The Big Five-O live and kicking – and set in Broadstairs!

It’s here! My sixth novel, The Big Five O, is now live and kicking on kindle and in e book (the paperback’s in September) and I am suitably thrilled as always to see it finally “out there.”

I particularly love my cover – not just because the very-talented illustrator Robyn Neild has totally “got” all four of the characters and they are just as I imagined, but for the little glimpse of Bleak House (where Charles Dickens wrote part of David Copperfield, don’t you know?) through the window behind them.

It is always a joy to set a book in my hometown. Some novels take longer to write than others whatever you do, but I discovered some years ago that you can save a great deal of time if you set the action in a place you know.

In the early days I made up my locations – and soon found that you can spend an inordinate number of hours working out how long it might take a heroine to walk to the station or drive to London, and what direction the shops are in, while making sure this fits in with where the doctor’s surgery is, since you’ve already declared that’s opposite Tesco. Then you have to remember it all!

If your backdrop, on the other hand, is an area you know intimately, then geography (never a strong point!) and logistics become easy.

The Big Five O is the story of four women who are all about to be – surprisingly enough – fifty years old. They live in the seaside town of Broadstairs and I had great fun with real place names and some real people too!

The joint party the four are planning is to be held in the Pavilion, Broadstairs – where I have attended many a fine event – and the manager Dan, of course, gets a name check. Roz works at Turner Contemporary in Margate and goes for a drink in The 39 Steps – a bar I go to for the odd gin;  Fay runs her removal business from Pysons Road Industrial Estate and likes a drink in The White Swan in Reading Street, a pub which is my absolute favourite. Charlotte sells high-end properties on the North Foreland Estate, our local posh bit, and Sherie has beauty treatments in Bodilight where I get my nails done.

All four have something to be secretive about, but whether I was plotting the route for the car chase, picking a venue for the mysterious meet-up, or choosing a restaurant where the first spark of passion could ignite across the pasta (it had to be the fab Italian, Posillipo, on the seafront!), I simply had to visualise all that my lovely corner of Kent has to offer.

When it comes to characters however, things are a bit different. Do you base them on people you know? is a favourite question for writers, and my answer is quite often: Yes!

But aside from the walk-on parts for those playing themselves, I always mix up the details and blur the edges (I know my laws on libel, thank you) and use my friends and acquaintances as a source of inspiration rather than a blueprint. (While giving my enemies halitosis and a vinyl fetish.) 🙂

I expect readers who live in Thanet to hazard the odd guess as to who has triggered my imagination this time, but if past experience is anything to go by, then I’d wager that anyone who IS in it, won’t recognise themselves, while names thrown into the hat will be the last ones I had in mind.  That’s my story anyway M’lud, and I’ll be sticking to it…

Jane remembers 2016

jwj-remembers-2016At midnight on 31st December I was travelling by car through the bottom of Broadstairs.  In Ramsgate, minutes earlier, they’d been spilling out of pubs, crowding along the waterfront, waiting for fireworks. Three miles down the road the pavements were deserted. You could almost see the tumbleweed blowing along Albion Street. I could only imagine that all the revellers were huddled behind doors – The Dolphin looked pretty crammed through its steamed up windows – in case 2016 had one final act of retribution up its sleeve. Nothing would have surprised me. In a year that saw us voting to shoot ourselves in our collective foot, our prime minister resigning, horrific acts of terrorism across Europe, losing an incredible amount of artistic talent, and gaining Trump while strangers crawled all over other strangers’ gardens looking for Pokemon, frankly anything could have happened. Now we are safely through to 2017, it’s time to breathe out and look back in wonder at the local highlights and national low-lives of the past twelve months.

A THUMBS UP FOR:

New outlets, increased business and general let’s-go wow factor in all three main towns. Margate Old Town gets ever more cutesy and the Harbour Arm continues to thrive with all units taken since the  latest addition to this snazzy food and drink destination – Mala Kaffe – in the spring.   2016 also brought the two-millionth visitor to the Turner Contemporary. Lucky teacher Linda Tucker was presented with a bottle of fizz when she walked through the gallery’s doors in June.

Over in Ramsgate, more restaurants and bars have popped up along Military Road in the old fishermen’s arches alongside such favourites as The Arch and The Greek Arch – and weren’t the lights on the boats gorgeous this year? Down in Pegwell Village, Frank Thorley – 81 this year and still working seven days a week – presided over the opening of the Seaview Bar & Restaurant – and extension to The Stanley Grey pub. I took Mike-humbug-Pearce (dining criteria: no kids, no office parties, nothing foreign, nothing spicy, no fish) along there for our annual pre-Christmas lunch and even he liked it.

In Broadstairs, despite the continuing blots on the landscape that are Costa and Iceland, the prevailing tradition of independent shops and eateries is upheld with the opening of teeny, acclaimed Stark by Michelin-starred chef Ben Crittenden, Taylors Seafood Restaurant and cocktail bar on the site of what was once the Rose pub, and the under-new-ownership, being-revamped-as-we-speak, Fish & Beer bar and restaurant, reopening on 27th January as The Reef.

Meanwhile, Micropubs continue to mushroom all over the Isle stretching from the Hair of the Dog in Minster to the Wheel Alehouse in Birchington. I am convinced most of society’s ills can be laid at the now-closed door of “The Local” (The Dane Valley Arms is the latest to be demolished)  so this is all good and worth its own small round of applause. 2016 additions include Nautic Ales at Northwood and Mind the Gap in Broadstairs, next to Houdini’s – our first “magic” bar…

My personal culinary discovery of the year goes to the London Tavern, Margate for their fab food and utterly superlativeburger. They do real ale too.

A DROPPED JAW AT:

Nigel Farage being shortlisted for Time magazine’s Person of the Year award.

(And then Donald Trump winning it.)

SHOCK OF THE YEAR

A dual award given to 23rd June and November 8th 2016. No doubt there was much rejoicing on the morning after the referendum in Kipper Towers (aka Thanet District Council) but most sane people I know were walking about in a fog of shock and bereavement. Waking up on 9th November to find a buffoon with no political experience whatsoever now had his finger on the nuclear button, it felt as if the world had ended twice.  My friend, the award-winning restaurant critic Marina O’Loughlin, tweeted simply: “There are no more jokes”.

Which as it’s turned out there won’t be, tragically, from some of our brightest stars. We bid farewell to Victoria Wood, Caroline Aherne, Ronnie Corbett, Sir Terry Wogan, TV comedy writer Carla Lane, ascerbic and brilliantly witty journalist AA Gill.

OTHER (NON) EVENTS

Meanwhile work started, and was then halted, in Ramsgate on what is rumoured to become the biggest Wetherspoons of all time and Margate house prices surged beyond all other seaside towns. Perhaps because, while commuters in other parts of the country faced unrelenting misery, our hi- speed trains mostly ran on time.

Tracy Emin “married” a lump of rock, Emeli Sande’s music video for her single “Hurts” filmed on Botany Bay collected over ten million hits on YouTube, Margate Caves got lottery funding, and new dog waste bag dispensers were introduced. Well done TDC. (And you didn’t think you’d hear ME say that in this decade, did you?)

Which leaves me to conclude it’s not been all bad. May I wish you health, wealth and happiness in 2017. It can only get better now. (Can’t it?)

Happy New Year! xx

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