Welcome to my blog. I am not a very regular blogger, but I try to keep this site updated with news and information. If there's none of the above I may just share my random ruminations.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Truly Madly Deeply


It was Katie Fforde who badgered me into writing a short story and submitting it for possible inclusion in the 2014 RNA anthology - Truly, Madly, Deeply.  
In fact, “Why don’t you try writing a short story?”, had been a constant refrain over the years, as rejection after rejection landed on my doormat, and Katie’s shoulder became increasingly soggy. 
But I’m nothing if not stubborn, and I did not want to write short stories!  I don’t believe I have the right instincts; I prefer the large canvas that offers the space and time to ramble and to find my story.  

And then.... On our drive back to Gloucestershire from an RNA conference in Caerleon (which very nearly involved a diversion via Port Talbot because we were too busy chatting), the gauntlet was more forcefully laid down. Holiday Romance was the result.

I was amazed and thrilled to have Holiday Romance accepted for the anthology. The fact that my story is not in the paperback, but only appears among the bonus eleven in the extended, digital version, did not blunt my delight.  How could I be anything but delighted? After all, Holiday Romance is the first short story I’ve written since I was a sixteen year old school girl. 








http://www.amazon.co.uk/Truly-Madly-Deeply-Adele-Parks-ebook/dp/B00FBFJX52/



My story - Holiday Romance - is also available in one of the shorter digital versions. Part 9.

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Truly-Madly-Deeply-Part-Catherine-ebook/dp/B00I5R06MW/

All you need is LOVE
Published 21st February 2014, RRP £7.99
Truly, Madly, Deeply, published by Mills & Boon, in association with the Romantic Novelists’ Association, is packed with brand new stories from the UK’s best-loved writers.
Truly Madly Deeply is a charming and compulsive read for women of all ages. From wedding days to special anniversaries, steamy one-night encounters to everlasting love, it takes readers on an exciting romantic adventure where love really is all you need.
The collection brings together 24 specially-selected short stories from best-selling authors including Adele Parks, Katie Fforde, Carole Matthews and Miranda Dickinson, as well as a selection of rising stars of contemporary women’s fiction.  
Truly, Madly, Deeply, available in paperback and eBook, is the ultimate collection of romantic shorts, making it a perfect indulgent treat this Mother’s Day.
Mills & Boon will also be publishing the stories in Truly Madly Deeply as eBook bundles. These will comprise three to four stories each and will include an additional ten exclusive stories. Available from spring 2014 at Millsandboon.co.uk and all good eBook retailers, they make the perfect bite-sized romantic treat.
Truly Madly Deeply is published on 21st February and will be available in all good paperback and eBook retailers RRP £7.99, and at www.millsandboon.co.uk




Sunday, January 12, 2014

MY WRITING PROCESS

My Writing Process

On the shelf above the computer, something to keep me motivated and inspired



My thanks to Jenny Harper for inviting me to take part in the ‘My Writing Process’ blog tour. I will be trying to answer the following 4 questions: What am I working on? How does my work differ from others of its genre? Why do I write what I do? How does my writing process work?  
On the 20th January, 3 other writers will be taking on the challenge and offering their own take on the same questions. Details at the bottom of this post.   
 At first sight of the questions, I admit I almost turned down the opportunity. I know I won’t be able to give concise or comprehensive answers.  So I will probably veer away from the point and try to distract you. Marks out of ten for how well you think I’ve done. 

Here we go:

1)  What am I working on?

If only I knew.  For me, plots reveal themselves gradually, while I am actually in the process of writing a book. (The resolution to TORN came to me in a sudden flash, when I was within two chapters of the end.) Before I start I will have established the main characters, but only up to a point. I’ll have their sketchy back-stories, as well as the initial scenario in which they come together, but that’s all.  The only book I planned has never been published. Typically, I have to commit to writing a book while I still have only the faintest notion of where it’s going and how it’s all going to turn out.
This little trot around the houses is a diversion. I am not going to give you an overview of the untitled book I am due to start writing any minute, because I can’t. All I can tell you is that I am planning to write a culture clash novel.  In brief, Academia meets TOWIE or perhaps Time Team meets EducatingRita

2)  How does my work differ from others of its genre?

It’s hard to be objective about your own work, isn’t it? Had I done Eng Lit at A level or University, I might be better able to deconstruct my books.  All I know is that the style of my writing IS different from that of other writers of ‘relationship/romantic’ fiction. I wish it wasn’t. I have always wanted to find another author I can compare myself to. It would have made life easier over the years.  Any suggestions welcome!  
It is far simpler to tell you what my stories are not. They’re not comedies, though they have their light-hearted and humorous moments. They’re not chick-lit, although they are contemporary and typically about characters in their thirties. They’re not sagas; they don’t have large casts of characters, although family dynamics and parenthood often inform the plot.  And they are not ‘romance’ in a conventional sense, though I think they are ultimately, deeply romantic.  But I have taken on this challenge so I’ve got to try and describe what they ARE!
I’ve sometimes called my books ‘love stories for grown-ups’.  They face up to the complexities, messiness and absurdities in modern relationships.  Everybody has hopes, fears and disappointments. Everybody has a past, many have baggage.  I write about believable and complex people with flaws, preoccupations, problems and difficult relationships, who have to negotiate their way through a recognisable and sometimes uncomfortable world.  Life isn’t a fairy tale and love has consequences. 
I am grateful to Lynnette Sofras (Manic Scribbler) for the following quote from her review of LIFE CLASS.
 “What makes Gilli Allan's stories unique is their sense of honesty, of gritty realism mixed with a little twist of magic. They take me out of my comfort zone and make me face up to aspects of life it's usually easier to ignore.” 

3)  Why do I write what I do?

This is probably the hardest of all the questions to answer. There are writers who can turn their hand to any genre with equal enthusiasm and success.  But most of us, I suspect, have a particular bee in our bonnet that drives us to write what we write. Can you imagine KatieFforde suddenly inspired to write sci fi, or Anna Jacobs to write blood and guts urban thrillers?  But recognising this truth does not help me isolate why we are impelled to set off in the individual direction we choose.
Though I loved the Brontës, Austen and Heyer I’ve never felt the urge to write historicals. Though I now read thrillers and murder mysteries, I’ve not been tempted to delve into forensics or police procedures.  I used to enjoy J G Ballard’s early science fiction, but I’ve never been inspired to create my own dystopia. Mervyn Peake’s ‘Gormenghast’ trilogy is a favourite all-time read, but his fantasy world is so perfectly realised, anything I could dream up would only ever be a pale imitation.
When I was young it was the damaged hero who engaged me most powerfully. At some point, in every favourite TV programme or novel, the hero would be wounded. The handsome prince, the cowboy, the ‘Red Indian’ brave, the knight in armour brought low by their injuries, was a very intense and moving image for the pre-pubescent Gilli. 
The heroine’s role in the story was always to minister to his wounds and ultimately to ‘save’ him.  When I started to write my own stories, they centred on wounded war heroes, leather-clad motor-cyclists injured in horrific accidents and drug-addicted pop-stars. As I grew older, I no longer needed a physically damaged hero; psychological torture was sufficient (which possibly explains my love for Dostoevsky’s ‘Crime and Punishment’, first read when I was fifteen). 

Even though the books I’ve written as an adult far more closely reflect episodes I’ve witnessed, my own reflections on life and  personal experience (none more so than in FLY OR FALL), I can perceive this dark thread still running through the weave of my stories. I’m not interested in the good, the successful and the deserving.  My characters, male and female, need to be flawed, carrying with them the damage and burdens of past mistakes. And before the end of the story I’ll give them a bit more of the same. I’ve obviously got a sadistic streak!

4)   How does my writing process work?

My work place
At last an easy-peasy question!  Two word answer. It doesn’t.
Perhaps I should explain.  I have no routine. No discipline.  I write when I am in the mood, until......
Beginning a new book is ghastly. There is always something else that is more urgent. Emails need answering, there’s shopping, ironing, cooking or gardening to do.  For me, being a ‘seat of the pants’ style of writer, the opening chapters of a new book compare unfavourably to a weary trudge through an impenetrable forest, in deep fog, with a sucking bog underfoot, but that is until.......
.......the story begins to come alive.  Once that has happened, writing down the story which is now unfolding rapidly in my imagination is totally compulsive. It is all I want to do. I have to find some routine and discipline for the rest of my life, otherwise there’d be nothing to eat and we’d be living in squalor.
I was once told that to be a writer you have to have an obsessive personality. I’m not sure if it’s true of everyone, but it’s certainly true of me. 

I am grateful to Jenny Harper for this opportunity to waffle on about myself. I pass on the baton to three very different writers. Jo Lambert, Sandra Nachlinger and JennyTwist who will be answering the 4 questions in their own way, on the 20th of January.

Jo Lambert

Born and raised in rural Wiltshire, Jo has always been a country girl at heart.  Currently she lives on the eastern edge of Bath in a beautiful village set in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Here she has the best of both worlds - there is the city with its fabulous history and architecture and then there is her village where within minutes she can be walking in open countryside with fabulous views.  Landscape does inspire Jo and she tends to set her novels in villages, although her books are in no way cosy reads.  As a child she loved books and always wanted to write.  She started at an early age but only settled down to writing commercially ten years ago. 
Jo is married, owns one small grey female feline called Mollie (although Jo rather thinks Mollie owns her!) and lives with her husband and Bridget his other woman, a 47 year old white MG Midget - a fairly happy ménage a trois!

Sandra Nachlinger 

Born and raised in Dallas, Texas, Sandra has been writing one thing or another since childhood. She still has diaries from her school days, one of which inspired her first book I.O.U. SEX
Besides Dallas, Sandra has lived in Irving and Beaumont, Texas; Miami, Florida; and now Washington State. She loves to travel and keep journals (written and photographic) of each trip. The most exciting and memorable place she’s been was the walk from Leon to Santiago de Compostela, Spain, with her daughter-in-law and her mother. A once-in-a-lifetime experience she will treasure always.
When not writing, Sandra  likes to make quilts, sew, garden, take photos, lunch with friends, do crafty things with her glue gun, and (like Granny in her upcoming release, BLUEBONNETS FOR ELLY) spend as much time as possible with her granddaughter.

Jenny Twist

Jenny Twist was born in York and brought up in the West Yorkshire mill town of Heckmondwike, the eldest grandchild of a huge extended family. 
She left school at fifteen and went to work in an asbestos factory. After working in various jobs, including bacon-packer and escapologist’s assistant (she was The Lovely Tanya), she returned to full-time education and did a BA in history at Manchester and post-graduate studies at Oxford. She stayed in Oxford working as a recruitment consultant for many years and it was there that she met and married her husband, Vic. In 2001 they retired and moved to Southern Spain where they live with their rather eccentric dog and cat.
Besides writing, she enjoys reading, knitting and attempting to do fiendishly difficult logic puzzles. She has written two novels -  Domingo’s Angel – a love story set in Franco’s Spain and harking back to the Spanish Civil War and beyond -  and  All in the Mind – a contemporary novel about an old woman who mysteriously begins to get younger.
She has also written an anthology of short stories - Take One At Bedtime – and co-written the anthology  Bedtime Shadows – with the inimitable Tara Fox Hall.  She has contributed short stories to many other anthologies, of which two – Doppelganger  and Uncle Vernon have recently been released as short ebooks.
Her first self-published ebook, Away With the Fairies was released in September 2012. Her second, Mantequero, was originally published in Winter Wonders by Whimsical Publishing and has just been released as a short ebook.


Saturday, November 2, 2013

RESULTS

Well, that was fun. I have now selected a winner from those who commented with the right answer.
Of course it was Bugs Bunny. And Lori's was the first name to come out of the hat. 
Congratulations Lori Crane Hess.

 Please send your email address to gilliallan@btinternet.com and I'll send you an e-version of FLY OR FALL. 

Sunday, October 27, 2013

The Halloween giveaway blog-hop is nearly here!!!!



Yes! The time has come to start sculpting scary pumpkin faces, lay in a stock of sweets and practise a scary cackle for Thursday, and that knock on the door by a gaggle of hungry 'trick or treaters'.

I'm doing all the above, but as an added extra this time, I've banded together with several other writers, and am taking part in a Halloween blog-hop organised by the estimable Francine Howarth. We are offering books as prizes in return for a correct answer to a question.

I have to confess straight away, that my newly published book, FLY OR FALL, has no link whatsoever to Halloween. There are no pumpkins, ghosts or witches. It's a grown up love story that has just garnered its first review. I'm thrilled to say it's a *Five Star* !

Click on the Hallowe'en link at the top to join the party, visit the other authors who are taking part, and answer the various questions.  Everyone is different.

Scroll down to the previous post to read the prologue to FLY OR FALL, then answer this question:  In the prologue to FLY OR FALL, the television is on. The antics of which cartoon character (the name please) trigger in Nell the sense that the ground is falling away beneath her feet?

Answers in the comment section. The winner of FLY OR FALL will be announced on Saturday November 2.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Halloween Giveaway Blog-Hop

When I was a child  'All Hallow's Eve' was not a big deal. I knew about it; I'd look out of the window on the evening of the 31st and experience a little shiver at the thought of ghosts rising out of their graves, but the idea wasn't taken seriously.  Halloween wasn't celebrated.  In the UK (in my day) the nearest we got was Guy Fawkes Night, on November the 5th.  My parents would conflate certain aspects of the typical Halloween celebrations by encouraging us to hollow out a swede, carve a face into it, and put a night-light inside. (And believe me, making a swede into a scary face is a whole lot more difficult than doing so with a pumpkin, but in the process, apart from sore palms and fingers, I can report that I discovered a liking for raw swede.)

I loved Guy Fawkes Night. Many of my most treasured childhood memories revolve around this event. It was such a novelty to be out at night in the cold and dark, watching the Catherine wheels and Roman candles, and rockets shooting into the sky from the end of the garden. With our woolly mittens on, we tried to eat potato skins filled with a cheesy baked potato mash and we scalded our tongues drinking soup from earthenware mugs. I still love fireworks and those smoky autumnal smells - the burning wood and leaves from the bonfire, mixed with the gunpowder from fireworks and the sharp metallic scent of sparklers (not to mention roasting swede!) - still vividly evoke the excitement I felt as a child.

I am taking part in a Halloween Giveaway Blog Hop, organised by Francine Howarth at  http://tgunwriter.blogspot.co.uk/.  Several writers are involved and we are all offering books as prizes. If you want to take part visit Francine's website, or simply answer the question below and you've a chance to win an e-copy of my recently released book - FLY OR FALL.

Q. In the prologue to FLY OR FALL, the television is on. The antics of which cartoon character (the name please) trigger in Nell the sense that the ground is falling away beneath her feet?

Answers in the comment section. The winner will be announced on Saturday November 2.

FLY or FALL
                                                     
                                              Prologue

2006

The cartoon rabbit ran straight off the edge of the cliff. He hung, oblivious to his predicament, feet pedalling the empty air. There was a snigger, halfway between laughter and derision, from the twins.

Perhaps belief is everything, I thought. If you believe you’re still on the same level, that life hasn’t changed, you won’t see the void which has opened beneath your feet. And if you don’t see it, you don’t fall. Inevitably the rabbit did stop running, did look down. I felt with him the nightmare lurch of panic, the sudden plunge downwards as he dropped out of frame. The result was explosive. As the dust cleared a precisely incised, rabbit shaped crater was revealed at the foot of the cliff.


‘I still can’t believe the amount of money....’ I murmured, with a dazed shake of my head.

‘So? What’s your problem? Any normal person would be jumping for joy.’ We were speaking quietly; the twins had yet to be told their father wanted to move, let alone that, without even putting the house on the market, we’d received an eye-watering offer for it.

‘I’m not arguing,’ I defended myself half-heartedly. ‘But I suppose I’ve always thought the amount it might sell for was academic. We have to live somewhere. Your job’s here, our friends are here, the kids go to school here. Why sell?’

‘We’ve been through this. There’s nothing to keep us, not really. Why stay in Battersea when we could live in the country? Clean air, green fields, a house with a proper garden and a driveway ... maybe even a garage ... to park the car off-road?’

I hadn’t reacted the way he’d wanted and expected, and I could hardly explain why to myself let alone to him. Why did I have such a sense of foreboding? If I agreed to sell and move out of London, our lives would change in countless superficial and practical ways but, to use Trevor’s words, they’d be changes which most normal people would regard as improvements to the style and quality of life. To him it was a no-brainer. Why stay in a property worth so much money when we could sell it and move somewhere better but cheaper in the country. Deflated by my reaction to his plans he had to work hard to keep his irritation in check.

‘But it’s such an unremarkable house.’

‘For God’s sake, Nell. Where have you been? You’ve heard about the property boom?’

‘But it’s smaller than the others in the terrace, with a much smaller garden. I never in a million years thought.... Anyway, what about your job?’

He sighed deeply. ‘I’m a teacher, I can get a job anywhere.’

‘Are you sure about that?’

‘I’m not dragging us off to the depths of the country on a wing and a prayer. I’ll make sure I’ve something to go to. I may quit teaching altogether.’

‘But you love teaching?’

‘I used to,’ he retorted darkly. I felt I was being drawn into an Alice in Wonderland world where all my certainties were being turned upside down. ‘Look, the whys and wherefores are not important … the important thing is this.’ He waved the formal offer at me. His taut, flushed face betrayed his excitement, as he contemplated a very different future to the one I’d envisaged.

‘I don’t want … we don’t need so much money. Wealth can be very corrupting.’

He sighed again. ‘Of course it seems a lot to us because we’ve been scraping along for years. It’s only recently things have eased up a bit. But we’ll still need a house to live in.’ His tabby, greying beard received another vigorous raking. ‘We’ll only have the balance to play with.’

‘I know that.’

‘Sure, our lives are going to change. But we are who we are. It is possible to be comfortably off, to have a few hundred thousand in an investment account, without abandoning your ideals. Unless you truly believe our principles are so flaky? The kind you adopt when you’re poor then slough off like a snake’s skin as soon as your circumstances improve?’

‘No one really knows how they’ll respond to temptation until they’re exposed to it. It’s a leap into the dark. Perhaps I am going to develop a taste for furs and diamonds and love-affairs. And you? Fast cars and bimbos?’

‘Do try to keep a sense of proportion. It’s not that kind of dosh.’

‘I am joking.’ But as I said the words I knew I wasn’t joking, not really. I had cloaked my real misgivings in the facile.

‘Anyway, how come you get to have love-affairs and I get the bimbos?’ he added, with a rueful smile. ‘Sounds a bit discriminatory to me.’

‘What is the male equivalent of a bimbo? A gigolo? A toy boy? Chance would be a fine thing.’

Much of the discussion so far had been conducted in this half-joking, half-serious vein. My insides still bubbled with a mixture of shocked surprise and apprehension, bordering on hysteria; I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. For me it was still too soon to properly and calmly evaluate what all this would really mean to us. At length he spoke again.

‘You think I don’t understand, but I do.’ His tone was now conciliatory, bordering on the condescending. I remained silent, repressing the urge to flash back, ‘Good for you.’

‘I know all this has been a shock. I know the last few months since Beryl died, have been hard on you. Losing your surviving parent has got to change your perspective on life and the way you live it. Even when she had long ceased to be the mother you knew. We always knew you’d inherit the house. The probate will soon be sorted and we ... you’ll get the title deeds. What the house is worth is the only new element for you.’

But not for him? Had he been comparing house prices for years? Weighing up what my mother’s death could mean for us? I sensed a ‘But’ coming, possibly an ultimatum. Did he want to secure my compliance here and now? Yet, as he proceeded, I saw apprehension in his eyes.

‘Seriously, Nell, it’s down to you. If you really don’t want to sell the house and realise some of the profits by moving out and down-pricing, then I can’t force you.’

I glanced away from his intent stare, back towards the TV, which now flickered in the corner without its cynical audience of two. Since I’d last looked, Bugs Bunny had not only survived his fall but had triumphed over his pursuers, in the interim mysteriously achieving a lifestyle of wealth and opulence. As the title music swelled the final frame revealed him lying back complacently against a pile of harem cushions, a jewelled turban balanced between his ears, the inevitable carrot held pinched in his fingers like a cigar.

‘Beats me why you can’t just accept it and rejoice?’ Trevor persisted doggedly. ‘Our ship’s come in. It’s our turn.’

He made my misgivings seem increasingly nebulous and perverse. How could I continue to resist? One moment I’d felt like I was at the edge of a precipice, facing a leap into the unknown, yet still clinging to the possibility of retreat. Now I realised the world had shifted on its axis; there could be no going back. The secure ground had vanished from beneath my feet. I had only two options left – to fall or to fly.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

7 x 7 Excerpt Challenge

I've just been tagged by the fabulous Sheryl Browne in one of these 7x7 excerpt challenges. I've nominated some other authors who I hope will take up the challenge after me. It's easy to do:

The rules... Go to Page 7, 70, or 170 of a current Work in Progress or recently published work and choose either the first complete paragraph or 7 lines of dialogue to share. 

Here is the excerpt from page 170 of my soon to be published book, Fly or Fall.

Steam infused with sandalwood swirled around me. I rested my head against the wet wall and expanded my lungs. Today’s exercise session had been a disappointment. My movements were wooden, my limbs heavy; I got through the class somehow, but was unable to achieve the usual split between the mental and the physical. In the past it had been here, in the steam room, where I’d found the greatest release. As my languid body grew hotter and sweatier, I would luxuriate in the bawdiest of fantasies. Not today. It was so very hot. I’d no energy to move, yet the relaxation I sought eluded me, and as for fantasising? Reality had intervened. I’d woken up.
Many times the steam exhaled, filling the cell-like room with a dense, aromatic fog, and many times the fog thinned and condensed, falling from above in cool heavy drops. This self-indulgence could no longer be justified. I roused myself and began to stand; suddenly overcome by a draining weakness, I clutched for the door, conscious only of the imperative to get out of this cloying heat. My hand was on the handle, but I had no strength, yet the door swung open. There was someone in the way, blocking my escape. My head jangled and the perimeters of my vision closed in, a dark frame round a dwindling image. A chill wave of nausea swept over me. Then I was asleep and dreaming.
‘Mrs. Hardcastle? Mrs. Hardcastle? Are you all right?’
‘David?’
‘It’s Sharon, Mrs. Hardcastle. ‘
I could see smooth, tanned legs and the white edge of shorts. I realised I was outside the steam room, sitting sideways on a lounger, my head on my knees. I sat up giddily.
‘You fainted,’ she said. ‘Lucky I was there or you’d have hit your head on the tiles.’
‘Thank you.’ I glanced up. ‘...Sharon. How long...?’
‘Just a few moments. How are you feeling now, Mrs Hardcastle?’
‘Bit groggy. ‘
‘Should we call an ambulance? Or your husband?’
‘No!' Not Trevor. 'It’s my own fault. I stayed in there too long. Don’t worry. I’ll be fine in a moment. I drooped my head down onto my knees again.

I have tagged seven other friends and fellow authors.  Some are willing, some have yet to get back to me. I'm sorry if this proves a burden. Melanie Roberston-KingKimberly Menozzi , Jo Lambert , Margaret James Kit Domino , Linda Mitchelmore Jeannine Gray 

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Two Memorable Visits AND my connection to the Mildenhall Treasure


The Palace of Westminster

My husband and I on the terrace
View of the London Eye from the terrace













   

This week my husband and I travelled up from Gloucestershire to London. We checked in at Cavendish Club and then went out for several hours of lunching and shopping.What could be nicer?
Lunch was perfect but afterwards it was he who gleefully bought himself a pair of shoes, while I bought nothing!  And then we returned to the club to get ready to go out. But we could easily not have been in London at all. 
Westminster Hall




It was only a few weeks ago that we received our invitation to a reception at the Houses of Parliament. But my husband wasn’t keen. In the abstract, making a trip to London only to stand around for several hours in a collar and tie, on very best behaviour, glad-handing and making social chit-chat was unappealing to him. But my eagle eye instantly honed in on the venue and the date this event was going to be staged.

“I’d love to visit the Palace of Westminster,” I said, “and that day is our wedding anniversary.”  He was hooked and landed.

Chapel ceiling
And what a fabulous evening we both had.  The function took place in The Jubilee Room, which you get to by going through the oldest part of the palace, Westminster Hall, and up a  flight of stairs.

We did stand around for an hour or so, drinking wine, eating nibbles and chatting to old friends and work colleagues of my husband’s, but it was fun.  Then  I felt very privileged to be  taken by Colonel Bob Stewart, MP for Beckenham, on a bespoke tour of The House. We watched the Lords in session. We visited the chapel and the terrace, and were taken into the Commons, once the sitting was over.  

Behind the Scenes at the Museum

British Museum
The next day we made our leisurely way over to the British Museum, where our son works as the project curator for the upcoming Vikings exhibition. This is going to be staged in the spring of 2014, in the brand new exhibition space currently being built.  It will have as its centrepiece an actual salvaged Viking ship.
Having been tipped the wink not to bother with the Pompei exhibition because it's very crowded, despite the timed tickets, we did a short tour around the Assyrian section, and then, as always, we made a special diversion to look at the Mildenhall treasure.  (In the British Museum at the moment there is a special display - with the great dish as its centrepiece - which looks at dining through the Roman period.)

When he was free, we met up with our son and he  took us behind the scenes, unlocking doors that the general public never pass through. I feel doubly privileged that on our trip to the capital last week I sneaked a peek at the slightly dusty and a touch shabby, back offices and store-rooms of our great museum.

The Mildenhall Treasure

Now, to get back to that treasure.... Why do we  feel an attachment to this fabulous hoard of Roman silver? It is because we DO have a family connection.





My uncle Sydney Ford, (pictured with the treasure on his sideboard behind him) was the husband of my grandfather’s sister, Ethel. My son, Tom, (pictured beside a display of the treasure in 1989) is therefore Syd's great great nephew. 

In uncle Syd's version of the discovery of the Mildenhall Treasure, he found it on his farm. He was driving the tractor and plough which turned it up out of the soil. He took it home and cleaned it up. He thought it was pewter.  He was going to declare the find and took it (or some of it) to London - to the British Museum - to show them, but because it was war time the British Museum was closed.  So he kept it. What else could he do?  At Christmas he kept his fruit and nuts in the great dish.  But a nosy neighbour tipped off the police and the hoard was taken away from him after the war, so he never got any credit for finding it, nor any recompense.

In more recent years I’ve learned more about the ‘official account’.  It was not Sydney but his farm worker,  Gordon Butcher, who turned up the treasure. It wasn’t even found on my uncle’s farm at all, but on neighbouring land.  And I’ve also heard that there is some doubt over whether it originally came from the Mildenhall area at all. Roman villas have been found there but no remains of a villa of sufficient grandeur to have owned such a service has ever been excavated in the location. Another suggestion I’ve read, linked to the previous point, is that it was stolen (from whom or from where was not made clear) and had been hidden there by twentieth century villains! And there were persistent rumours at the time, apparently, that Sydney Ford knew in advance he was going to be relieved of his fruit bowl et al so he kept back a cache of coins or some other choice artefact from the hoard when the authorities came for it in 1946.  It was declared Treasure Trove And he was recompensed - £2,000 between him and his ploughman, Mr Butcher.   

(Great) Uncle Syd, was a favourite. We always loved seeing him.  He was mischievous and rascally and had a definite twinkle in his eye. When I was young I took on board the story as he told it. Of course it was true. But now? I have no trouble in believing him capable of a certain degree of roguery.  I don’t suppose we will ever know the real story and Syd is long gone and can no longer give us any answers.