I love the sound of bells and for me church bells in particular. Their chimes used to be a familiar part of Sunday mornings years ago, not only in my part of Liverpool but throughout the British Isles. Church bells and their ringers have played important roles in books and films. Those who have seen THE HUNCHBACK OF NOTRE DAME will never forget Charles Laughton in the title role as the bell ringer who saved the gypsy girl, Esmeralda’s life, played by the lovely Maureen O’Hara. I also remember reading Dorothy Sayers’ THE NINE TAILORS set in the Fen countryside, featuring Lord Peter Wimsey. The nine tailors, of course, referred to bells. More recently bell ringers fell victim to the killer in “Midsummer Murders” when one of their member was determined to win a coveted cup in a yearly competition.
The joyful sound of church bells, just like the ships’ hooters on the Mersey, were very much part of the celebrations that saw the passing of the old year and the arrival of the new over the years. So not surprisingly in my latest book, my thirty-fifth, LOVE LETTERS IN THE SAND, set in the fifties, both bells and ships’ hooters get a mention as part of it takes place around that time of year.
These days I generally welcome New Year in the warmth of my living room with my family, watching the countdown in London and other capitals throughout the UK, listening to the bongs of Big Ben and gazing in delight at the fantastic fireworks displays. Once Andy Stewart and all things Scottish were popular and Clive James’s take on the old year was a must in our house for years and we still miss his humour.
And after watching THE KING’S SPEECH I am reminded of George V1 quoting from Minnie Haskins’ poem “The Gate of the Year” (1908) : I said to the man who stood at the Gate of the Year, ‘Give me a light that I may tread safely into the unknown.’ And he replied, ‘Go out into the darkness, and put your hand into the Hand of God. That shall be better than light, and safer than a known way.’
When I was less nesh (a dialect word taken from the Old English word hnesce and now in the wordbank at the British Library) I would be out celebrating, despite the cold weather. Crowds would gather at the conjunction of four main roads, Breck, Lower Breck, Belmont and Oakfield, the latter leading to Liverpool’s football ground and not that far from Everton’s Goodison. It was exciting being part of that lively group of Scousers welcoming in the New Year. First footing also played its part and my dad and later John and I would make sure we had a coin, a small lump of coal and a piece of bread in a pocket to take into the house with us to hand over to Mam or Dad as we passed over the threshold and brought in the New Year, hopefully bringing good fortune with us.
I wonder what you are hoping for in 2015. As I get older keeping healthy figures a lot. I also long for world peace and tolerance between people of faith and none. As well as food, warmth and shelter for all those without such essentials. But mostly at the moment I’m hoping that my youngest son will turn up on my doorstep. Not only is it a while since he took off for Eastern Europe and I miss watching old black and white films with him, but I need him to update my website, hear of his adventures and see his smiling face.
As it is I’ll have to make do with blogging about my books for now that will be published in 2015. They are as follows: A MOTHER’S DUTY will be released 26th February in paperback and as an e-book, previously published as KITTY AND HER BOYS. LOVE LETTERS IN THE SAND out in hardback 31st March. A DAUGHTER’S CHOICE out in paperback and e-book 16th July, previously SOMEBODY’S GIRL. I’ll tell you more about the books and where I got my ideas from nearer the time. For now hopefully I can put up a cover or two on my Google + page.
HAPPY NEW YEAR!