Today, I’m starting a new regular feature on my blog called Five Photos. Each week, I’ll have a different guest, who will share five photos that mean a lot to them, and tell us why.
Before the series starts properly next week, I thought I’d start it off by showing the five photos I’ve chosen, and tell you what they mean to me:
The first photo is of my mam and dad, when they were just 17 and 19 years old. They’d started going out together a year before that, and they were married until Dad died in 1994, aged just 55. I seem to have lived so long without him around, and my mam’s in her late seventies now, so it’s lovely to look back at this photograph and see them as they were, when they had all their lives ahead of them. Makes me quite tearful!
The second photo is of Whitby Abbey. When I was a kid, holidays meant a week in a caravan at Primrose Valley on the North Yorkshire coast. We didn’t have a car, and Dad worked seven days a week most weeks, so we rarely went anywhere further than a short bus ride – maybe to Hornsea or Withernsea on the Holderness coast. When I was fourteen, Mam and Dad booked a week in a lovely house in Stainsacre, just outside Whitby. It was another world. We all – Mam, Dad, me, my brother and sister, hitched a lift in my uncle’s van, and it felt like we were travelling forever, although it was only around sixty-two miles from home! Because we didn’t have a car, we walked miles during that holiday. It was the first time I ever visited Robin Hood’s Bay – the coastal village which caught my imagination and, many years later, would become the setting for my fictional Kearton Bay. Every morning, Dad would decide where we were going, and tell us to, “Follow the Pathfinder”. Off we went, each day, to a new destination. Exploring the area around Whitby, that sunny week in late June, was a wonderful experience. It sparked my love affair with the North Yorkshire coast, and my desire to visit other beautiful areas of Yorkshire. Whenever I was going through a dark time, I would beg a lift, or undertake the very long bus journey to Whitby, because I knew it would lift my spirits as soon as I caught a glimpse of the abbey, standing on the cliff top, as it has for so many centuries. Even now, when I first catch sight of Whitby Abbey, I think of my dad, and those long walks to Sandsend and Robin Hood’s Bay, and the beautiful sights we saw that week. Whitby will always be where I feel closest to my dad, and I’ll always be thankful that Robin Hood’s Bay was on our route that day!
The third photo is of Glastonbury Tor. If you’ve read this post, you’ll know why it’s so important to me. Climbing the Tor seemed like an impossible task to me, for a very long time. The moment I reached the summit marked a turning point in my attitude, and my self belief, and I still remember that feeling, and hold onto it when I’m doubting myself.
My fourth photo is representative of the fact that I’m now actually going out and meeting people! I had terrible social anxiety issues for many, many years. I was practically a recluse. At one point, I couldn’t even go out into the garden to hang the washing out, as I was so afraid of being seen. Yes, it was that bad. Now I’m meeting up with friends, and with people who are, essentially, strangers, known only to me through social media. Writer friends from Facebook have become so dear to me, and the fact that I faced my fears and travelled to Leeds to meet my Write Romantic pal, Jo, for the first time, along with her friend Paula, and our fellow WR Julie, feels like a massive achievement to me. I also attended the RNA tea in York, where I chatted to a roomful of people I’d never met before, and I’m actually going away for the weekend to meet up with some of the WRs! These things demonstrate such a change in me, and in my life, that I had to include this photo as a reminder of how far I’ve come.
My final choice is this photograph, which I took at the Bronte Parsonage Museum in Haworth. When I was just a child, I used to get various annuals each Christmas. In one of them – and I really wish I could remember which one, because I’d search out a copy on eBay – there was a picture strip story about the Brontes. I’d never heard of them, and I didn’t know anything about Jane Eyre or Wuthering Heights or The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, or any of their books, but I read the story of these young women in awe. I learned about their endeavours to make it as writers in a man’s world, how they changed their names to Acton, Currer and Ellis Bell to give them a better chance of being published. I read how they never knew, and could never have imagined, how famous they would become, or how loved they are. The story ended with their tragic deaths, and it made me cry. I’d never heard the name Bronte before that day, but I actually shed tears of pride and sorrow for them. As I grew older, I discovered their books for myself, and Jane Eyre became my favourite book of all time. Visiting the museum at Haworth for the first time felt like a pilgrimage, and many years later, I was inspired to write about my own Bronte hero in Resisting Mr Rochester – a great excuse to revisit the parsonage! The photograph represents my love and admiration for these great authors and amazing women – but also for all those other wonderful writers whose work I so admire, and whose books have brought me so much pleasure, comfort and wonder over the years. Reading has been one of the greatest blessings of my life, and so I’ve chosen this picture as a thank you to them all.
So, that’s my five photos. I’m really looking forward to seeing what my guests are going to share.
Have a great week!