Saturday 28 May 2016

The Postcard
Fern Britton


Today I am delighted to be hosting the Blog Tour for Fern Britton's new novel The Postcard which is published on 2nd June. I have chapter one as a little teaser for you - enjoy! 
About The Postcard

About The Postcard: Penny Leighton, TV Producer and wife of the local vicar Simon Canter, is struggling to cope with motherhood. The couple have had their only child Jenna, while Penny is in her forties and it’s been a big shock to her system. When Simon engages the services of a nanny, Ella, as a way of helping Penny, it only serves to push her further away from him and from Jenna. After Penny’s sister arrives in the village after the death of the woman Penny called her mother, it bring memories of her troubled childhood to the surface. As a distraction, she finds herself drawn to the village’s new Doctor, but he isn’t quite the charmer than he seems, as new arrival, Ella, is about to find out. But will all this be too late for Penny, who is about to risk everything?

Chapter One

The morning crept on. By ten thirty Penny had Jenna washed and changed and back in her cot for her morning sleep.
Simon had gone off to his parish meeting about the upcoming Nativity service, complaining that he’d be late, and porridge bowls still sat in the sink under cold and lumpy water.
Penny was in her room dragging a comb through her newly washed hair. She badly needed a cut and a colour, but trying to find a couple of hours when someone could mind Jenna was hard. She stared for the second time that day at her reflection. God, she’d aged. Crow’s feet, jowls, a liver spot by her eyebrow . . . She’d had Jenna when she was well into her forties and it had been the hardest thing she’d ever done. Harder even than leaving her life in London.
In London she had been somebody: a busy, single, career woman; an award-winning television producer with her own production company, Penny Leighton Productions.
Now she hardly knew who she was. Again she felt guilty at how horrible she’d been to Simon. Taking a deep breath she slapped on a little mascara and lip gloss and vowed to present him with steak and a bottle of wine for supper.
She got downstairs and into her study two minutes before the phone rang on the dot of eleven. Penny took a deep breath and plastered on a cheery persona.
‘Good morning, Jack.’
‘Hello, Penny, how is life at the vicarage treating you?’
Jack Bradbury was playing his usual game of feigned bonhomie. He laughed. ‘I still can’t believe you’re a vicar’s wife.’
‘And a mother,’ she played along.
‘And a mother. Good God, who’d have thought it. How is the son and heir?’
‘The daughter and heir is doing very well, thank you.’
‘Ah yes, Jenny, isn’t it?’
‘Jenna . . . of course.’
The niceties were achieved.
‘So, Penny . . . ’ She imagined Jack leaning back in his ergonomic chair and admiring his manicured hands. ‘We want more Mr Tibbs on Channel 7.’
‘That’s good news. So do I.’ Penny reached for a wet wipe and rubbed at something sticky on the screen of her computer. Jenna had been gumming it yesterday.
‘So, you’ve got hold of old Mave, have you?’ asked Jack.
‘I emailed her yesterday,’ said Penny.
‘And how did she reply?’
‘She hasn’t yet. The ship is somewhere in the Pacific heading to or from the Panama Canal, I can’t remember which.’
Jack sounded impatient. ‘Does she spend her entire bloody life on a cruise? Does she never get off?’
‘She likes it.’
‘I’d like it more if she wrote some more Mr bloody Tibbs scripts in between ordering another gin and tonic.’
‘I’ll try to get her again today.’ Penny wiped her fore­head with a clammy palm. She wasn’t used to being on the back foot.
‘Tell her that Channel 7 wants another six eps, pronto, plus a Christmas special. I want to start shooting the series in the summer, ready to air in the New Year.’
‘I have told her that and I’m sure she wants the same.’
‘I’m not fannying around on this for ever, Penny. David Cunningham’s agent has already been on the blower. Needs to know if David will be playing Mr Tibbs again or he’ll sign him up to a new Danish drama. And he’s asking for more money.’
‘I want to talk to you about budget—’
‘You bring me old Mave and then we’ll talk money.’
‘Deal. I’ll let you know as soon as I get hold of her.’
‘Phone me asap.’ He hung up before she said goodbye.
Old Mave was Mavis Crewe, an eighty-something power­house who had created her most famous character, Mr Tibbs, back in the late 1950s. Penny had snapped up the screen rights to the books for peanuts and the stories of the crime-solving bank manager and his sidekick secre­tary, Nancy Trumpet, had become the most watched period drama serial of the past three years.
Penny’s problem was that she had now filmed all the
books and needed Mavis to write some more. But Mavis, a law unto herself, was enjoying spending her unexpected new income by constantly circumnavigating the globe.
Penny rubbed a hand over her chin and found two or three fresh spiky hairs. She’d had no time to get them waxed and, right now, had no energy to go upstairs and locate her long-missing tweezers.
She pushed her laptop away and laid her head on the leather-topped desk. ‘I’m so tired . . .’ she said to no one, and jumped when her computer replied with a trill. An email.
Dear Penny,
How simply thrilling that Mr Tibbs is wanted so badly by Channel 7 and the charming Jack Bradbury. It really is such a joy to know that one’s lifework has a fresh impact on the next generation of viewing public.
Another six stories, and a Christmas special? But my dear, that is simply not possible.
I wrote those stories years ago as a young widow in order to feed my family. Mr Tibbs has done his job, I’d say and I don’t have the patience to think up more adventures for him.
Can you not simply repeat the old ones?
Yesterday we went through the Panama Canal. Absolutely extraordinary. Very wide in parts and very narrow in others. We are now sailing
in the Pacific and stopping off at Costa Rica tomorrow. Why don’t you drop everything and join me for a few weeks? Enjoy our spoils from dear Mr Tibbs.
With great affection,
Mavis Crewe CBE
Penny couldn’t move. She read the email again and broke into a cold sweat. No more Mr Tibbs? Put out repeats? Go and join her on a cruise? Did the woman have no idea that so many people’s careers were hanging in the balance because she couldn’t be arsed to write a half-baked whimsy about a fictional bloke who solved the mystery of a missing back-door key? Anger and frustra­tion coursed through her. She pressed reply and started to type.
Dear Mavis,
If we have no more bloody scripts there is no more Mr Tibbs. Do you want to throw away all that you’ve achieved? I certainly am not going to let you. The end of Mr Tibbs would mean the end of your cruising and the end of me. PLEASE write SOMETHING! And if you won’t do that, I shall have to find someone else to write Mr Tibbs for me, with or without your help.

She hovered over the send icon. No, she needed time to think. She couldn’t afford to fall out with Mavis. She must sweet-talk her round. She pressed delete and began again.
Dear Mavis,
How lovely to hear from you and what a fabulous time you must be having!
I respect your wishes to put Mr Tibbs ‘to bed’ as it were. He has indeed served you well and given much pleasure to our viewers.
Which brings me to a difficult question. If you won’t write the next six episodes and a Christmas special, someone else will have to. Before I find that special someone, do you have anyone you would prefer to pick up your nib? Someone whose writing you admire and that you feel could imitate your style?
No one could be as good as you, of course, but this could be an exciting new future for the Mr Tibbs’ franchise as I’m certain you agree.
With all my very best wishes – and have a tequila for me!
Penny xxx
She read it through once and pressed send.
‘Right,’ she said to the empty room. ‘The office is now shut for the day’. She switched off the computer and threw her iPhone into the desk drawer. ‘I am going to eat cake.’

Fern is one of the nation’s best-loved broadcasters, and has fronted Coast to Coast, Ready Steady Cook, and ITV’s flagship show, This Morning, as well as competing on the BBC’s Strictly Come Dancing, plus Channel 4’s show Timecrashers. Most recently, Fern has hosted, The Big Allotment Challenge and currently hosts BBC1 Antiques quiz show For What It’s Worth. The BBC's Advent series, Fern Britton Meets… has seen her talk to high-profile figures about how their beliefs have shaped their lives.

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