I returned this week to visit some of the people I interviewed last year as part of my Estuary Life book. It was the first chance each person had to look at what I had written, a scary moment for me as well as them.
I have been very aware throughout the whole project how people have trusted me to let me into their homes and lives and reveal sometimes very private feelings about their situations so it was really important to me that they would like how I had portrayed them.
Along with the manuscript I bought each person a gift. What do you buy for people who have been so generous? In the end I bought them something related to their section of the story.
Angela Welford had opened up the plotland shack that her mother, the author Lena Kennedy, had built along with her husband in the 50’s. Afterwards, over lunch with her family, friends and neighbours, they had reminisced “It’s not like the old days, then people were always popping around with a pot of jam, or a cabbage from the garden.” so Angela’s gift was easy. A pot of my special plum and mulled wine jam and a cabbage, if not from my garden, at least personally selected by me from the supermarket.
Alex, the houseboat owner and former Radio Caroline D.J. wouldn’t let me leave without trying his blueberry brandy. I returned the complement with a bottle of my homemade cherry brandy.
Martin Simpson had let me stay on his houseboat at the end of my first weekend’s walk. I turned up at his luxury home on a damp Bank Holiday, dripping onto the parquet flooring and barely able to string a sentence together, I was so exhausted. He had poured me a hot bath and fed me pie and beer. He looked quite delighted when I returned the compliment and sent me a text later that evening to tell me pie was delicious.
All three people were thankfully happy with their part in the story. Now it’s time to brave the agents.