So, it’s September and summer’s officially over – not that it ever really got started in our part of the world! But we’re not downcast at all, not as long as there’s plenty of tea, a fabulous cake baked by my husband over the Bank Holiday weekend, and my lovely guest Merryn Allingham, here to talk about books and music, and the wonderful places she’s travelled to.
Where do you live, Merryn? I live in Lewes in East Sussex, about five miles from the coast. It’s a very old town dating back to Anglo Saxon times and has the narrow streets and old houses to match. It also has a splendid history, given its modest size, that includes Simon de Montfort and his victory over King Henry III, and Tom Paine, a revolutionary writer and one of the founders of the United States who lived here for a number of years.
Where is your favourite place in the world? A difficult one. At one time in my life I worked as cabin crew and travelled very widely, and over the years I’ve kept on travelling! I suppose the place that blew me away on first sight was Rio de Janeiro. The gap between rich and poor was, and still is, huge but the natural beauty of the place is stunning. I remember midnight walks along the Copacabana beach (I’m not sure it would be safe today!), in one ear the sound of the samba playing from hotels lining the Avenida Atlantica, and in the other, waves breaking on the sand.
A few years ago, I visited India which prompted me eventually to write the Daisy trilogy. If you’ve been there, you’ll know it’s an assault on the senses, but the colour, the life, the sheer spirit of humanity hits you in a way you don’t expect.
And nearer to home, it would have to be Italy, my long term love affair. I think I’ve travelled most of the country by now and I love it all – the lakes, the hill towns, the Renaissance cities and the amazing seascape of southern Italy.
My favourite, favourite place, of course, is England. There’s nowhere I’d rather live and I’m always happy to come home.
What wonderful places you’ve visited, Merryn. I’d love to travel further south in Italy, and Rio sounds just the sort of place that would blow you away.
Being a writer is a great job. What’s the worst job you’ve ever had? Like most people, my past has a scattering of really boring and badly paid jobs. Fortunately, they were most often temporary. The one that comes to mind is demonstrating a men’s fragrance in a department store. At the time, I was young and unconfident, and died several deaths every time I had to approach a stranger to spray him. I didn’t like the fragrance either!
That does sound a nightmare. From now on, I’ll take pity on the sales people and accept their sprays of perfume.
What book do you wish you’d written? Gone with the Wind. It has everything – romance, tragedy, the drama and conflict of war – and wonderful frocks. To be serious, the amount of research that Margaret Mitchell must have done is awe inspiring, and how wonderful to see all that scholarship encapsulated in a book (and a film) that is unashamedly popular.
So hard to believe the film is seventy years old. I watched it recently, and it’s as fresh for me today as when I first saw it many, many years ago.
What’s your favourite song? Feeling Good. Not the singer so much, but I find the lyrics wonderfully uplifting:
It’s a New Dawn … Its a new Day …. Its a new life … for me, and I’m feeling good.
Never too late to start over!
Love that song!
If you could meet anyone in the world, dead or alive, who would it be and what would you say to them? Thomas Hardy. I’d want to say how much pleasure his writing has given me over the years and also, if he didn’t already know it (!), that he’s remembered as one of the greatest novelists that ever lived. Despite his fame, his autobiographical writing reveals a man unsure of his talent. ‘Thomas the Unworthy’, he called himself.
What’s your happiest childhood memory? Eating loganberries in the sun. We lived in a cottage in Somerset – no indoor toilet and no real bathroom – but an enormous cottage garden, or so it seemed to me as a child. There was a small spot, a corner really, where two old stone walls met and soaked up the summer warmth. It was where my mother chose to grow the loganberries and it was a very special place.
That sounds idyllic. What a lovely memory.
If you had to marry a fictional character, from film, television, or books, who would it be? Mr Knightley in Jane Austen’s Emma. He has good looks and good humour. His estate is just the right size. And he’s wise and witty too. The perfect gentleman.
Oh, I love your choice. He is the perfect gentleman, isn’t he? And the sort of person you could always rely on to do and say exactly the right thing.
What’s the most important lesson life has taught you? To be brave and grab the moment when it comes, whatever it is – a new house, a new job, a new love. It’s a truism, but that moment won’t come again.
Very wise words!
And finally, please tell us about your latest book, where we can find it, and where we can find your blog/website
Daisy’s Long Road Home came out on 27 August. It’s the last of a trilogy tracing ten years in the life of Daisy Driscoll, a working class girl from London. The trilogy begins in 1938 (The Girl from Cobb Street) when Daisy sails to India to make a disastrous marriage to a young officer in the Indian Army, then moves on to 1941 and London in the Blitz (The Nurse’s War) with Daisy training as a nurse but at the same time forced to confront the dangers that threaten her from the past. In Daisy’s Long Road Home she returns to India once more. It’s 1948 and the war has been over several years but India meantime has suffered a blood-stained Partition of the country. Daisy is convinced the roots of her identity lie in India and is desperate to find the truth. In a series of adventures, she uncovers long hidden and dangerous secrets about the family she never knew, eventually winning through to find the happiness she deserves.
All three books are available on Amazon
I have a Facebook author page
And my website is here. I send out a newsletter every two months and you can sign up to receive a copy on the Home Page. I’d love to ‘meet’ all of you, so do get in touch.
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Thanks so much for dropping in, Merryn. I love your description of your latest release. It sounds a fascinating read – even more so since I’ve discovered a little bit about the background through your travels. Thanks for being such a super guest!
If you’ve enjoyed Merryn’s interview, or have any questions or comments at all, please let us know. We’d love to hear from you!