Monday 16 November 2020

A Christmas Wedding by Fiona Ford

A Christmas Wedding

I’m delighted, but also slightly sad to be the last stop on the blog tour for this bookAs it’s the last instalment in a wonderful series about a group of girls working in the department store Liberty’s in London during WWII. It’s been no secret that I have loved this series and hope that when I receive my copy of the book, I don’t cry to too much at the end! The lovely author has provided an extract for me and I shall review as soon as I can. Enjoy this last part and you can read reviews of the previous books on the blog.


December 1914


As the brightly lit window came into view it was all Dorothy Banwell could do not to run to it and press her face against the glass like a child. The Norwegian Spruce that took centre stage was easily the largest and most beautiful tree she had ever seen. Craning her neck to drink it all in as it towered above her Dorothy, or Dot as she was better known, felt alive with Christmas magic as she peered at the colourful glass ornaments, each one twinkling under the lights. In between the ornaments, small candles perched as straight as soldiers and decorated with glittering aluminium strands instead of the usual silver – the only real sign war had affected the country. Right at the top, with all the elegance you would expect from a window display at Libertys department store, stood a large gold star, beaming all the way across Argyll Street like a beacon and welcoming everyone inside from the bustling London streets.

“It’s beautiful”, a voice beside her breathed. 

At the sound of her old friend, Ivy Penhaligon, Dot turned around and smiled. “I’ve always loved this shop. My mother used to bring me when me and Olive were nippers to look at the window displays”

Ivy’s eyes roamed the display greedily before she looked down at her daughter. What do you think Helen?’

The four-year old said nothing for a moment, her hand pressed into Dot‘s now, seemingly as transfixed as she was by the display. 

Pretty,’ she declared eventually.

Dot smiled down at her, it is pretty, but not as pretty as you’ll look on your wedding day.’

Ivy smiled. 

Dot laughed at the compliment. ‘I hope you’re not saying you’re going to have me looking like a Christmas tree with this dress you’re making me.’

Ivy giggled and Helen followed suit, finding the adults laughter infectious.

‘How long have you known me, Dorothy Banwell?’ Ivy asked with a raised eyebrow.

Dot thought for a moment. A good four years now.’

‘Precisely.’ Ivy agreed. And in that time have I ever made you do anything that would make you look daft?Pretending to think again for a moment, Dot paused, before catching Ivy‘s twinkling eye. 

On reflection no. Though there was that time I came to stay with you and Kenneth shortly before Helen‘s first birthday and you did ask me if I wanted Corporation Pop. I thought it was something fancy, but then when I said yes you both burst out laughing and handed me a glass of water.’

Ivy threw her head back and laughed, her blonde hair glistening under the shop lights. ‘I’d forgotten that. That‘a always been one of Kenneth‘a favourite jokes.’Dot pursed her lips and gave Ivy a mock glare. 

And I’ve never forgotten it either.’

Ivy ran her tongue across her teeth. As I recall you told us how you felt at the time.’

I’ve never been backwards in coming forwards,’Dot said with a smile, ‘especially with old friends.

‘Best friends, IIvy said softly, before looking back at the window. It is beautiful’

It is,’ Dot confirmed.

And don’t they sell fabrics in there?’ Ivy continued.

A gnawing feeling began to grow in Dot‘s stomach. They do’

‘Well, as I’m in charge of making your wedding dress how about we go in and have a look at what they’ve got?’

Alarm pulsed through Dot. We can’t go in there.’


‘Because, it‘a not for the likes of us! My mother would have a fit.’

Ivy frowned. What’s your mother got to do with it?’

You know what Mother‘s like,’Dot said with a sigh. ‘She’d start saying we weren’t good enough for the likes of in there. That we weren’t posh enough, that we had no business, that we should know our place. I mean she used to bring me to look at the displays but she never took us inside.’

‘So you’ve never actually been in this shop?’Ivy asked, the cool December wind whipping around her neck. She looked down at Helen who was still staring at the window transfixed. Helen, would you like to go inside?

Wordlessly Helen nodded, the excitement in her eyes shining as brightly as the gold star on top of the tree.

Looks like thats settled then,Ivy said with a shrug. Lets go.

As Dot looked into the little girls copper eyes that seemed almost as  familiar to her as her own  she smiled. The last person she wanted to let down was this little girl. All right,’  she said at last. But Im warning you, if we get thrown out because were not good enough, its your fault not mine.

With that Ivy flashed Dot a warm, genuine grin. When will you start believing in yourself Dorothy Banwell? Honestly, its a good job you’ve got me as your best friend. I dread to think how youd cope without me.

Saturday 17 October 2020

The Deptford Girls

The Deptford girls


Patricia McBride

When I saw the title of this book I knew I had to read it as I come from South East London myself, but I was a bit apprehensive as this is the fourth book in a series. I was assured by the author that it could be read as a stand-alone and I wasn’t disappointed! I got into it from page one and thoroughly enjoyed it! You can read my review below.

A country at war. Friends in trouble. A fascist traitor. Stepping up can only lead Lily to danger.

Rescuing friends or spotting spies; Private Lily Baker always gets involved.

While London burns she looks out for workmates and girlfriends but also uncovers a web of deception at the Depot where she works.

When the ruthless suspect knows she’s closing in, she must act fast to unmask the traitor and save her friends, herself, and the brave soldiers overseas whose lives are at risk.

The Deptford Girls is the fourth in the Lily Baker wartime series. This heart-wrenching story features courage, friendship, betrayal, compelling characters, and a captivating plot.

If you like vivid stories that take you right into the world of the characters, you’ll love The Deptford Girls. Cuddle up with a cuppa and enjoy this exciting, warm-hearted read.


Lily, along with her friends Bronwyn, Marion, Edith and a Ruth work in a depot in Deptford, south east London. There is heightened security around the depot and rumour has it that the current shipment contains guns. 

Mr Biggerstaff is a new member of the team. Lily is instantly wary of him and is sure he is up to no good. She is going to have to keep her wits about her where he is concerned. 

Marion has troubles of her own. She has been dumped by her boyfriend and even worse, finds herself pregnant. What is she going to do and how is she going to tell her mum? 

Edith has her husband Sidney home from the war injured with a head injury.  She makes any excuse to be at work or with the girls; is there something she is hiding from them about her husband? 

Ruth is a jewish woman with three children who have just been evacuated to the country.  She also seems to be making excuses about her husband not being around. 

It seems all the girls are keeping secrets...

I really enjoyed this book as it was so easy to get into with very likable characters and with short chapters I whizzed through it. I would definitely read books by this author again.

Purchase Links

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Social Media Links

About the Author

Patricia lives in Cambridge, England with her husband Rick. She first wrote non-fiction, mainly self-help books, but became inspired to try her hand at fiction. In addition to writing she volunteers for a local museum and Addenbrookes Hospital.

Wednesday 14 October 2020

The Quickening

The Quickening
Rhiannon Ward

This is the first novel in a change of genre for Rhiannon Ward (Sarah Ward) and luckily, I was sent a copy for review (thank you) which you can read below. 
This is an atmospheric, autumnal read which is perfect for this time of year! Thankfully, not as scary as I thought it might have been as I don't like jumpy books, but nevertheless, kept me on the edge of my seat sometimes!


Louisa Drew is a photographer who is commissioned to take photos of the contents of Clewer Hall for its' sale so that the family can go and start a new life in India. Poor Louisa lost her first husband Bertie during WWI and also her twin sons in the Spanish flu epidemic of 1918.

Now married again to Edwin and expecting another child, Louisa is trying to earn a living to keep their heads above water, so taking a job away from home for 10 days is a welcome break from the unhappiness she feels towards her second husband and her miserable existence since the death of her beloved Bertie and her sons. 

As Louisa starts to take pictures of the contents of the house, she finds out that a séance is going to be recreated that first took place in 1896. She is introduced to the Medium, Ada, who, when she realizes Louisa is heavily pregnant, warns her to leave the house as soon as she can. Louisa is made of stern stuff and just a bit stubborn! So decides to stay to finish her commission.

George is a journalist from London who also arrives at Clewer Hall to report on the séance and is full of admiration for Louisa because she is an independent, married woman earning a living in an era when this was a rarity. Little does he yet know that Louisa would rather work than be at home (also in London) with Edwin, who she is not in love with.

Obviously, things don't go to plan and strange things start to happen for Louisa and with the warnings she receives about leaving the house, she is determined to find out  why there is such a dark, oppressive atmosphere at Clewer Hall.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book and really hope that the author decides to write more. Very easy reading with short chapters that left you wanting to read a bit more at the end of every one!

Thank you so much to the author for sending me a copy to review. 


Saturday 10 October 2020

The Winter Garden

The Winter Garden
Heidi Swain
Guest Review by Julie Williams

Another super book by Heidi Swain as we are once again back in Norfolk with the lovely folk from Nightingale Square and Prosperous place. It is always heart-warming to revisit this community and welcome its' new residents.
Freya becomes increasingly unhappy with her life as a horticulturist in Suffolk now that her best friend Eloise has died leaving the house to her nephew who is showing unwelcoming intentions towards her, making her very uncomfortable.  So when an opportunity arises after meeting Luke, owner of Prosperous Place and his delightful family near Norwich, Freya does some soul searching and decides to take a risk and accept the job as Gardener.
Luke is very enthusiastic about the grounds and has a loyal local support bunch of people who are more than happy to help out when needed. They all get involved in creating The Winter Garden which is to be enjoyed by locals and visitors. During this time Freya meets Finn who has been commissioned to create some sculptures for the gardens. There is definitely a spark between the two, but there are family issues that need to be addressed on both sides before any romance can blossom.
This is a lovely story that features love, friendship and gardening so it was a perfect read for me to enjoy!
My thanks to Net Galley for the ARC and to Julie Boon for posting my thoughts of this book on her blog.

Thursday 17 September 2020

The Second Marriage
Gill Paul

I am a huge fan of Gill Paul and am thrilled to be kicking off the Blog Tour for The Second Marriage. This is a story about the Opera Singer Maria Callas and her sometimes turbulent relationship with the Greek shipping tycoon, Aristotle Onassis. This was a fabulous read and if I could, I would shout from the rooftops for everyone to read it as well!
Keep 'em coming Gill!


JACKIE When her first marriage ends in tragedy, Jackie Kennedy fears she’ll never love again. But all that changes when she encounters…
ARI Successful and charming, Ari Onassis is a man who promises her the world. Yet soon after they marry, Jackie learns that his heart also belongs to another…
MARIA A beautiful, famed singer, Maria Callas is in love with Jackie’s new husband – and she isn’t going to give up.
Little by little, Jackie and Maria’s lives begin to tangle in a dangerous web of secrets, scandal and lies. But with both women determined to make Ari theirs alone, the stakes are high. How far will they go for true love?

We all know the story of Jackie Kennedy and what happened to her first husband, John F Kennedy, but I must admit, I didn't know much about Maria Callas. I knew she was an opera singer, but apart from that, not much else!

Maria Callas was the long term girlfriend of Greek shipping billionaire, Aristotle Onassis. She longed for the day they would marry, but as he was already married to his first wife, Tina and had two young children with her, his promises to leave her and marry Maria never seemed to materialise. It was as though "Ari" wanted his cake and to eat it too!!

When Jackie Kennedy is left widowed with two young children, she never thought she would find love again, but when she is charmed by Aristotle Onassis and after a whirlwind romance they marry, Maria is left broken hearted and falls back on the only thing she can to make ends meet. Singing.

This is a fantastically written book with so many factual features that it almost feels like a biography. I always end up googling people/places after I have read Gill's books because she leaves me so fascinated that I want to read more!

Another masterpiece from Gill Paul that I just couldn't put down and soon passed on to a friend to read. Anyone who loves historical fiction will adore this book.


Gill Paul's historical novels have reached the top of the USA Today, Toronto Globe & Mail and kindle charts, and been translated into twenty languages.

They include THE SECOND MARRIAGE (titled JACKIE AND MARIA in the US), two bestselling novels about the Romanovs - THE SECRET WIFE and THE LOST DAUGHTER - as well as WOMEN AND CHILDREN FIRST, which was shortlisted for the 2013 RNA Epic Novel of the Year award, NO PLACE FOR A LADY, shortlisted for a Love Stories award, and ANOTHER WOMAN'S HUSBAND, about links you might not have suspected between Wallis Simpson and Princess Diana.


Instagram @gill.paul1

Sunday 16 August 2020

Custard Tarts and Broken Hearts


This is a book that I have been meaning to read for ages and after meeting the author in person a few weeks ago whilst doing a nordic walk, I decided that now was the time to pick it up! You can read my review below and there are also a couple of the authors other books that I have previously reviewed on Boon's Bookcase that you can find on the blog.

Heartwarming and gritty, the story of a factory girl in Bermondsey through World War 1.
They call them custard tarts - the girls who work at the Pearce Duff custard and jelly factory. But now the custard tarts are up in arms, striking for better conditions. Among them is Nellie Clark, trying to hold her family together after the death of her mother. She has the most desperate struggle to make ends meet, often going hungry to feed her little brothers.
Two men vie for Nellie's love. One is flamboyant, confident and a chancer. The other is steady, truthful and loyal. But the choice is not as easy as it might seem.
Looming over them all - over Bermondsey, over the factory, over the custard tarts and their lives and loves - is the shadow of the First World War. And that will change everything and everyone.

When Nellie's mother dies she is basically left to bring up her brothers and sister as her father is so full of grief that it manifests itself in appalling behaviour towards his children, especially it seems, Nellie.

Nellie works in the Pearce Duff Custard and Jelly factory in Bermondsey, South East London and is therefore known as a "Custard Tart"! Conditions are awful and so is the pay, so when all the other factories go out on strike for better pay, Nellie and her co-workers do the same with the help of Eliza James, who is the voice for all the factory workers hoping to improve their lives.

Eliza has a brother called Sam who is trying to hold down a full time job as well as looking after his mother who is very ill and frail as well as his siblings. Eliza, it seems, is too busy for family ties and wants to bask in the glory of getting victory for the workers of Bermondsey in better pay and conditions.

Ted Bosher has eyes for Nellie and is a real charmer, but will she fall for his slick ways?

This is a real South East London family saga set in 1911 before the onset of WWI and tells the struggle that Londoners had to put food on the table every day for their families. If you love sagas then this will be right up your street! I absolutely loved it and can only ask myself why it took me so long to read it!

I will definitely be reading the rest of Mary Gibson's earlier novels as I just love reading about my home town of London and especially, the South East of the city.

To buy a copy of this on Amazon click here

Tuesday 11 August 2020

The Bird in the Bamboo Cage

The Bird in the Bamboo Cage
Hazel Gaynor

I'm thrilled to be a part of the blog tour for this author's latest novel. I am a real fan of Hazel Gaynor (A Memory of Violets being one of my all time favourite reads). You can read my review below of this corker of a novel!
Blurb China, 1941. With Japan’s declaration of war on the Allies, Elspeth Kent’s future changes forever. When soldiers take control of the missionary school where she teaches, comfortable security is replaced by rationing, uncertainty and fear. Ten-year-old Nancy Plummer has always felt safe at Chefoo School. Now the enemy, separated indefinitely from anxious parents, the children must turn to their teachers – to Miss Kent and her new Girl Guide patrol especially – for help. But worse is to come when the pupils and teachers are sent to a distant internment camp. Unimaginable hardship, impossible choices and danger lie ahead. Inspired by true events, this is the unforgettable story of the life-changing bonds formed between a young girl and her teacher, in a remote corner of a terrible war.

When the outbreak of WWII begins, Elspeth is teaching the children of missionaries in China alongside Minnie. Both thought teaching so far from home would bring solace and healing in their lives, but little did they know that the bombing of Pearl Harbour by the Japanese would change their lives forever.
Nancy is a sensitive little girl who loves being taught by Elspeth, but misses her mother dearly and cannot wait until the day comes when she is reunited with her.
In the meantime, Elspeth and Minnie teach the girls, but are also Girl Guiders which the children love, especially earning themselves badges in lots of different activities. (I was a Girl Guide myself for many years and only left because I was too old!, so I know how wonderful this movement would have been for them).
When war breaks out they become prisoners and are watched at all times by the Japanese guards and life becomes very different, often unbearable for them all and then just as soon as they get settled into some sort of routine, they are moved to another place.
This book tells the story of their time under Japanese rule as basically prisoners of war and the treatment they suffered whilst waiting for freedom.  As you can probably imagine, they weren’t always treated fairly or appropriately, but through it all, nobody could break their spirit and hope that one day they would be free.
A fabulous mix of characters and thoroughly researched, this novel messes with your emotions. One minute I was bursting with pride for the characters in keeping strong throughout a harrowing experience and the next, I was weeping for the sense of utter loss and humiliation they must have felt at the hands of such a harsh regime.
 I can’t praise this book enough and it is one that will stay with me for a long time. The author’s finest yet. 

About the Author
Hazel Gaynor is an award-winning, New York Times, USA Today, and Irish Times, bestselling author of historical fiction, including her debut THE GIRL WHO CAME HOME, for which she received the 2015 RNA Historical Novel of the Year award. THE LIGHTHOUSE KEEPER'S DAUGHTER was shortlisted for the 2019 HWA Gold Crown award. She is published in thirteen languages and nineteen countries. Hazel is co-founder of creative writing events, The Inspiration Project, and currently lives in Ireland with her family, though originally from Yorkshire.

Thursday 23 July 2020

The Tuscan Contessa
Dinah Jeffries

Review by Julie Williams

It is just a coincidence that I decided to read this book that is set during WW2 in the region of Tuscany, when we should all have been celebrating 75 years since VE Day. I say should have as our nation is currently enveloped in the dreadful Coved 19 pandemic, which is also bringing heartache, fear and death to us all, much the same as I imagine those who lived through WW” experienced.

As I have come to expect with Dinah’s books the captivating atmosphere shines through  as the region of Tuscany is vividly narrated.

Sophia and her husband Lorenzo are Italian gentry but this doesn’t exclude them from the horrors of war so just like everyone else they play their part in not only surviving but also caring and bearing the loss and grief of others. 

I thought the women characters in this story to be bold and brave and at times ruthless as they protect their families, friends and country by assisting the Allies and the Partisans against the destructive murderous Germans. 

There are tense moments in this story with harrowing scenes of death and destruction but they are also combined with relationships and love. The clear message I found throughout is hope, hope that they would all come out the other side with loved ones still there to cherish. How ironic that as I write this review it is what I am hoping for….

My thanks to Julie for inviting me to guest review on her blog as she knows I am completely hooked on all Dinah Jefferies Novels.

Saturday 18 July 2020

All the Lonely People
Mike Gayle

I'm delighted to be a part of the blog tour for Mike Gayle's latest novel, All the Lonely People. You can read the first chapter here and I hope to get my review for you as soon as I possibly can!

Extract - Chapter 1

Moments before Hubert met Ashleigh for the first time, he had been settled in his favourite armchair, Puss curled up on his lap, waiting for Rose to call. When the doorbell rang he gave a tut of annoyance, wagering it was one of those damn courier people who were always trying to make him take in parcels for his neighbours.
‘Would you mind accepting this for number sixty-three?’ they would ask.
‘Yes, me mind a great deal!’ he would snap. ‘Now clear off!’ and then he would slam the door shut in their faces.
As he shifted Puss from his lap and stood up to answer the door, Hubert muttered angrily to himself.
‘Parcels, parcels, parcels! All day, every day, for people who are never in to receive the damn things! If people want them things so much why them no just buy it from the shops like everybody else?’
With words of scathing condemnation loaded and ready to fire, Hubert unlocked the front door and flung it open only to discover that the person before him wasn’t anything like he’d been expecting.
Instead of a uniformed parcel courier, there stood a young woman with short dyed blond hair. In a nod towards the recent spell of unseasonably warm April weather she was wearing a pink vest top, cut-off jeans and pink flip-flops. Holding her hand was a small child, a girl, with blond hair, also wearing a pink top, shorts and pink flip-flops.
The young woman smiled.
‘Hi, there. I’m not disturbing you, am I?’

Hubert said nothing but made a mental note that should he need to contact the police he could tell them that the woman spoke with a funny accent. To his untrained ear it sounded Welsh or possibly Irish, though he couldn’t be entirely sure it was either.
She held up her hand as if in surrender.
‘It’s okay. I’m not trying to sell you anything or nothing. I just came round to say hello really. We’ve just moved in next door.’
She pointed in the direction of the block of low-rise flats adjacent to Hubert’s property.
‘We’re new to the area and don’t know a single soul. Anyway, this morning I was saying to myself, "Ash, you’re never going to get to know anyone around here unless, you know, you start talking to people." So I called round to see the couple in the flat below but I think they must be out at work. Then I tried the family across the hallway but they didn’t open the door, even though I could hear the TV blaring away. So then I tried all the other flats and got nothing – all out or busy, I suppose – so I got Layla ready and took her to try the mother and toddler group at the library but it’s just closed due to funding problems apparently so . . .’
She paused, looking at him expectantly, perhaps hoping for a smile or a nod of comprehension, but Hubert remained impassive.
The young woman cleared her throat self-consciously but then continued.
‘My name’s Ash, well it’s Ashleigh really but everyone calls me Ash. And this little madam here . . .’ She glanced down at the small child. ‘. . . is my daughter, Layla.’
The little girl covered her eyes with both hands but peeked up at Hubert through the cracks between her fingers.
‘Layla,’ said Ash, her voice warm with encouragement, ‘say hello to our lovely new neighbour Mr . . .’
Ashleigh looked at him expectantly but Hubert continued to say nothing.
‘I think she’s a bit shy,’ said Ash, returning her attention to Layla. ‘You won’t believe it to look at me but I used to be dead shy too when I was a kid. Wouldn’t say boo to a goose, me. My mam was always saying, "Ashleigh Jones, you won’t get far in life being shy now, will you?" and my nan would be like, "Oh, leave the poor child alone, Jen, you’ll give her a complex." Then Mam would say, "I just don’t want her to get set in her ways, like," and then Nan would say, "She’s only a babby, she’s too young to get set in her ways." Then Mam would roll her eyes like this . . .’
Ashleigh paused to illustrate. She did it so well that for a moment Hubert thought her pupils might have disappeared for good.
‘. . . and say, "Like she isn’t set her ways . . . she already hates vegetables," and then Nan would shrug and say nothing. The thing is, though, Mam was right, I hated vegetables then and I can’t stand them now. Hate the things.’
She smiled hopefully at Hubert.
‘I’m going on, aren’t I? I do that. I think it’s nerves. In new situations I just start talking and I can’t stop. Anyway, I suppose what I’m trying to say is that it’s nice to be neighbourly, isn’t it? And this . . . well, this is me being exactly that.’
She thrust out a hand for him to shake and Hubert noted that her nails were painted in bright glittery purple nail polish that was chipped at the edges. Then from inside the house Hubert heard his phone ringing.
‘Me got to go,’ he said urgently, and without waiting for her response, he shut the door and hurried back to his front sitting room to answer the call.
‘Yes, it’s me, Dad. Are you okay? You sound a bit out of breath.’
Breathing a sigh of relief, he settled back down in his chair.
‘Me fine. Just someone at the door, that’s all. But you know me, me dealt with them quickly. No one comes between me and my daughter! So tell me, Professor Bird, what have you been up to this week and don’t leave anything out, me want to hear it all!’
It had been almost twenty years since Hubert’s daughter Rose had relocated to Australia and rarely a day went by when he didn’t wish that she lived closer. He’d never say this to her, of
course; the last thing he wanted was to prevent her from living her dreams. But there were moments, usually when he least expected, when he felt her absence so intensely he could barely draw breath.

Still, she was a good girl, calling every week without fail, and while it wasn’t the same as having her with him, it was the next best thing. Anyway, international calls had moved on from when Hubert used to ring his mother back home in Jamaica. Gone were the days of hissing static, crossed lines and eye-watering phone bills. With today’s modern technology, the cost was minimal and the lines so crystal clear it was almost like being in the same room.
Without need for further prompting, Rose told him about the faculty meetings she’d chaired, the conferences in faraway places she’d agreed to speak at and the fancy meals out she’d enjoyed with friends. Hubert always loved hearing about the exciting and glamorous things she’d been up to. It made him profoundly happy to know that she was living such a full and contented life.
After a short while, Rose drew her news to a close.
‘Right then, that’s more than enough about me. How about you, Pops? What have you been up to?’
Hubert chuckled.
‘Now tell me, girl, why does a fancy, la-di-dah academic like you want to know what a boring old man like me has been doing with his days? You a glutton for punishment?’
Rose heaved a heavy but good-natured sigh.

‘Honestly, Dad, you’re like a broken record! Every single time I call you say: "Why you want to know what me up to?" and I say, "Because I’m interested in your life, Dad," and you say something like, "Well, on Tuesday me climbed Mount Everest, and on Wednesday me tap-danced with that nice lady from Strictly and then I say, "Really, Dad?" and then finally you laugh that big laugh of yours and tell me the truth. It’s so frustrating! For once, can you please just tell me what you’ve been up to without making a whole song and dance about it?’

Hubert chuckled again. His daughter’s impression of him had been note perfect, managing to replicate both the richness of his voice and the intricacies of the diction of a Jamaican man who has called England his home for the best part of sixty years.
‘Me not sure me like your tone, young lady,’ he scolded playfully.
‘Good,’ retorted Rose. ‘You’re not meant to. And if you don’t want to hear more of it, you’ll stop teasing me and tell me what you’ve really been up to this week!’
‘Me was only having a little fun, Rose, you know that,’ relented Hubert. ‘But me consider myself told off, okay? So, what have I been up to?’
He slipped on his reading glasses and reached for the open notepad on the table next to him.
‘Well, on Tuesday me take a trip out to the garden centre, the big one on Oakley Road, you know it? Me buy a few bedding plants for the front garden – make the most of this mild spring we’re having – and then me stayed on there for lunch.’
‘Sounds lovely. Did Dotty, Dennis and Harvey go too?’
‘Of course! We had a whale of a time. Dotty was teasing Dennis about him gardening skills, Dennis was play fighting with Harvey in the bedding plants section, and all the while me trying to keep that rowdy bunch in line!’
Rose laughed.
‘Sounds like a good time. I wish I’d been there. How’s Dotty’s sciatica by the way? Still playing her up?’
Hubert referred to his notepad again.
‘Oh, you know how these things are when you’re old. They come and they go.’
‘Poor Dotty. Give her my love, won’t you? And how about Dennis’s great-grandson? How did he get on with his trials for . . . who was it again . . .?’
Once again Hubert referred to his notepad, only this time he couldn’t see the entry he was looking for.
‘Me think . . . me think it was Watford,’ he said panicking.
‘Are you sure? I would’ve remembered if you’d said Watford because that’s where Robin’s mother’s family are from. No, last time we spoke you definitely said . . . West Ham . . . that’s it! You said it was West Ham.’
Hubert frantically flicked through his notebook and sure enough there were the words ‘WEST HAM’ underlined next to ‘Dennis’s great-grandson’.
‘Actually you might be right about that,’ he said eventually. ‘But really Watford or West Ham, what does it matter? Him not my great-grandson!’
Rose chuckled heartily, clearly amused by her father’s charming indifference to details.
‘No, Pops, I suppose he isn’t. But how did he get on anyway?’
‘Do you know what?’ said Hubert abruptly. ‘Me didn’t ask Dennis and him didn’t bring it up.’
‘Oh, Dad,’ chided Rose, ‘what are you like? You really should take an interest in your friends, you know. They’re good for your health. I came across a very interesting study the other day that said people with a small group of good friends are more likely to live longer.’
‘Well, with friends like Dotty, Dennis and Harvey, even if me don’t live for eternity it will certainly feel like it!’ Hubert laughed and then cleared his throat. ‘Now, darling, that’s more than enough about me. Tell me more about this conference you’re going to in Mexico. You’re giving a big speech, you say?’
They talked for a good while longer, covering not just her trip to Mexico but also the new book proposal she was working on and the plans she had to finally landscape the garden so that she could make the most of her pool. Hubert relished every last detail she shared with him and could have listened to her talk all day. And so, as always, it was with a heavy heart that he realised their time was coming to an end.
‘Right then, Pops, I’d better be going. I’ve got to be up early in the morning as I’m picking up a visiting professor flying in from Canada. What are your plans for the rest of the week?’
‘Oh, you know. This and that.’
‘Now come on, Pops, remember what we agreed? No messing about. Just tell me what you’re up to.’

Hubert flicked to the most recent page of his notebook.
‘Well, tomorrow night Dotty wants to try bingo down at the new place that’s just opened up in town. Saturday, Dennis and me have talked about going to a country pub for lunch. Sunday, Harvey is having everyone round for a big roast. And Monday me having the day to meself to work on the garden. As for the rest of the week, me have no idea, but me sure Dotty’s cooking up some plans.’
‘That certainly sounds like a packed schedule!’ said Rose. ‘I don’t know how you do it.’
‘Neither do I, darling. Neither do I. Anyway, you take care, me speak to you soon.’
Ending the call, Hubert sat for a moment contemplating his conversation with Rose. He’d nearly put his foot in it once or twice. He really was going to either have a brain transplant or at the very least get himself a better system for making notes. Picking up the pen from the table beside him, he wrote down, ‘MAKE BETTER NOTES’ in his pad, then tossed it to one side with such force that Puss, who had curled up in his lap again, woke up and stared at him accusingly.
‘Don’t start with me,’ said Hubert, trying to avoid her gaze.
Puss continued to stare.
‘You know it’s not like me enjoy doing this.’
Still Puss stared.
‘It’s not like me got a choice in the matter, is it?’
Puss gave Hubert one last disdainful glower before jumping down to the floor and stalking out of the room as if to say she didn’t tolerate liars. Because the truth was Hubert Bird was a liar. And a practised one at that. Not a single word he’d said to his daughter was true. It was lies, all lies. And he felt absolutely wretched about it.