I have been writing books and stories since I was seventeen years old. Thank goodness my first adolescent story has been lost for decades. I could be prosecuted under The Obscene Publications Act were it still around !
I used to write under the pen-name of Jonathan Flie. I had three books published and numerous newspaper and magazine articles with that name but now I work as Max Robinson. Max is a slight adaptation of my childhood pet dog Mack and Robinson is my mother's maiden name. I have fourteen books published on Amazon in e-book format.
Rebekah passed away five months as of today. When she died I was enthusiastically writing what I believe will be my best work. (Not difficult as most of my writing tends to be rubbish.)
The Bridge House is the story of the times my grandmother, Lily, lived through. She was born in 1890 and died in 1984. The story begins shortly after Lily's10th birthday and the death of Queen Victoria. It ends when Lily's great granddaughter Rebekah was born. There, on the right, is Lily holding Rebekah who was the first Ashford girl to be born for one hundred years.
The Bridge House is the name of the house in the Staffordshire village of Madeley where Lily was born and grew up. NO, the picture used for the cover is not The Bridge House and the lady is not Lily.
That picture, which has always been called within our family The Lavender Lady, originally belonged to Lily's mother-in-law, Emily Ashford. When she died it passed to Lily. In 1984 I asked if I could have it to remember my Nan so it skipped a generation and came to me. Generation number four.
Rebekah asked if when I died she could have it. Generation number five. Last week I signed my new will. The Lavender Lady will now go to my youngest grandchild, Frances. Generation number six.
When I inherited The Lavender Lady it was framed within a dark oak surround. I had it re framed. Hidden behind the picture, hidden for almost seventy years I found this.
William's army discharge certificate. Suffering from tuberculosis William was discharged from the army and left the trenches of World War One to return to his family home in Birmingham.
Chapter One tells of Lily's childhood and teenage years. These were happy and carefree days.. When World War One came she and her sister went to Birmingham to work in a munitions factory. There is a degree of romantic fiction in Chapter One, I have wrapped Lily's life in a cloak of my imagination as I try to share with my readers what life was like for those living at the turn if the century. A very, very different way of life to that we all know. (Sorry about the paragraph here - the geeks at Google have screwed up the page formatting - AGAIN !) I am not the first Ashford to be a writer. Daisy Ashford, in her day, was far more famous and widely read than ever I will be. As I was writing Chapter One I found that I was writing in the style of my ancestor Daisy Ashford.
There are other Ashfords who have claim to fame. I have written them into the story.
William Ashford the landscape painter is part of my family. Thomas Ashford is also an ancestor. I am very proud to tell people of Thomas. During his army career he was awarded two medals, a campaign medal which every member if his regiment received and The Victoria Cross.
Painter William gets a passing mention in Chapter One while Thomas is brought into Chapter Two.
I was working on Chapter Two when Rebekah died. I did not think I would be able to continue writing the story, a story which had its end set when Beck was born. But if I stopped writing the book I would stop writing altogether, a hobby I have had for fifty years would come to an end.
My wife suggested I should write the book for Rebekah. That was what I did.
Rebekah died on a Friday, we were planning to meet for tea on the Sunday. Rebekah had a CD of music she was going to give me as a Thank You for driving her to and from hospital. She knew well, as all of my family does, of my love of music. The CD was Andre Rieu's Love In Venice. For two weeks after her death this was the only CD I played in the car.
I took one song and wove it into Chapter One as a theme to dominate the text.
I made it Lily's favourite piece of music.
Now writing the story for Rebekah I decided that when it was published all royalties would go to Ronald McDonald Houses.
There was a real character in Lily's life, Violet McGurk. In my story I have changed her to become Violet McDonald. She first appears in Chapter One. Rebekah was a Sheffield Wednesday fan. I did a bit of research to find a Wednesday player from the same generation as William Ashford in Chapter Two. I found Clark Brelsford and brought him into Chapter Two as William's friend and comrade in arms. The writing was going along well. I finished Chapter Two and was scribbling away in Chapter Three. I was writing an average of one thousand words a day.
I was getting so much enjoyment from my writing. I was bringing Chapter Three towards its end when I stopped.
Chapter Three is centred round Lily's adukt home at 294 Kings Road, Kingstanding, Birmingham. This was also the first home I lived in while my parents saved money for a deposit on their own home. Very different to The Bridge House.
I stopped writing. For three months I did not write a word. Not a single word. I had become so involved with the OurRebekah project I did not have the time to write and my mind could not depart from setting up projects for Ronald McDonald Houses to pick up my pen again. YES, I always write into a notebook then type up the words later. I do write with a pen.
Visiting Ronald McDonald House in Birmingham I said I would give The Bridge House royalties to that house. I made a promise. I said I would set up an OurRebekah project BOOKS FOR BIRMINGHAM and give over The Bridge House and two other of my books to support them.
I made a series of promises to the house to motivate myself back to writing. Nothing happened. I said several time to the house manager that I needed a kick up the backside toget writing again. Still nothing happened. I was so busy with OurRebekah. Our Frog Challenge and last Sunday's Big Fun Run were amazing successes. Everything that happened was beyond my wildest dreams. I said I wanted to go to Birmingham to chat about things, to make more promises to the house about my story writing. I wanted to put myself into a position where I could not possibly not get back to writing. I talked about going to Birmingham but did not talk at a level where it was going to happen.
When I decided to make The Bridge House a story for Ronald McDonald Houses, later specifically for Birmingham, I said it would be published on the same day as The Big Fun Run.
The Big Fun Run happened last Sunday but since I stopped writing nothing has made me pick up my pen again. I want to, oh yes I want to, but I am so busy.
This has to stop. I have to steer myself into a position where I can no longer make promises then break them.
I here give you my word that The Bridge House will be finished and published on Saturday 19th May 2018, the anniversary of Rebekah's passing. I want to set into the diary an OurRebekah project to launch the book.
Yesterday the bog had 89 readers, not one of our better days. I want this edition to achievea far greater readership. I want to promise every reader that I will return to working on The Bridge House and I will have it finished and published by 19th May 2018. To fail to do so would be to bring dishonour on myself and dishonour to Rebekah.I have edited Chapter One and Chapter Two. I am about to go through Chapter Three, edit that and then finish writing it. This picture shows Lily, my Nan, holding me as a tiny baby. To fail to finish the book by Saturday 19th May 2018 would be to dishonour Nan as well.
Within the OurRebekah website I have set up a special area for The Bridge House.
I need your help. I need your support. I need your encouragement. I need you to kick my backside. To mix my metaphors I need you to keep my nose to the grindstone.
Can you have a look at Chapter One and Chapter Two. Can you make sure I have indeed take out all of the typos. Does it make sense ? Please give me your thoughts and criticism. Help me to make it a better read. Today I will start editing the text for Chapter Three. There is a lot to it so that may take me a week to finish. Push me, nag me, bully me to get it done sooner than that. Chapter Three centres round Lily's oldest son Billy, moves to my father and introduces my mother. I will appear in Chapter Four. I am not going to tell you how the book ends in Chapter Five, that will be a surprise. I hope that readers will sit back and suddenly say AH - YES - now it all makes sense !
One thing I have not yet worked out for the plot, something I need to sort and to include is Why did Emily Ashford hide William's army discharge certificate behind the picture of the Lavender Lady ?
I have just read through the text above before publishing the blog for today. When Rebekah had her successful transplant I was in California. I am going back to California in April. I am going as part of an OurRebekah project. California has so many memories for me. This blog is long enough as it is so I will not add to it by going through them all here. What I am going to do, what I am going to promise is to write the very last paragraph for The Bridge House on The Golden Gate Bridge looking towards The City By The Bay. I will weave San Francisco into the story but you will have to wait until I write that last paragraph.