce you to Lucy Fothergill.

Extract from An Honest Review

© Tessa Barrie 2019

I was born on 11th July 1998, which coincidentally, is World Population Day.   My mother, Joan, had been marvelling at the content of the Fresh Produce section of Didsbrook’s brand new Coop when her waters broke.  Legend has it, my father, George, with the help of the store manager, bundled her into a trolley and wheeled her across the cobbled market place to the Didsbrook Cottage Hospital.  Shortly after they wheeled her in, I popped out and the World Population counter flipped over to add one more.

Growing up in the pastoral beauty surrounding Didsbrook was idyllic. My older brother, Thomas, and I were like a pair of feral kittens, scampering over the unblemished countryside, climbing trees and falling over, returning home with scuffed knees. 

The only other children of our ages living nearby were Betty Hargreaves the butcher’s daughter, who was in the same year as Thomas, and Kevin Harper, who was my age.  Kevin was an odd child, awkward at school, rarely interacting with our peers.  So, although Thomas was happy to include Betty in our adventures, we always tried to give Kevin the slip, which wasn’t hard to do.  He was overweight and we knew we could out-jog him, so when we sprinted, we became specs on his horizon within seconds. 

In the summer holidays, we would disappear for most of the day exploring the woods and swimming in the trout lake at Didsbrook Manor, my mother blissfully unaware that we had gone anywhere.  I have no recollection of either of our parents laying down any laws about what we could or couldn’t do, or where we could or couldn’t go.   But in reality, the only other living souls we ever bumped into, were four-legged.  Sheep, pigs, but mostly cows, as Didsbrook’s primary industry in those days was dairy farming.  So the most undesirable encounter we were ever likely to have, would have been to find ourselves in the same field the Holstein-Friesian bull from Frogs Bottom Farm.  My brother and I discussed such an eventually, but we agreed, as he was built like a Friesian Sumo wrestler, that we could outsprint him, just like we always did with Kevin. As long as we rocked up for tea at around 6.00 o’clock, we could always rely on my mother to be there to dish it up.  Whilst we were eating, she always gave us an animated account of her day on the yoghurt production line at Elsmere Dairy, where my father was Plant Manager, before rushing out for a rehearsal of the Didsbrook Amateur Dramatic Society, affectionately known as DADs.