Many curious incidents woke me up in the middle of the night in Deptford, the location my novel HELEN AND THE GRANDBEES.
It began with the police throwing things against my second-floor bedroom window. I needed to move to the other side of the flat because one of the cars in the car park had been set alight, a huge furnace reaching into the sky. It hadn’t been the first car to meet a firey end, recently and frequently the bin cupboard was in the same state. At least it disinfected the fly-tipped fridge-freezers and their haze of blue bottles.
Then there was the dishevelled doctor who accosted me in my cul-de-sac convinced I had witnessed some terrible crime as I passed by. He gently insisted that this event I had nearly witnessed was intrinsically linked to a plot to get him struck off as a GP, and that he had been stalked ever since. I could only extract myself from the situation by assuring him most sincerely that I would call the police to tell them what I had seen, and even then only just got by without leaving my phone number address, national insurance number, deepest regrets.
I was woken a few weeks later by my intercom being rung furiously and a young woman shouting that she was being attacked on the doorstep. Fortunately, I took the possibly naive step of taking her at face value and letting her in. The following day, she came around to thank me and showed me the bruises on her neck.
It’s this quirkier, and sadder, side of Deptford that HELEN AND THE GRANDBEES reflects, reminiscent of my experiences growing up in a council estate in Birmingham. Much as I love my adult life which has brought privileges I never had growing up, I have a true affection for the people with whom I shared this life. Some events in the life of my protagonist ‘Helen’ have been truly tragic and she does have to deal with the social housing landscape with all of its eccentricities, but the novel is about how the love of family inspires Helen to be more than she appears to be (a mad lonely woman). It begins when there’s a knock on the door of her lonely one-bedroom flat. Standing at the door is her bee, her lily, given up for adoption as a baby…
You can read the first three chapters for free here.
Or just buy the beautiful paperback or ebook here