Today I’m delighted to feature author Judith Barrow. I had the pleasure of meeting Judith last year when she appeared at Northwich LitFest and happily added her books to my tbr. Judith grew up in a small village on the edge of the Pennines, but has lived in Pembrokeshire for over forty years. She is the author of five novels, and has had poetry and short fiction published. Judith has degrees in literature and creative writing and makes regular appearances at literary festivals. She is a creative writing tutor for Pembrokeshire County Council and holds private one-to-one workshops on all genres.
Over to Judith:-
Which 5 pieces of music/songs would you include in the soundtrack to your life and why?
Simon & Garfunkel – The Sound of Silence. Garfunkel once summed up the song’s meaning as “the inability of people to communicate with each other, not particularly internationally but especially emotionally, so what you see around you are people unable to love each other.” For a long time I thought the long silences: the lack of sharing the day’s experiences with the people you lived with, the tension and the “speak when spoken to” was the norm. It was only when I was in my teens and went to other people’s houses that I realised my family was different.
John Fred & His Playboy Band Judy In Disguise. I’m short-sighted and wore glasses all through childhood and until I was sixteen. When I first met David I often took them off and stumbled through our dates with the world as a blurred kaleidoscope. The first time he saw me with them perched on my nose, he hugged me and sang this song.
The Seekers – A World of our Own. Right, I hate to say it but this song was once the start of one of our early rows as both an accusation and an admission. David loved Judith Durham’s singing. I’d said my name was the only reason he was attracted to me in the first place. The quarrel ended almost as soon as it began, in laughter. After all, he’d admitted it and we were married, so who cared? Of course he now denies it but I remember when we went to see them live. I could have sat on his knee naked and he’d have peered around me to see her on stage! I was canny enough to buy an LP of The Seekers after that disagreement. I revelled in closing that front door and it just being us.
Swan Lake – Dance of the Cygnets. When I was twelve, my aunt, who lived with us for thirty years after we’d moved to Pembrokeshire, bought me the record of Swan Lake. It has remained my favourite ballet ever since. As a child this track always had me pirouetting across the room. When she was descending into dementia, I often reminded her of my dancing. It always made her laugh; I was definitely not a swan – but she used to tell me I was a cygnet – so there was hope for me yet. We played this at her funeral to accompany the coffin (cardboard, decorated with sky and clouds – she used to love watching clouds), going into the crematorium.
Brighouse & Rastrick Brass Band – Who Pays The Ferryman. Growing up I on the border of Yorkshire and Lancashire, brass bands are in my soul. I only have to hear the first notes and I’m back there. I loved the contests on Whit Fridays. We played this track at the end of my aunt’s funeral. It’s also in my own funeral plan.
Highlight 5 things (apart from family and friends) you’d find it hard to live without.
Books, of course.
My laptop. I’d have to resort to, pen and paper/ pencil and any cardboard I can find, quill pen, ink and parchment. Or I could stop dusting the furniture and write in that! (Which, of course takes us right away from the original question – sorry.)
The coastline, the moorland, the hills, the countryside, the garden. Trees!!
My painting equipment.
My memories – good and not so good – I’d be lost as a writer without them.
Can you offer 5 pieces of advice you’d give to your younger self?
Have the courage to know you’re good enough. Don’t look for others’ approbation.
Have the confidence to leave the family home without being married. (By which I don’t mean I regret getting married young, it was one of the best decisions of my life, but I never had the courage to be totally independent.)
Try to get published as soon as the first book is written. It won’t matter if it’s rejected; just get it out into that world.
Buy contact lenses with your Saturday job wages as soon as possible.
Understand that not all men are like your father.
Tell us 5 things that most people don’t know about you.
I was a schools county cross-country champion.
I lie about my age all the time – so much so I often forget how old I am. And really don’t care. But I once my vanity came back to slap me in the face when a reporter of a newspaper asked me my age and I said that was irrelevant. In her report she wrote, “Judith Barrow, who refuses to give her age…” I was most indignant, until I saw the funny side of it. Serves me right!
I’m quite good at painting land and seascapes.
I was once a qualified swimming teacher.
I was asked to go potholing, many years ago. I got about five metres in and totally freaked out. The thought of all that rock above me and the complete blackness on all sides, brought out a childhood fear of the dark.
Tell us 5 things you’d like to do or achieve.
I would like…
To travel the whole of the Pembrokeshire coast in one go – we’ve walked a lot of the coastline but in dribs and drabs over the years.
To have the Haworth trilogy made into a television drama.
To visit the East side of Canada; we’ve travelled down the west side to Vancouver and Victoria but didn’t cross the country.
To paint a picture so atmospheric and skilled that it would be good enough to be hung in the Tate Gallery – or any gallery come to think of it.
To have a huge family gathering. Due to the isolation of my childhood I was never aware until much later in life that I have many cousins, nephews and nieces somewhere in the UK. It would be interesting to meet them all.
Many thanks for joining me Judith. It’s been lovely discovering even more about you. We already had things in common but discovering a love of Simon and Garfunkel, brass bands and a childhood fear of the dark (which can occasionally resurface) adds to that list. Must start lying about my age too, that sounds good as I’m now declared ‘elderly’ by the government. I hope you manage to achieve the items on your ‘desire’ list. In the meantime, keep painting, keep writing and start planning that big family gathering!
Mother and daughter tied together by shame and secrecy, love and hate.
I wait by the bed. I move into her line of vision and it’s as though we’re watching one another, my mother and me; two women – trapped.
Today has been a long time coming. Irene sits at her mother’s side waiting for the right moment, for the point at which she will know she is doing the right thing by Rose.
Rose was Irene’s little sister, an unwanted embarrassment to their mother Lilian but a treasure to Irene. Rose died thirty years ago, when she was eight, and nobody has talked about the circumstances of her death since. But Irene knows what she saw. Over the course of 24 hours their moving and tragic story is revealed – a story of love and duty, betrayal and loss – as Irene rediscovers the past and finds hope for the future.
The Howorth Trilogy
Mary is a nursing sister at Lancashire prison camp for the housing and treatment of German POWs. Life at work is difficult but fulfilling, life at home a constant round of arguments, until Frank Shuttleworth, a guard at the camp turns up. Frank is difficult to love but persistent and won’t leave until Mary agrees to walk out with him.
In May 1950, Britain is struggling with the hardships of rationing and the aftermath of the Second World War. Peter Schormann, a German ex-prisoner of war, has left his home country to be with Mary Howarth, matron of a small hospital in Wales. The two met when Mary was a nurse at the POW camp hospital. They intend to marry, but the memory of Frank Shuttleworth, an ex-boyfriend of Mary’s, continues to haunt them and there are many obstacles in the way of their happiness, not the least of which is Mary’s troubled family. When tragedy strikes, Mary hopes it will unite her siblings, but it is only when a child disappears that the whole family pulls together to save one of their own from a common enemy.
Sequel to the acclaimed Changing Patterns and Pattern of Shadows. It’s 1969 and Mary Schormann is living quietly in Wales with her ex-POW husband, Peter, and her teenage twins, Richard and Victoria. Her niece, Linda Booth, is a nurse – following in Mary’s footsteps – and works in the maternity ward of her local hospital in Lancashire. At the end of a long night shift, a bullying new father visits the maternity ward and brings back Linda’s darkest nightmares, her terror of being locked in. Who is this man, and why does he scare her so? There are secrets dating back to the war that still haunt the family, and finding out what lies at their root might be the only way Linda can escape their murderous consequences.
It’s 1911 and Winifred Duffy is a determined young woman eager for new experiences, for a life beyond the grocer’s shop counter ruled over by her domineering mother.
The scars of Bill Howarth’s troubled childhood linger. The only light in his life comes from a chance encounter with Winifred, the girl he determines to make his wife.
Meeting her friend Honora’s silver-tongued brother turns Winifred’s heart upside down. But Honora and Conal disappear, after a suffrage rally turns into a riot, and abandoned Winifred has nowhere to turn but home.
The Great War intervenes, sending Bill abroad to be hardened in a furnace of carnage and loss. When he returns his dream is still of Winifred and the life they might have had… Back in Lancashire, worn down by work and the barbed comments of narrow-minded townsfolk, Winifred faces difficult choices in love and life.
Ashford, home of the Howarth family,is a gritty northern mill town, a community of no-nonsense Lancashire folk, who speak their minds and are quick to judge. But how many of them are hiding secrets that wouldn’t stand up to the scrutiny of others?
Judith Barrow’s Howarth Family trilogy, Pattern of Shadows, Changing Patterns and Living in the Shadows, along with the prequel, A Hundred Tiny Threads, published by Honno Press, is peopled with just such characters. Here are some of their secret stories – the girl who had to relinquish her baby, the boy who went to war too young, the wife who couldn’t take any more…
When Meg Matthews gives an interview on the local radio station it leads to a friendship with three other women. They share a terrible secret. Together, can they find the strength to expose the silent trauma they have endured all their lives?
The story is fictional: the facts are real.
Discover more about Judith’s books, thoughts, blogs and events on her personal website: https://www.judithbarrow-author.co.uk/
Or read her website devoted to reviews, interviews, writings and publishing: https://judithbarrow.blogspot.com
Connect with her on:
On Twitter: https://twitter.com/judithbarrow77
On her page on the Honno website: https://www.honno.co.uk/authors/b/judith-barrow/
On her Amazon.co.uk page: http://amzn.to/2klIJzN