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My aim in writing “Cheshire Cheese and Camembert” was to take some of the younger characters who appeared in “Blessèd are the Meek and “Twenty-six Nil” and place them in a more modern setting, ie. the early years of the 20th century. The turbulence of the period between 1913 and 1919 made for a vibrant background: the suffragette movement, the Easter Rising in Ireland, the Russian Revolution, not to mention the Great War.

Inevitably the war had the greatest impact on families like that of my narrator, Charlie Knott, but I did not want to turn my novel into a war story. Reports of events in northern France come only from newspaper reports or more graphically from letters from Charlie’s son Alfred.

As Charlie has left Hyde for work by the docks at the eastern end of the Manchester Ship Canal, the town of Hyde is less of a feature than in the previous books. However, perhaps I should have made at least a brief mention of the sacrifice Hydonian men and women made at that time. 710 men of Hyde who gave their lives are commemorated at the cenotaph on Werneth Low, a windblown hill overlooking the town and the great pattern of distant boroughs. It is one of my favourite places in the world.

  • Brent

Home from home

Having just returned to Dorset after another trip up to the north-west of England, the impression I have of having two homes is stronger than ever. My latest novel, Blessed are the Meek, a historical piece set in the middle of the nineteenth century in Hyde, demanded a good deal of local research. I undertook much of that in the early part of last year (2018), visiting Tameside Local Studies Centre, the People's History Museum in Manchester, a working cotton mill and various specific locations where I planned to place the action. The book was published in February of 2019 and since then I have revisited Hyde and other nearby towns to promote and sell the book. As the year comes to a close, and as this most recent trip was the last one for the moment, I can confirm that I have driven up and down the M5/M6 five times, in addition to three other occasions in 2018.

Writing the novel was a labour of love and promoting it has extended the pleasure. I grew up in Hyde and lived there until I was eighteen. My parents and in-laws lived there for most of their lives. I have followed the fortunes of Hyde United FC throughout my life but most of the time that has meant checking the newspapers or these days the internet. I tried, and succeeded, to tie in my visits up north with a home fixture at Ewen Fields. The voices echoing around the ground remain very familiar but of course the town is very different in many ways to the place I knew as a teenager. It was still a mill town in those days, albeit one in gradual decline. Today it is a classic post-industrial town with all the predictable hardships: a struggling high street, deprivation worsened by austerity policies, etc. Nevertheless I love going back.

I have run a book stall on the market and at a village summer fete, I have spoken at several local libraries and a community centre, to the Hyde Rotary Club, to a Ladies Probus group, and to the Hyde Historical Society. The many people I have met (who says writing is a solitary occupation?) have to a man (and woman) been warm, friendly, open-minded, interested and interesting. Many are enterprising, dynamic, and full of positivity. All are proud of the area’s past and present and seem determined to encourage others to feel the same. I have felt energised by every experience.

This reconnection with my home town explains the feeling I have of belonging to two places. I have lived in Dorset for almost thirty years. My daughters grew up in the county and it is their home, and mine too. As for the novel, the story of a mill-worker named James Shore who I thought was a distant relative of mine (but it turns out he isn’t), I sense that I have exhausted the local market but I might be wrong. Promotional talks are lined up for venues closer to my Wessex home but there is no doubt that I will call in on Hyde again next year.

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My aim in writing “Cheshire Cheese and Camembert” was to take some of the younger characters who appeared in “Blessèd are the Meek and “Twenty-six Nil” and place them in a more modern setting, ie. the

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