Since I began writing my series, ‘Same Face Different Place’, I have enjoyed depicting special events such as Christmas. As there is much emphasis on family life and people in my stories, it is important to highlight occasions which bring people together, even in times of heartache and hardship. To bring a little festive cheer into the big wide world of literature, I would therefore like to share a couple of Christmassy extracts from the first and second books.
Book 1 – Beginnings (currently available on Amazon) 1973
As Christmas was the one season which brought London to life, Rosemary agreed to drive both girls into the heart of the Capital, where they had arranged to meet the boys over in the West End. From the busy streets, emerged a lovely atmosphere – from the warming fragrance of hot chestnuts and toffee apples sold by street vendors – to the shop windows decorated with fake snow and pretty lights. Somewhere in the distance, echoed the haunting sound of a Salvation Army brass band playing Christmas carols. And as the evocative melody of ‘God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen’ rang into the air, Eleanor felt the tears pricking her eyes – but blinked them back, refusing to allow her melancholy to surface in the midst of such a comforting scene.
So they mingled amongst the crowds which thronged the pavements, pausing every so often to peer into shop windows. Eleanor, wearing a fluffy white hat borrowed from Alison could not prevent the occasional sideways glance, as her eyes scoured the streets for enemies – it had become second nature – even though they were far from the menacing streets of East London. The chance she might bump into any of Theakston’s thugs, seemed incredibly slim – but she hadn’t overruled the possibility that she might see someone like Whaley. A man like him could turn up anywhere, as he had done in Holborn and with his immaculate outer veneer and well-cut suit, would blend into any crowd unnoticed. In truth, she felt uneasy just wandering from shop to shop – so as an extra precaution, chose to buy all her presents from one department store.
With Alison accompanying her to help her choose, she picked out an ornamental glass decanter, filled with lavender scented bubble bath for Rosemary and a box of herbal soaps. Upstairs in the menswear department, she found a striped black and grey shirt for Luke, knowing he loved clothes, especially stylish ones. Lastly, she took a chance – she shooed Alison away for a few minutes, in order that she could sneak back to the gifts section to buy her a lovely vintage hairbrush and comb set she had spotted earlier, knowing it would look perfect on her dressing table.
By the time they left the store, it was completely dark – but the busy pavements were illuminated by the gleam of lanterns emanating from shop windows. In the fraction of time they had left, before meeting the others, Eleanor dashed into a record shop to buy Joshua a Rolling Stones album which he had been wanting for ages called ‘Exile on Main St.’ After which time, they proceeded to fight their way through the crowds, towards the corner of Oxford Street where sure enough the boys awaited them, wrapped in scarves and woolly hats, breathing great clouds into the crisp night air. Eleanor felt elated – it had been a hugely enjoyable venture and she now cherished the thought of returning home to start present wrapping.
Book 2 – Visions (in progress and due out soon) 1984
As soon as they were inside the caravan, Eleanor felt some of her earlier tension melt. It was at times like these, when she was pleased she had stoked up the wood burner, leaving it to smoulder until the interior of her home was blanketed in warmth. Anna’s cough had subsided, her cheeks flushed with colour again as she drank in her surroundings: gazing in delight at the branches of holly, she and Elijah had threaded together to make a garland, tied with gold ribbons and sprayed with fake snow. There seemed to be even more candles than ever, which Eleanor began to light in succession. As the tiny flickers of flame sprung to life, they added a sparkle to sprigs of tinsel, one would never have noticed – the fir cones sprayed gold, which stood amongst the many other glittering trinkets.
Instead of tea, Eleanor placed a saucepan on top of her stove and warmed up some mulled wine. A rich fragrance of cinnamon and cloves infused the air around them – she offered a weaker version for Margaret and Eli, which had been diluted with orange juice.
“So what are you doing for Christmas?” Anna asked her, breathing in deeply to take in the delightful smells of mulled wine, combined with wood smoke.
“Rosemary’s coming over to stay!” Eleanor began to rhapsodise. “I’m sure I mentioned that her sister lives in the farmhouse next door! Luke’s coming too with his family – that’s her eldest son.”
“Well, you know you are always welcome to come over and see us too,” Anna added warmly. “Spend a day with us – have another Christmas dinner!”
Anna turned to her and their eyes connected. Once again, Eleanor could sense that strong thread of friendship weaving its way between their hearts… (continued).