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East Side Stories is a collection of 18 completely new stories, plus ‘The Othona Valediction’ which has so far only been published as an E-story, and therefore not accessible to anyone who only reads ‘real’ books.
All the stories are set in locations down the east side of England, from Hadrian’s Wall to the Thames. This is an area well known to me, as I have lived in Teesside, North Yorkshire, the Pennines, Norfolk and Essex during my life in England, before moving to southern Spain in 1994.
Although some of the locations where the stories are set are fictitious, such as Mucklethwaite-in-Dale and Spelt, others are placed in actual villages, and I must apologise to the inhabitants of Marske, Saltburn, Redcar and Rackheath, amongst others, for bringing crimes (albeit fictional ones) into their villages.
Despite some of the locations being factual, all the stories and characters in them are of course pure fiction, and are not based on any real event or person.
In ‘Fool’s Gold, however, reference is made to ‘The Moody Baker’. These two shops in Alston and Barnard Castle are real, and were established by Meryl Baker, and run by her until her tragic death. Meryl was a good friend of mine, and the shops are now in the hands of her son, Dave, who I have known since he was a youngster. If you are in the Barnard Castle or Alston area, they are well worth a visit. The ingredients they use are locally sourced wherever possible, and the baking is ‘in shop’.
Three other places are actual locations: ‘The Railway Tavern’ in Chelmsford, where I spent many a lunchtime when I lectured in what is now Anglia Ruskin University; ‘The Walnut Tree Shades’ in Old Post Office Court in Norwich, which I knew well when I lived in Rackheath; and lastly ‘The Sole and Heel’, which is in Rackheath itself and was my ‘local’. When I worked in Norwich in the late 1950’s, a group of us used to go into the Walnut Tree Shades at lunchtime. The then landlord, Cyril, used to let us bring our own bread rolls, butter and cheese in with us. We would stand at the bar cutting the rolls and cheese with our penknives, and swilling them down with Bullard’s mild or bitter. If I remember correctly, a half of mild cost sixpence a half (2½ new pence).
‘The Othona Valediction’ is set both in the chapel, St Peter-on-the-wall at Bradwell-on-Sea, which is part of the ancient monastery of St Cedd, and also in the Othona Community (a link to which can be found on my website).