I’ll never forget the feeling of being on an overcrowded ferry forging through the waters of the Mersey while the sun sank in the sky as the boat headed for the landing stage at the Pierhead. I had sand in my knickers, in my hair and between my toes despite all my efforts to get rid of every grain with a towel stiff as a board from hanging on the line in our backyard in the sun. No doubt we were on the last ferry from New Brighton to Liverpool and that’s why we were all wedged together like sardines in a Skipper’s tin and the boat seemed to dip heavily from side to side.
This was in the fifties, a few years before Gerry and the Pacemakers' record hit the charts or Liverpool became famous for its musicians rather than just its football teams, actors and comedians, the Grand National and being the second premier port in the country.
I might have mentioned it before but I doubt it will hurt to repeat what my mother often said about Liverpudlians having salt water in their veins. Most of us also prefer to live beside the seaside or at least within a short distance of it. Maybe that’s why when my eldest brother moved south he ended up living in Westcliffe-on-Sea and three of my cousins who crossed the Atlantic settled near the coast, one in Canada, and two in the US of A.
So maybe it’s not surprising that my very latest 50s hardback LOVE LETTERS IN THE SAND has several scenes set on local beaches. A couple of characters reminisce about their memories of New Brighton and there is also a couple of scenes set on the ferry and the beach.
I also have lots of memories of beaches this side of the Mersey. From Seaforth Sands to the dunes of Formby. More recently Crosby has hit the headlines because of the Iron Men. I reckon it also has the best view of the Wirral coastline and on a clear day the mountains of Snowdonia that can be seen from such a distance. In the other direction even before one approaches Southport one can see Blackpool Tower further north.
Besides beaches being places of pleasure they can also be dangerous. I could not resist putting on one of my characters’ mouths the tale of my mother sinking up to her thighs in sticky black mud. I cried, thinking she was going to get swallowed up in a patch of sinking sand. Fortunately it did not happen but her brand new white sandals were ruined. We were also warned about keeping an eye on the tide and not to go wading out to sandbanks.
My brothers, my sister and I all learnt to swim at Margaret Street baths in Everton. My father’s method of getting us to lift our feet off the bottom and go for it was bribery. When I managed to swim a breadth he gave me a shilling. I was paid another shilling when I jumped into the pool. My husband learnt to swim by being thrown into Burroughs Gardens swimming baths at the age of four by one of the attendants. John’s father worked there as a stoker and the pool was empty of people at the time. My husband went on to enjoy skin diving as a hobby and I have never lost my love of swimming.
The book begins with a prologue which involves my heroine getting into difficulties in the sea. A scene I hadn’t really envisaged when I started writing. It started with a different opening altogether. Yet having decided on the Pat Boone song that was a hit in the fifties for my title, I realised I had to get a scene on a beach in somewhere quickly and that is why I eventually settled on the opening I did, praying that it would grip my readers. I also set a chapter or two in Blackpool where I was born in a hotel on the South Promenade during WW2.
LOVE LETTERS IN THE SAND is out in hardback this week, 31st March 2015. Please, do consider supporting your local library if you have one by ordering it.