Debut novel takes readers to Rugby the day after Coventry Blitz

Debut novel takes readers to Rugby the day after Coventry Blitz

Rugby author Steve Gay is celebrating the timely launch of his evocative debut novel in the month of the 80th anniversary of the Coventry Blitz.

Inspired by long-told tales from his own family history, The Birds That Do Not Sing is set on the day after the World War II city bombings campaign, through the eyes of a ten-year-old boy from a pacifist family in neighbouring Rugby.

Steve Gay, The Birds That Do Not Sing, historical fiction, Coventry Blitz, Rugby

And the new historical fiction has already attracted positive reviews following its release last week.

Steve said: “I wanted to give readers a vivid and authentic sense of time and place, from my father’s memory of watching the German bombers overhead, Coventry burning on the horizon, and all the everyday details that framed a wartime childhood.”

He added: “There is still a rich oral history living around us, but the generation with first-hand memories of the war is slipping away from us. I hope this story will cause readers to explore their own family history, to unearth the stories and cherish them before they are gone forever.”

Steve Gay, The Birds That Do Not Sing, historical fiction, Coventry Blitz, Rugby

The launch, timed around the anniversary of the bombings on Saturday, marks a proud moment for the recently retired financial services director who reconnected with his love of writing whilst on his daily commute to London.

But it was while graduating from Warwick University’s highly regarded Warwick Writer’s Programme two years ago that his current novel began to take shape.

Moved by his father’s accounts from one of the darkest times in history, the book has been hailed as a brilliant and emotive literary arrival for the former Dunsmore Boys School student who is one of four generations of a Rugby family that stretches back to before the first world war.

Steve, 59, explained: “The central character, Jimmy, is trying to make sense of an adults’ war. He’s struggling to comprehend the mixed messages, the shifting opinions, the competing loyalties, the opposing expectations, trying to work out what it all means, particularly given that he lives in a controversial family of militant socialists, pacifists, atheists and conscientious objectors.

“It’s a book about the traumas we all suffer. It’s about the guilt that we carry, the secrets we keep, the redemption that we crave – those human adversities, qualities and frailties and how they follow us through life.”

He added: “What I described in the book are some of the real pressures my father experienced but you have to paint the truth and mould it into something more fictional as well if you’re going to create the pace that a novel requires.”

One real – and familiar – local feature of the story however, is another of Steve’s central – and personified – characters, the concrete elephant.

Built by his engineer grandfather before the start of the war, the ornamental water feature could be found for four decades on the A5, where it had been placed by the Asquith family who purchased it in 1938.

But, after many years of wondering what became of the oft-mentioned elephant, it was recently tracked down by Steve – a mere mile from his home!

He said: “In the book I have turned the elephant into a character – a confidante for the protagonist to help him try and make sense of what is happening.

“I was telling a friend about it recently who said they had spotted it in the front garden of a house just around the corner. I knocked on the door in March, much as the character does in the book, and spoke to the homeowner about it. I’m hoping when COVID is over my father will be able to go round and reacquaint himself with the elephant that he remembers as a child!“

Steve Gay, The Birds That Do Not Sing, historical fiction, Coventry Blitz, Rugby

Buoyed by the early reviews of The Birds That Don’t Sing, Steve is already looking ahead to the next chapter in his new literary career, the first in a science fiction trilogy, planned for release next summer.

For now though he is hoping that his debut novel will help set him on the path to writing success, but, most of all, that it resonates with his new army of readers.

“I never started with the ambition of publishing anything, I simply knew I wanted to write a story. But as you get into these things you start to set your sights a bit higher and become more ambitious,” he said.

“It is lovely to hear that other people are reading it and getting some enjoyment out of it already. That’s all you can ask as a writer. And if readers are talking between themselves about issues within the book that provoke discussion, then that’s important as well.

“The story isn’t really yours. Once it’s published it’s for the reader to decide what it is about and what it means to them.”

It’s a milestone too for Charles, now 90, who has given his son’s efforts the seal of approval.

Steve said: “The biggest compliment I’ve been paid – or ever will be paid – about this book, is from my father who said it’s caused him to understand his childhood in a way that he previously hadn’t.”

The Birds That Do Not Sing is available to order from book shops as well as online. It is also available as an e-book on Amazon.

For more information, visit the official website: https://rookabbeypress.com

New online marketplace connects buyers with local independent producers

New online marketplace connects buyers with local independent producers

IT just got easier to shop for food and drink from independent producers, thanks to a brand new online marketplace that launches this week.

FLOC Market allows food lovers to get their hands on everything from meat and wine to beers and cakes from independent producers, traders and specialists in their area through one central marketplace.

Inspired by the surge in interest in buying from local food and drink producers, entrepreneurs Lewis Edwards and David Clarke want to help independent businesses get online, sell direct to their customers and build an audience of loyal fans. As firm supporters of shopping locally, they hope their platform will support independents to serve the community in a new, innovative way.

FLOC creators David Clarke (L) and Lewis Edwards (R)

Their creation, FLOC Market, launches this Friday (17th April) and allows businesses to list products in a virtual store within one central marketplace, saving them the cost and extra work involved in creating their own online shop. It also makes shopping easier for customers, putting everything they need from an array of local businesses all in one place.

Lewis said: “We wanted to create an online marketplace that would encourage people to use local producers and give independent businesses the chance to easily stand out to potential customers who want to shop local and want to buy quality produce, but aren’t always sure where to look.

“The current environment is incredibly challenging for small businesses and it’s never been more important to help connect consumers to them via one, easy-to-search place. Many are offering brilliant contactless delivery or click & collect services which help people avoid supermarkets and shop safely in accordance with government guidelines. Our goal is to reduce workloads of already busy independent producers and independents away from admin-heavy duties of answering large numbers of calls, emails and messages.”

With categories including wines, beers, deli, bakery, fresh produce, meats and more, FLOC Market is a one-stop shop for discovering fantastic local food and drinks. Lewis and David are also planning on developing further tools to help people discover new brands and products, as well as helping partners streamline orders from local buyers.

While FLOC Market is expected to prove especially useful during the current lockdown restrictions, the service is here to stay and is hoped to encourage the long-term use of independent, local producers with a focus on supporting the local economy and reducing food miles.

Several businesses have already signed up to FLOC Market with many more expressing an interest, and while Lewis and David are focusing on the Midlands to start there is capacity for it to expand across the UK in the future.

Lewis added: “FLOC Market gives businesses their very own store where they can accept payments online, and help manage stock efficiently to maximise profitability. A big benefit is that it also allows businesses to manage delivery of products, both locally and nationally if they serve the whole UK, they can set radius limits and special delivery options to ensure their customers’ expectations are met.

“We appreciate that time is of the essence, so we’ve made it super easy and cost-effective for businesses to get started. There’s no cost to join or set up the shop or products and each order fee is 10% with a 2% transaction fee.

“On FLOC Market, customers will discover new products and producers by browsing the marketplace but we also give each business a unique ID link that they can share on their own social media channels and use to promote their shop.

“We’ve already got lots of local businesses interested and are looking for more. If you’re a small, local independent food and drink business, we want to help you. Get in touch at www.floc-market.co.uk

Win a Harrods hamper and two-night luxury glamping stay

Win a Harrods hamper and two-night luxury glamping stay

A WARWICKSHIRE-based luxury boutique glamping retreat has signed up to take part in the Karcher Accumulator Challenge to raise much needed funds for the Banbury-based Katharine House Hospice.

Owners Jo Carroll and Steve Taylor, of Winchcombe Farm Holidays in Upper Tysoe, have signed up to the seed fund project. Jo explained: “The challenge is simple – Karcher give us £50 and 5 months to see how we can make it grow. We’re aiming to raise £500. Every penny raised is donated to the Hospice, which this year is facing a huge funding shortfall.

Steve Taylor

“Each day it costs £11,000 to provide the hospice’s services and they rely on the local community and businesses for three-quarters of that funding,” said Jo.

She added: “We’ve asked our guests, followers on social media and local people to join us by donating £2 to be entered into a draw to win a luxury Harrods hamper. But there’s a twist; you have to come and collect your Harrods hamper and stay for a couple of complimentary weekday nights in one of our lodges of your choice – or the tree house – between now and the end of March 2020.

“It is a bit of a risky strategy to blow our entire £50 seed fund on the hamper, but then we thought it was worth the gamble. We’ve already had donations of over £200 and we’re going flat out to get some more.”

Steve added: “The winner can choose to enjoy their Harrods hamper in our lovely Tree House, the unique Bob’s Lodge, the luxury Chicken Shed Lodge or our brand new lodge for 2019, George’s Getaway. All have private hot tubs and the lodges all have stargazing domes, equipped with super king-sized circular beds and telescopes.”

Entries into the prize draw cost £2 each and people may enter as many times as they like (each £2 donation will be classed as a single entry) by visiting: https://www.wonderful.org/fundraiser/winchcombefarmholidays

The winner will be picked at random on Sunday, 1st December 2019 and announced on Winchcombe Farm’s social media pages, along with the total of how much they’ve raised.

Jo said: “Then watch this space for our next accumulator challenge initiative. We’ve got a great idea up our sleeves to make sure we hit our target.”

For further details about the Karcher Accumulator Challenge visit https://www.kaercher.com/uk/the-kaercher-accumulator-challenge.html

For more information about Katharine House Hospice, visit https://www.khh.org.uk/

 

The hottest ticket in town!

The hottest ticket in town!

SCHOOL is nearly out but fear not, for there’s a whole summer of fun lined up to help celebrate at Jump In Trampoline Park Warwick.

Jump In Trampoline Park, Summer Pass

With the long stretch of school holidays ahead, Jump In’s Summer Pass can help them keep a spring in their step without elevating the budget.

Plus there’s extra fun and games lined up in Warwick, including indoor welly wanging, giant Jenga, Connect 4 and volleyball, all with the sounds of summer playing in the background. There may even be the chance to slap on some bling with a glitter tattoo – or two!

And there’s no better time to enjoy trampolining thanks to the Jump In Summer Pass.

Jump In Trampoline Park, Warwick, Summer Pass

With the Summer Pass in your back pocket it’s the perfect way to keep you and your family entertained – and active – over the school holidays.

The passes represent great value at just £35 for 5 jumps and £60 for 10 jumps and can be purchased now, for use until August 31st 2019. They can also be used for friends and family to enjoy Jump In together.

Jump In Warwick, Summer Pass

When you purchase online you will be sent a unique code to use when booking online via our website or Contact Centre on 01926 356290.
Visit: www.gojumpin.com and select Open Jump.
For full terms and conditions visit: http://www.gojumpin.com/news/summer-trampoline-passes-at-jump-in

Jumpers will have no trouble cooling down after trampolining with the Summer Fest special offer – when you buy three Slush drinks, there’s a fourth one waiting you for you free at Jump In Warwick! (Valid throughout July and August).

As well as Open Jumping, the park offers sessions catering for all age groups, including After-School Club; Toddler Time; Jump and Play (exclusively for under fives); Friday Night Takeover; Relaxed Sessions (with SEN activities and Rebound Therapy) and Fitness Classes (for all ages).

Jump In Warwick, Summer Pass

Besides trampolines, the Jump In fun in Warwick includes a giant airbag, dodgeball, battle beam, basketball, plus a soft play area for the under fives. And there’s a special Soft Play and Mini Trampoline Jump offer for under fives as well – in the secure environment of the gated soft play area with lots of space to run free.

On-site facilities include baby change, disabled access and free parking as well as a wide range of tasty refreshments in the Tuck In Café – where most supervising parents like to reside!

What better incentive to get them active and off their screens and onto our trampolines?

Jump In Warwick, Summer Pass

Jumping is a low-impact activity that improves core strength (including stronger bones, better posture and increased leg strength); cardiovascular fitness and cognitive development in children (including coordination, mental strengthening, enjoyment and self-esteem).

Regular trampoline exercise has also been proven to increase metabolic rate, helping the body process nutrients more efficiently and reducing the risk of osteoporosis by increasing the density of our bones.

Visit Jump In at: https://www.gojumpin.com/locations/warwick for more information about what they offer.

Pub classics with a twist (Review)

Pub classics with a twist (Review)

IF you don’t live in the immediate area, chances are you may not be familiar with The Chequers Inn in Ettington near Stratford-upon-Avon.

If you are, you may not be aware of the recent changes its undergone following an extensive refurbishment.


The Chequers Inn, Ettington

Its popularity is already demonstrated by its listing in The Good Pub Guide – but the new makeover and menu have arrived to put it firmly on the map for even more of us who appreciate good food done well – and are prepared to venture out to neighbouring districts to get it.

A fresh and modern interior now greets visitors to the 18th– century pub, which has also seen an extension to its kitchen.

Introduced with it is an exciting new menu. Described as ‘pub classics with a twist’ – using fresh locally-sourced ingredients – the results are simply mouthwatering.

My starter of Pork and Chorizo Scotch Egg, below, was one of the tastiest dishes I’ve enjoyed for some time (and I eat out a lot!) My husband’s verdict on his garlic, mushrooms on parmesan toast from the Specials Menu, was not dissimilar. Simple ingredients used well.

The Chequers Inn, Ettington

My Braised Lamb Shoulder (served with Spring Greens, Minted Crushed Potatoes and Red Wine Jus) was no exception. It was deliciously tender – too tasty not to finish despite the sizeable portion.

And hubby’s Soya and Honey-glazed Chicken Supreme (with Sauteed Spinach and Potato Rosti and Lemongrass and Spring Onion Cream) was devoured – and complimented on (and his sophisticated palate can normally be replied upon to find fault with something on his plate.)

They say less is more (whomever ‘they’ are!) and this could certainly be true where the desserts menu is concerned. Having fewer choices wasn’t an issue due to the tempting selection on offer. The Dark Chocolate and Orange Tart with Pistachio Ice Cream, below, definitely proved a winner at our table. A good-sized portion too for those with the constitution to appreciate it after two previous hearty platefuls.The Chequers Inn, Ettington

My husband’s cheese board was also plentiful – but got polished off in double quick time and was an appetising finale to the feast.

There’s also a range of ever-changing sharing platters and seasonal plates, Sunday roast and a children’s menu, including pizza, burger and fish and chips.

A vast wine and beer list, which includes the Chequers own pale ale, and a cocktail list boasting a plethora of classic drinks, from Kir Royale’s and Aperol Spritz’s to Caipirinhas and Negronis, completes the offer.

The new menu nods to Asian influences, with dishes such as Masala Chickpea Chaat with Toasted Pitta Bread and Chicken Curry. But overall, the vision of simple rustic dishes bursting with flavour, is a triumph for proprietors Paul and Aman Bhandal.

The Chequers Inn, Ettington

They said: “We are extremely excited to welcome customers back to the Chequers Inn. We hoped to give the pub a new lease of life, but were very aware of not losing the charm which made The Chequers Inn the warm, welcoming place it was before. We hope to provide the full experience for customers – great service, great food and a great atmosphere -and hope that they enjoy the new décor and menu as much as we did creating it.”

It’s certainly a thumbs up from me – and a welcome new addition to our own list of now familiar pub favourites.

For more information about The Chequers Inn visit: www.the-chequers-ettington.co.uk