In my new book: Every Great Journey Starts Somewhere ~ Seven Days in India, I wrote that my visit to this wonderful country “really did happen as a result of a fortunate series of chance meetings between 2000 and 2001. It was a time when my life was going through a period of great change and I had just embarked on a new career as a freelance writer”.
“A Comma in Bookham“, the story I wrote about the Buddhist monks in my home village was published in the Surrey Lives section of the Surrey County magazine in April 2000 – the first of a run of my stories about people living in the county of Surrey that they published…. stories that seemed to crop up by chance.
That year I heard about a vicar at the church in our village with incredible skills as an escapologist, and the only man known to have escaped from a straitjacket whilst tramplining! I photographed him, wrote a story, submitted it to the editor of the Surrey County magazine…another acceptance in the Surrey Lives slot. …
Soon afterwards I spotted a man in the bushes close to the lay-by on the main road that runs through our village. It was hard for me to ignore activity…anywhere! The guy was hedge-laying – a feature of the British landscape…..and another feature in Surrey Lives.
I can’t quite remember exactly how Gardens and Guests came about. I think I may have heard something on local radio about Derek St Romaine, a Royal Horticultural Society Gold-Medal winning photographer, and his wife Dawn who ran a B+B in their Surrey home. I probably then phoned them to get my own take on their story… and towards the end of the year it was another article in the Surrey Lives series – with a story about their gorgeous garden with its numerous nooks and crannies and private corners, and where, at every turn, there is something different. Secret arbours, ornamental hedges of rosemary and cotton lavender and a hosta inferno in a dark corner as you snake around the garden.
Thinking back, this was a significant time in my early writing career… honing my skills… and at the same time posting articles to the Writers Bureau College of Journalism in Manchester, with whomI was following a freelance journalism course. I was finding that gardening and the great outdoors were popular topics with magazine editors…well, they were for me! I kept my eyes and ears open for snippets of anything that I could turn into stories.
This is where my sister Diana makes an appearance in my story. We chatted regularly on the phone about this-and-that. During one long conversation she mentioned her ex-husband had found a niche market for the diaper-shaped garden tiles that he was producing in his garden shed in Stoke-on-Trent. It sounded like my kind of story. Diana and I arranged to travel the 150-odd miles up north to meet her ex in his garden shed. The meeting for some reason had to be cancelled. But me, being like a dog with a bone would not let an opportunity disappear into thin air……more later