10.Village survival, writing research and how I interviewed my male lead!


research 1How I interviewed my leading man with a little help from my friends…..
Characters this week:
Thatcher Man: Roger, ridiculously good looking thatcher. Handsomeness described in the second part of 1.Village Survival, starting from now!
Anna: Local best friend. Mum and professional cake maker/decorator.
Lorelle: Newbie mum in the village (American).
Babs: Mum friend in the village, plays tennis for the county or some such over achievement.
Wolfie: The pub pet – A Pyrenean Mountain dog  (size of a shetland pony!)                            Mick: Slightly arsy Landlord.

Researching for my writing has never been my strong point, I’ve always been a bit slack in this area. I tended to get by with cursory online investigations (where absolutely necessary) and I was determined to research better (harder, longer) for my latest novel Twelve Days and the Thatcher. The concept for the novel – which is essentially a love story, had come about when Anna (my local best friend) employed a thatcher to re-do her roof. Without giving too many plot spoilers, here’s the book blurb:-
Twelve Days and the Thatcher: Cleo is new to a small Devonshire village, it’s August and when her husband takes their son to Italy to visit his family she is left alone in their new cottage to oversee the re-thatching of the old dilapidated roof. Unhappily married and grieving for her old life in London,  Cleo is miserable and lonely when she meets Marcus the thatcher who is recently divorced. The attraction between them is immediate and the two fall hard for each other over the next twelve days. It seems to be destiny that the two meet at a vulnerable and unhappy time in their lives. They reach out to ‘fix’ each other but they have so little time. They are caught in a ‘life pause’ and Cleo knows it, but she can’t think beyond those Twelve Days and the Thatcher…… well that’s my blurb folks. See! I can write serious stuff as well!

Now the thatcher who worked for Anna – who we affectionately named Thatcher Man, was exceptionally good looking and a bit of a flirt, if ever so slighlty dull conversationally! Anna and I nicknamed him Thatcher Man because his real name was Roger Dimbleton which really didn’t match his sexy manliness. It was like calling Tom Hiddleston- Tim Piddleston, or David Beckham – Derek Peckham. I’m not going to give away anymore plot spoilers but my synopsis seemed to write it’s self and he became my muse – apart from he’s a bloke and muses (according to legend) were female, humour me on this and if you do know a suitable word for a male muse please (do be a smarty pants) and could you put it in comments, ta. Anyway I wanted some real life information so that my male lead thatcher would be an authentic and multi dimensional character – blah blah and if you will blah.

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“I need to interview Thatcher Man for my book,” I told Anna over coffee earlier this week. She was putting the finishing touches to a 50th Birthday cake as we chatted. I’d popped over for a morning skive, no worse than scrolling through Facebook or watching Homes Under the Hammer – don’t judge me.
“Can’t you do the research online?” she asked, jokily suspicious of my motives – mainly because of his ridiculously good looks and he had asked me out for a drink you know! All explained in 5. Village survival, nearly the four day weekend!
“Oh don’t be ridiculous!” I blurted, “It’s not the same as asking my own questions and getting the info I really need, anyway I think you, Lorelle, Babs and some alcoholic beverages should help me – make it more of a laugh! How about an evening out at the pub this week?”
“Will it get me out of bedtime?” she asked.
“I’m in.”
And so it was that Anna contacted and persuaded Thatcher Man to partake in my research inquisition! He only lives a couple of villages away – (sounds a bit Lark Rise to Candleford) and was happy to meet us in the pub for a few drinks! Lorelle and Babs were also well up for an evening out. Can I just say that I was aware that it was a school night and I had no intention of having more than a couple of Pinot Grigios!!

When Thatcher Man arrived at the pub he seemed rather pleased with himself. As I may have mentioned before, he was so jaw droppingly handsome that everyone gawked at him as he sauntered confidently across the pub wearing ripped jeans and a yeah I’m properly handsome – get over it smirk. The young and somewhat simpering barmaid Holly, nearly passed out as she oggled his entrance! However he was accosted mid-swagger by Wolfie the pub pet who happens to be a Pyrenean Mountain dog. He’s the size of a shetland pony only way fluffier and made a B – line for Thatcherman and in particular his crotch area. I jumped up to distract Wolfie from his intimate investigative sniffings and to buy the thatching adonis a pint. Even the dog thought he was irresistible!
Anna, Lorelle and Babs welcomed him heartily into our cosy corner of the pub, we had sited ourselves next to the wood burning stove, which was belting out warmth. Thatcher Man didn’t seem at all phased to be confronted by four women, if anying he looked relieved because Wolfie (and his amorous intentions) had been called off by Mick the slightly arsy Landlord. Thatcher Man had already met everyone anyway – such was his notoriety when he was working on Anna’s house. I whipped out my jotter pad and retro/dated/probably wouldn’t actually record anything – dictaphone. Yes I’d kept it from my journalistic pre life and nicked the batteries from the remote control to put in it. Ted (my husband) was going to be heartily pissed off once the kids were in bed and he couldn’t get the TV to start. When I located the old mini tape recorder in a box in the loft I had to show the kids a real life cassette – and no, they couldn’t fathom it!



So my questions for research purposes started out to be pretty dull in all honesty, but then they did correlate rather with the amount of alcohol imbibed! I pressed play on my old dictaphone which whirred into life and I was off (like a rat up a drainpipe) with the questions!

Drink No 1 – a demure Pinot Grigio:
My Question: What is your average working day like as a thatcher? (Told you it was dull but hey – necessary).
Thatcher Man’s answer: Yada yada, stuff about scaffolding, removing old reeds and replacing with good quality Water or Combed Wheat Reed…….. I tried to look engaged but found myself necking the wine rather to quickly to ease the boredom, but I got lots written down on my jotter! My friends, although enjoying the view of Thatcher Man,  were by now talking amongst themselves – the school run, swimming lessons and the most recent outbreak of nits seemed more interesting than Thatcher Man. Can I just say at the juncture that if kids wore their hair back at school nits wouldn’t be so prevelant # mini nit rant over.
Drink no 2 – a glass of merlot, not sure why, it’s what Babs decided to buy me? Again all fairly demure.
My Question: What sort of tools do you use? (Thought I might want to throw in some of the lingo as my book progressed).
Thatcher Man’s answer: A leggett, set pins, shears, a twister(for screwing things tightly apparently) yada yada. Waffle about how to use them which I scribbled down etc etc.
Drink no 3 – A Whisky and Coke and a random packet of dry roasted peanuts from Anna. Oh and a tequila shot – thanks Babs??? My friends were happily plying me with unexpected drinks (they knew full well that I only really drank white wine – piss takers).  I continued to scribble down Thatcher Man’s monologue – we were onto the difference between a flush or block ridge (the bit along the top go the thatch)  and the expertise required for the decoration at the top – you know the fancy bits you see on thatched houses, usually a straw fox or couple of Cocks or something – male chickens -what did you think I meant for goodness sake?
At this point Anna who had just necked her third double vodka and coke butted in.
“Oh for gods sake, tell us what we really want to know – do all your clients fancy you? How many have you snogged?”
Thatcher Man, who was also necking the pints, curtesy of my friends replied “ha ha, well may be not the heterosexual blokes, but yeah I get my fair share of attention….”
“Go on?” encouraged Babs who pushed a whisky chaser towards him and shooed off Wolfie who had come sidling up and was trying to rub up and down on Thatcher Man’s ankle.
Drink no 4 a Double Peach Snapps and Lemonade from Lorelle – gee thanks! But by now Anna had taken over the interview anyway …..
“Have you ever slept with any of your clients? Ever looked in any windows when women are getting undressed you know – when you’re on the scaffolding? Come on Hillie- keep up, keep writing!” Anna ordered.
Thatcher Man’s answer: ” Yes and Yes,” he drawled lasciviously.
“Are you going to elaborate?” I asked, by now feeling pretty pissed myself!
“Errrrr…” Thatcher Man looked a little cornered with his audience leaning in to hear the salient details! Now we were getting to the business end! I could google how to use a bloody thatching legget but I couldn’t google real life Thatcher Man getting his legget over with a client………….and after all this was all in the name of research!

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Drink No5 A large brandy (I don’t know who the hell bought that for me but I have to say I rather enjoyed it). By now I had writer’s cramp and had written down as much of the salacious information that Thatcher Man would tell us and someone decided we should have a game of Darts! Babs lined up all the songs she could find from Dirty Dancing on the juke box and we all stepped up to the ockey (not all at once of course). Bill Medley and Jennifer Warnes were telling us how they’d had the times of their lives etc and between flinging darts we danced and messed about. It’s fair to say that the shrieking and shouting with hilarity in our section of the pub was getting right on the Landlord Mick’s tits – he does have man boobs. This was only exacerbated when Lorelle (new to Darts) flung one and it smashed one of Mick’s prized Toby Jugs! Wolfie the dog, excited by the prospect of having free access to Thatcher Man’s crotch was bouncing around, trying to dry hump his leg and ruining the game. Arrows were flying willy nilly and we were finally told to sling our hooks by Mick when a dart got lodged in Wolfie’s tail. It was only stuck in the fluffy bit, the stupid randy dog hadn’t been harmed!


So once Thatcher Man was dispatched in a taxi – (oh dear his thatching might be a bit wonky the next day!). We tottered and clattered up through the village, squawking and shrieking like the dying embers of a hen party. Curtains twitched and windows were slammed shut but no one from Neighbourhood Watch came out and told us off. I was likely to get a right bloody earful tomorrow from some old bat or biddy, the village knows everything you know………………scary music and windy sound effects!
“Who knew?” explaimed Lorelle in a shouty whisper, “that your whole British thatching thing could be like so sexy and hot.”
In fairness it was Thatcher Man who was sexy (when he didn’t talk too much) not the whole thatching thing, I think even Jackie Collins or E L James might struggle to make thatching sexy.
I finally got to bed, my grumpy husband was only half asleep and he didn’t notice at all that our bedroom was spinning – very badly!
Ted had a really early start the next morning so I had to get up even though I could barely move. Bleeeeeuuuugh. My head felt like it was filled with a thousand woodpeckers going about their drilly tappy woodpeckery business (oh the birds – the birds!).  Every small moment made me nauseous. Lottie (aged 6) was sympathetic about “Mummy’s headache”. Toby (aged 8) not so much, “Are you hanging over Mummy?” he asked in an accusatorily 8 year old way, tutting and exuding disapproval. Then they requested porridge and toast (more nausea and therefore gagging as I prepared it). After drop off at school (wearing shades, tracksuit bottoms, one of Ted’s jumpers) and shaking like I had flu, three Mums asked me if I was unwell. Yes! I’m very hungover now move aside and let me go home and die quietly. As I gingerly crawled onto the sofa I noticed my A4 jotter pad next to my handbag. My handwriting had started out in lovely loopy cursives and by the end of the evening had become lewd pictures and doodles. I wondered what the dictaphone had captured too! Yes well! I wasn’t going to get anything done that day lying there wincing while a thousand woodpeckers continued to peck my head from the inside………

Inspirational words of the day: A Woodpecker head may be avoided by drinking responsibly!
More next week.
As you were.

Note to myself: The one where I interview Thatcher Man with local friends in the pub and drink too much!

Writing Bubble

13 thoughts on “10.Village survival, writing research and how I interviewed my male lead!

  1. Haha! Sounds like a fun interview… well not so much the thatching talk but the booze and the ‘view’ (shall we say). I have a remarkably hot joiner. Every time I need something, joining (or whatever) I’m put in the awful position of having him come round. He’s sweet and sensitive too. The sort of joiner you only get in a book. I really should write about him – you’re on the right track there! Thanks for linking to #WhatImWriting


  2. Are you hanging over mummy? This is almost as good as when my toddler told everyone he knew (in a most accusatory tone!) “Mummy did big spits! In the toilet! Big spits” Thanks so much for linking #chucklemums


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