About & Reasons For Writing

It was lucky for me that I grew up in a family which thought it was a badge of honour to be brave. That gave us so much freedom.

We grew up in England, but because of our Jersey background, we were strong swimmers, flinging ourselves into every stretch of water possible, even deserted sand pits, and cycling miles to find swimming pools. In winter, we skated on lakes and tobogganed down steep hills without any fears at all, and a favourite thing was to light a bonfire on a frozen canal and cook sausages before the ice melted and we all sank.

“we mucked about with bows and arrows or flying our kites”

It was a time without screens of any kind, so we had so much time. I read hundreds of books and wrote stories or played the piano, my brother made models of planes and boats, or else we mucked about with bows and arrows or flying our kites.

Each year we set off on the long journey to Jersey, travelling on the mail boat and longing to tell our beloved grandparents about the rough journey and in my case, listing the number of times I had been seasick.

The first article I ever published was about picking tomatoes in Jersey I was student, but I always worked in the holidays and I loved picking outdoors in the sunshine, perhaps because I was on the land where my ancestors had worked. Many of my holiday jobs were on farms and the one of the best compliments ever was being told I had the makings of a good shepherd. I kept a record of all I did at that time and the people I worked with in London, Jersey and the English countryside. Later, I taught, and my favourite schools were far from cities.

As a child, I absorbed many stories of the German Occupation of the Channel Islands from my grandparents and relations, and in my book, I quote from the real people I interviewed. I hope that my version of the Occupation brings their stories to life before the last veterans leave us. It was difficult to write, because real people suffered, but my dog sat on my feet and kept me going.

I want the islanders’ courage to be celebrated in a form that is available to all, and it seemed that telling it from the viewpoint of children would work. ‘Please tell our story,’ said Bernie Robert, an occupation veteran. This is what I try to do, with as much fun as possible but without ignoring the danger and despair of those five long years.