I’m delighted to welcome Tracey Scott-Townsend to the blog today with a fascinating and very personal #TenThings, accompanied by some wonderful photographs.
Ten Things about Tracey Scott-Townsend
1- I am Mother.
For six years it was to a Little Girl Lost. In my imagination, I left her on the last walk I took during my six-month pregnancy, along the clifftop at Kilnsea in the East Riding of Yorkshire, on a path that has now been swallowed by the sea. My only memorial to her is the mudflats, the river beach and the wild sea itself. And everything I write. Six years afterwards I gave birth to Felix, in the same hospital. The old maternity hospital in Hull is now a ruin and they’ve built a new(ish) maternity unit attached to Hull Royal Infirmary. But memories are never swallowed by the tide of years as land is by nature and the sea. The name of Little Girl Lost was Alice. My third, fourth and fifth children were born at home, in the house we lived in for the duration of my first marriage to Tom. Our children are Felix, Ruben, Zakary and Faye. They have grown up so fast.
2. Campervan life
I’ve now been married to Phil – a boy I went to school with from the ages of five to sixteen and then never saw or heard from for thirty years – for almost ten years. We blended our families: my four children and his two and moved into a four-storey house overlooking the South Common in Lincoln. It’s hard to begin a life together in chaos, but we all somehow navigated our way through it and now the children have grown up and it’s just Phil, me and the dogs and cat. We sold the big house and now live in a small house in Hull. In the meantime (and almost by accident – eight years ago we decided to buy a ‘minibus’ for more or less the same price as hiring one for a week’s trip with the family – the moment I saw the enormous blue vehicle we’d bought unseen I recognised the potential!) Phil and I discovered the joy of taking off for weekends, weeks, however long we could get away together, in a van, carrying everything we needed. It’s a way of life for us now. Last year we went away every other month, and one of our three trips to Scotland was for the whole of August, up the east side and down the west, encompassing our favourite area, the Isles of Lewis and Harris. We also travelled to Germany for my son’s wedding.
3. Community life
Ever since my oldest son was five years old (he’s now 28) we’ve been going to an annual camp set in woodland in Leicestershire. There are usually several other gatherings a year as well, ranging from in the Peak District to Glastonbury. I’m so happy my children have grown up with the privilege of this community (this year one of Felix’s peers will be bringing her own baby, the first true second-generation Camp child) as such a huge part of their lives. Even when their dad and I split up, when Faye was one, we both continued to go to Camp and remain part of the intermittent community; it has continued to be a part of all our lives. As young parents back in the day, those of us who’ve continued to come back, year after year, are now the camp crones, balanced by an equal proportion of white-haired old men who still enjoy wielding an axe to the camp fire wood as much as sitting around that fire reading a newspaper.
It’s hard for me to imagine a home without a dog. As a child I grew up with at least as many pets as siblings – I was one of seven children, with additional foster-siblings – and we always had a dog. Also we had guinea pigs (of which I have a lifelong love), hamsters, gerbils, budgies, canaries, cats and chickens at various times. When my children were little I did my research on a reliable family dog and we brought Lula into our family. She was one of those bear-like, chunky chocolate Labradors. She could be obstreperous and food-aggressive at times but also very loving. When she was four and Phil and I had got together we brought Riley, an eight-week old black lab into the family. Lula died from Labrador-eating-related-disorder (anything and everything!) at the age of eight years. Riley travelled everywhere in the van with Phil and I. He was loving, fun and kind. Children everywhere adored him. He died in 2016, wagging his tail at the vet’s as he left this world surrounded by family members who loved him. We think he’d probably eaten a Death cap mushroom but can’t be sure. Like many Labradors, he ate things that were bad for him, and had been at the vets before to be stabilised. Only six weeks before he died, we’d got my beautiful, moon-coloured Romanian rescue dog, 11-month-old Luna. Riley helped acclimatise her to our family before he died. We now have Luna and little Pixie, who are now our seasoned van-travelling companions.
5. Always a writer
I wrote my first ‘novel’ at the age of ten. I called it Bonny, King of the Brumbies and heavily plagiarised the work of Elyne Mitchell, who wrote The Silver Brumby series – made into a TV programme when my children were small. An uncle, visiting from Australia gave me a piece of salient advice on writing when he heard I’d written a ‘book’. He said to put it away for a couple of years before taking it out again and rewriting. And I did just that. At twelve I rewrote Bonny, King of the Brumbies into a fresh exercise book. I don’t know what happened to it.
6. Always a loner
Not that you would necessarily know it. I enjoy socialising, I love compatible company. But sometimes the strain takes its toll, and I need to go crawl into a cave. I can only cope with straightforward and up-front people. It’s a struggle to ‘fit in’, especially when there might be some kind of undercover agenda, and I always found it so. After much discussion with my son (who has Autism) last year he told me that if I went for an assessment I would most likely get a diagnosis but, as he put it, I didn’t need one. But sometimes I think it might help. Then again, I’ve managed for this many years… Maybe that’s why I’ve always loved the peace and isolation of my writing sheds.
7. Moving on
I seem to have an irrepressible urge to want to move on. I’ve lived in 27 different places, many of them flats or bedsits when I was between the ages of seventeen and twenty-seven. I still dream about some of those rooms that were so briefly home. When I allowed my first marriage to end after barely ten years – and four children – I worried that I would never be able to forge a lasting one-to-one relationship. During my first few years as the wife of Phil (with a 10-year gap between marriages) this concern persisted. I definitely think it’s our shared love of travelling that’s made our marriage so strong. We’re moving on constantly and what’s more, we allow ourselves to discuss the possibilities of living in an infinite variety of different places and situations, even if we never will. It helps. And being able to pack the dogs and cat (yes, she’s our fellow-adventurer) into the van with us and take off somewhere new – a different view out of the window when we park in a dark layby and wake up to the surprise of the landscape in the morning – it helps. There are many ways to move on without having to break something first.
When my siblings and I were children one of the things we enjoyed doing was using a huge magnet to pick up the pins scattered all over the floor of my grandma’s dining – AKA sewing – room. It kept us busy for hours. We used to go to Grandma’s every Sunday, after church. It was Grandma who taught me to sew; tiny, neat stiches along the hem of a new dress for my doll. I remember holding a fixed smile on my face as I showed the doll in her dress to my reception-class teacher. Grandma made us girls dark blue velvet dresses with cream satin collars for our annual family photograph (the family group grew year on year). I remember climbing the narrow stairs to the room above the photographer’s shop, and the couch we had to sit or kneel on, covered with a white fur rug. Mum made us matching dresses, too. My favourite was the one I called the rainbow dress because of its array of colours. I’ve inherited this love of sewing. I made clothes for my own children and when I found out I was having a girl during my final pregnancy I created a nightdress, bootees and cap for Faye which I dressed her in the morning of her birth.
9. Opera singer
I’ve always loved singing – though I was never going to be opera-singer quality. My mum said I couldn’t be a singer because I was going to have to get a proper job anyway. She said the same thing about being an artist and/or a writer as well. Funny that, as the latter two are the only jobs I’ve ever really done, apart from my couple of years at Marks & Spencer when I was a single parent. I worked for many years running workshops in the Arts, when there was still funding for that kind of thing. I even worked as an unqualified teacher in a challenging secondary school. Anyway. Singing has been a huge part of my life. When I was about eight years old my mother heard me singing ‘Amazing Grace’ in another part of the house and said she thought it had been the radio. She also set the whole family off laughing at me because she said I had a warble in my voice! We sing at the annual Camp and at the various gatherings, though it’s become a bit raucous these days. In the early years I was sometimes ‘lifted’ by the mellifluousness of the blending voices around the campfire. My mum sang to us when we were in the bath or at bedtime, and I sang the same songs to my children.
Despite being very different personalities, Phil and I have found a niche in which we can both excel at our different skills. In 2016 we set up Wild Pressed Books. Our first author was an Icelandic friend of my son’s. I offered to look over his emergent manuscript for him and ended up making a publishing offer. His novel is called Burning Karma. Our next author we found by running a competition, and by the time I’d read the first page of The Eagle and the Oystercatcher I knew I wanted to publish Holly Bidgood. We now have seven authors on our books, including me, and Phil and I are working our butts off to do our best for them. I’m glad I’ve written a few books in lieu, as I have to take time out from editing others’ books to do any writing of my own these days. Phil takes care of all the typesetting and administrative stuff and I’m the creative director. The beauty of this kind of work is we can continue working while on the road. Sometimes our office is the table in the van, and at others it’s a ferry port waiting room or a café. The next book to be released by Wild Pressed Books is a poetry collection: GHOSTS by Nick Conroy and following that my own Sea Babies.
Many thanks to Joanne for hosting my ramblings, I’ve really enjoyed telling ten things about me.
Tracey’s novel Sea Babies will be published on Thursday this week (21st February 2019). You can order a copy online here: Sea Babies
In September 2016, Lauren Wilson is travelling by ferry to the Outer Hebrides, about to begin a new job as a children’s social worker. She’s also struggling to come to terms with the recent drowning of a Sheena, a teenage girl she had deeply cared for.
Engrossed in her book, when somebody sits opposite her at a table on the ferry, Lauren refuses to look up, annoyed at having her privacy disturbed. But a hand is pushing a mug of tea across the table, and a livid scar on the back of the hand releases a flood of memories.
Lauren studies the hand on the table in front of her, the line of the scar drawing a map of the past in her mind. She was the one who created the scar, not long before her relationship with the love of her life ended almost thirty years ago. Lauren hasn’t seen Neil since she walked out of their shared life, unable to forgive either herself or him for a decision he strongly pressured her to make.
She’s not ready to meet his eyes, not yet. From his scar to his wrist bone, following his arm upwards and across his shoulder to his collarbone, his chin and the lower part of his face; Lauren remembers incidents from their past and tries to work out what caused their life to go so horribly off-track.
When she finally meets his eyes and they speak to each other for the first time, Lauren believes she has set her life on a new course. But her gain will result in losses for others. Is this really what she wants to happen?