NOWT TO DO WITH MY WIFE – country tales from the north of England
peakpublish UK 2015 ISBN 978-1-907219-16-0
THE COLLECTION OF STORIES IN ‘NOWT TO DO WITH MY WIFE’ CONTINUES the combination of truth and untruth which was the basis of ‘Nowt To Do With Me.’ Everything in the book has something to do with me and I claim credit, guilt and responsibility for all of it – true or not. This is not a memoir. Memoirs are I believe, supposed to be entirely true.
The twelve chapters can stand alone but are linked together by geography and also to a less extent by recurring characters such as Jack - who creeps into a number of the stories. I am the main link of course; from a small boy going to his first professional football match at the age of seven (Chapter One) through to the age of sixty-four (Chapter 12) when I wrote my last magazine article before moving to Canada. With the exception of Chapter 9, the whole book is set in South and West Yorkshire. It is wrapped around people – often larger than life characters – who play key roles both big and small in the stories.
An encouraging number of those who have told me how much they have enjoyed my first book of short stories said that it told them a lot about the old rural ways and the colourful players who walked onto my personal stage. This book is in a sense a continuation of that. There was more to tell and here it is. As with ‘Nowt To Do With Me,’ I use dialect speech here and there and hope that you find this to be interesting in itself as well as reasonably authentic. Now and then I provide a translation.
The title of the book comes from one story and has nothing whatsoever to do with secrets I may want to keep from my wife. Any important secrets that I may have (and right now I cannot think of any) will not get into a book. For some this book will help you remember similar or familiar places, situations and characters. For others it may provide an insight into very different times and perhaps very different places. Whatever it does I hope that here and there it makes you smile.
Those of you who suspect that there is another major part of my life which has involved much life, work and travel overseas may wonder why this does not feature here or in ‘Nowt To Do With Me.’ With possibly unjustified modesty I thought there was enough for two books without drawing on all that. It could well be that the stories that have started to emerge from that part of my life will find their way into another book one day.
THE STORIES IN ‘NOWT TO DO WITH ME’ ARE ALL ABOUT CHARACTERS; the kind of individuals who have peopled our villages and brought colour and spice to the pot that makes up our daily lives. People like the one of a kind post-man Harry, Jim, the loud-voiced local pig-killer and farm-worker Jack who gave the book its title. Add in Billy the eccentric clay-miner, Jane the cat-lady and Slipper Barker, the village school-teacher. Stir in two Derbyshire great-uncles, Ken the jovial bell-ringer, pub land-lady Sylvia and Albert the organ-blower. Season with Adrian the ever-worried choir leader, stuttering Ivan and flighty, flirty Brenda and we have the basis of a tasty country dish. Extra flavour comes from the likes of runny-nosed Jimmy, basin-cut Sam and a supporting cast of sundry cricketers, school mates, bell-ringers, singers and golfers.
The first story sets the scene and we meet a number of locals at the wake for the death of one of the village pubs. One of them features strongly in the second story as the troubled but never to be forgotten junior school teacher as does Jim and his pig-killing and pig-chasing expertise in the third story. The fourth chapter which draws heavily on the author’s early farm life is wrapped around the colourful Jack and the Cat Lady story that follows comes directly from the retail milk delivery days.
Story number six introduces Billy, a distant relative and also paints a picture of village cricket over half a century ago. This is followed by a short story devoted entirely to a local Methodist chapel and a quiet little man carrying out a menial but important task. This is followed by a Christmas story all about grumbling, chain-smoking Harry and then by a tribute to two old men who made a big impression on the author when he was “nobbut a lad.”
The last three stories bring us closer to the present day. The Music Makers is about fun and games on a choir trip to a singing completion and Bells and Cannonballs has a happy ending after more home- generated entertainment. The last story is full of only slightly larger than life individuals – most of them wielding golf clubs.
NOWT TO DO WITH ME – rural stories from the north of England
peakpublish UK 2012 ISBN 978-1-907219-31-3