Saxon Shield, Norman Sword
Looking back, we can all think of people we have encountered who have exerted a significant influence in our lives. For me, one of those figures was my English teacher.
I remember the very first time, when as a new member of staff, Mrs Robson walked in and introduced herself to class 1P at Greenhead High School for Girls, Huddersfield. With her vivacious red hair and bright necklaces, Mrs Robson brought to life the word on the page and inspired in me a lifelong love of writing, literature and Thomas Hardy.
For many years, I rued the fact that I had taken sciences at ‘A’ level. We can all blame our parents for mistakes but coming from a working class background, studying English and French was not seen as leading to a ‘proper’ job.
However, everything in life is a balance; although I had a reasonably successful but grinding career in Pharmacy, I did meet my husband through working in hospital and had my 2 lovely girls. I still carried a torch for creative writing until, as a 40th birthday mid-life crisis, I abandoned my superannuation and stepped out into the unknown and uncertain, to call myself a writer.
Last year, through a chance piece of news via a writers’ newsletter, I reconnected with Mrs Robson. And after all the intervening years, I am now getting used to calling her ‘Pat’. Being in touch has brought out of the depths, a wealth of memories of faces, voices and incidents from my school years: sitting on the grass by the tennis courts as we listened to the top 10 on a transistor radio, gaberdines for winter and blazers for summer, dropping Hilary’s biology book in the school pond, the mouse house, cold blue legs on the hockey field. A precious friend who died far too young.
On a recent trip back to Huddersfield, my sister had saved a cutting from the local paper announcing the launch of Pat Robson’s new book for young readers, Saxon Shield, Norman Sword which has been shortlisted for the Children’s Story Award at this year’s Wells Festival of Literature.
The story is an exciting adventure involving two teenagers caught up in the momentous events of 1066, when two battles, at Stamford Bridge, and 19 days later at a site near Hastings, changed the course of English history for ever.
Saxon Shield, Norman Sword is the 3rd book in a trilogy which includes Anne of Almondbury and Hearts and Diamonds. Almondbury is the village where I was brought up and is also where Pat was sent as evacuee in WW2 and came back to live when her husband took up a post at Huddersfield Polytechnic in the 1970s.
Pat tells me, ‘I’ve loved the Anglo-Saxons since studying Old English literature as part of my English degree – Beowulf, The Dream of the Rood, The Battle of Maldon etc. and saw that October 1066 would be the 950th anniversary of Hastings. Perhaps having experienced the London Blitz as a small child was also a factor’.
The book is well researched and is an enjoyable and engaging story rather than just an educational tract of factual information and it would make a lovely gift for young people. I want to say thank you to Pat for being such a foundation stone for my own writing and to wish her the very best with her new book.