Wednesday, 7 March 2018
Author’s Inspiration ~ Beryl Kingston #HistFic #HistoricalFiction @berylkingston
Please give a warm welcome to Historical fiction author, Beryl Kingston. Bery is going to share her inspiration behind her fabulous book, Everbody's Somebody.
I have to admit I cheated over this book, because I began by trawling back into my own family history, not because I wanted to search out all my long-lost relations but because of three of the people I grew up with. All three of them had very interesting tales to tell and I sat at their feet as a very young child with my ears flapping and afterwards and in secret wrote up everything I could remember of what they said in my well hidden, very secret, diary.
One of them whose name was Jesse Garnsworthy, had been a soldier in the First World War and served in the trenches for the full four years, I heard things from him that I’d never heard before and have never seen in any history book. One of them was the ‘morning hate’ which I’ve described in the book exactly as it was described to me but he also told me about the food, the rats, the lice and the general filth of the trenches. Respec’ Jesse.
The second one was Jesse’s wife whose name was Minnie but whom I always called Dardy because Garnsworthy was too difficult for my infant tongue and the nickname stuck. She told me almost casually that she had been sent out to work the day after her twelfth birthday, I was absolutely horrified to hear it and thought how cruel it was, but she said that was the way things were in the old days and they all had to put up with it. I loved her to bits. She was the most hardworking and loving woman I’ve ever met, she worked every day of her life, from twelve years old until the day before she died when she was in her eighties. And she became my heroine as she always was. Respec’ Dardy.
PICTURE OF DARDY – WIFE’S NAME IS MINNIE.
The third, was an Aunt called Vera Dawson and she (Respec’ again!) was a Suffragette who chained herself to the railings in Parliament Square and of course was arrested, she told me how Suffragettes were despised and openly abused especially by what she called ‘rough-necks’, so there’s another thread for my book and again it was verbatim.
I was born in 1931 in Tooting, and when I was four was enrolled at a local dancing school run by a lady called Madam Hadley, which I attended until I was eight when the war began. Because of the war my school career was – shall we say – varied. I was evacuated twice, the first time to Felpham which is near Bognor Regis and the second to Harpenden in Hertfordshire, and consequently went to ten different schools. I ended up at Streatham Secondary School, an LCC grammar run on the Dalton system, which offered a few lessons as sparking points and then required pupils to be responsible for their own learning, either in study rooms with their teachers on hand to help and advise, or on their own in the library or the school hall. It suited me to a T. Then to King’s College London, where I read English and enjoyed myself a lot, but wasn’t particularly distinguished, having other things on my mind by then.
I am proud of the fact that I was in Tooting for the first four months of the blitz, and only left it to be evacuated again when our road was bombed and our house was uninhabitable. I spent the middle part of the war in Harpenden and returned to live in London again at the end of the war at the time of the V2’s, this time without my family.
When I was just sixteen I met the love of my life, who arrived on my doorstep in Air Force blue one February evening in the coldest winter on record.
Despite heavy opposition from my parents, we married three years later during my first year at King’s and spent the next 53 years 11 months and 6 days living more and more happily together.
We had three much loved children and five much loved grandchildren and once I’d embarked on my career as a novelist, researched all the books together, which was great fun. We finished work on ‘Gates of Paradise’ six weeks before he died. So this publication is special to me.
I have enjoyed two careers in my life – as a teacher from 1952 to 1985 (with ten years off to bring up my family, which some might consider a third career) and as a published writer from 1980 to date. I am also, although it sounds immodest to say it, an easy and charismatic public speaker, usually unfazed by any audience no matter how big or how small or what questions they might throw at me.
In the two schools where I was head of the English department, I deliberately covered the full range of age and ability, believing that as I was paid the largest salary I should carry the heaviest responsibility. My work was filmed by KCL Education Department for use in their PGCE course and I have given talks at various colleges and schools on a variety of educational subjects, from teaching poetry to ‘tackling’ sex education. I have never subscribed to the Gradgrind theory of education which is current now, but always believed that the job of a teacher is to enable her students to learn.
I have always been a political animal, taking part in street demonstrations, walking from Aldermaston to London, involved in the 1945 election despite the fact that I was only fourteen, taking to the streets again, along with a million others, to protest against the Iraq war when I was 72. And as a last and rather lighter touch, I was a beauty queen in 1947. It wasn’t all protests!
This is the story of a girl who is sent out to work on the day after her twelfth birthday in 1908, to a big house a long way away from her family, as many girls were in those days.
It follows her from Binderton to Arundel and then wherever jobs take her, to the RAC club in London, to the Borough where she lives in Newcomen Street and discovers the suffragette movement and meets and falls in love with a Docker called Jim. The First World War pulls them apart and we follow him into the trenches and when he is wounded to the Military hospital in Tooting. Some years later when she is married and has a daughter she finds a job as an artist’s model in Cheyne Walk and as a bit-part player in Alexander Korda’s new film ‘The private life of Henry VIII’. It’s a hardworking but eventful life.