I confess to having a love of all things ‘Quintessentially English’ – and as I’ve grown older, so has my sense of patriotism. last year we saw the royal wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton – this year it is the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee and the year Britain will host the Olympic Games.
I always imagined my book as being a very ‘British’ novel, which celebrates all things to do with living in England – the culture and food, the politics and the social changes – all the type of stuff I wanted to depict throughout my story, with special emphasis on those special characteristics which marked each decade. So let us start with the 1970s.
Ironically, there has been a bit of a revival lately as depicted in the BBC series ‘The 70s’’. In the first book ‘Beginnings’ I had really hoped the politics of the decade would come across – from numerous mentions of strikes and power cuts (where everyone kept a supply of candles), to the troubles in Northern Ireland leading to first IRA terrorist attacks.
In a recent article in the Telegraph, ‘It’s time to re-evaluate the Seventies,’ Dominic Sandbrook, ahead of his new TV series, describes in our collective memories that “these were the years of strikes and blackouts, financial crises and terrorist atrocities, terrible wallpaper and undrinkable wine… And while David Bowie’s Ziggy Stardust, Peter Wyngarde’s Jason King and Roger Moore’s James Bond were pushing the boundaries of male fashion, even ordinary working-class men were experimenting with shaggy hair, droopy moustaches and explosively colourful ties.”
Fashion to me, was important – and in this context of my own book, I made numerous mentions of the current trends which included hot pants, mini dresses and flared trousers. Even the cat suit got a mention! Apart from fashion and politics, so music made a statement in those years – 1972 was the year of glam-rock, where performers such as David Bowie and Marc Bolan of T-Rex had their heyday – it was a decade where people still had black and white TV sets and used public telephone boxes! Where London was marred by gangsters and corrupt police officers from Scotland Yard took back handers.
Continuing its British theme, the second book Visions set in the 80’s, continues this passion of mine. I have attempted to show it more through the medium of Television, than music, where mention is made of popular shows such as ‘Spitting Image’. Who can remember the grotesque puppets which poured scorn on our most famous politicians – from the brutal depiction of Margaret Thatcher to the fountains of spit from Roy Hattersley?
The 80’s was also the decade where us Brits started to care about environmental issues, where aerosols were banned and there was a growing anti-nuclear movement, highlighted by the women who camped at Greenham Common. In the aftermath of the miners strike, we saw the shocking ‘Battle of the Beanfield’ where police raided and smashed up the vehicles of the hippy convoys, gathered around Stone Henge. But the 80’s was also the decade of greed, with a rising ‘yuppie’ culture, especially in London.
When it comes to celebrating all things British, how better to do this from within the tranquil setting of an idyllic village – which includes a fine country house, serving cream teas in the summer – and the cosy log fires of a typical English Country pub in winter. All these themes have already found their way into my second book ‘Visions’.
Britain if anything, has a moving shifting, culture, where we frequently experience the odd ‘revival’ of a particular trend, but nothing ever really stays the same. Let’s just say I am really looking forward to writing about the next decade too, which will be the 90’s – a time which for me, was characterised by a growing drug and rave culture, a rise in crime and the creeping influence of the EC, post 1992.