My name is Hillie Richens * I am a small village survivor, a mum, a writer, and this is my blog diary or bliary, I could call it a blournal but that sounds a bit like bleeugh-nal!
I turned up in Devon (England, that is) five years ago and moved into a cottage in a small village called Vertonbridge with my husband Ted and our two children Toby (now aged 8) and Lottie (now aged 7). Ted chose Devon so it’s all his fault!
We had done our ten years in London and were looking for the outdoorsy wellie bedecked lifestyle reminiscent of our childhoods, for our own kids to enjoy. We didn’t get the obligatory dog I’m afraid (more on that another time). But we did get a mud splattered Volvo or mucky vulva as my best-local-friend Anna calls it (more about her later too).
Anyway, here we are five years on and the settling in is done – hah probably not really, as everybody still refers to our house as the Skinners’ house “Ahh yes, you live in the Skinners’ house,” not even “ahh yes, you live in the Skinners’ old house.” Like we are just house-sitting for them or worse, blatantly squatting in the Skinners’ house, hiding in the cupboard under the stairs and stealing their breakfast cereal. The Skinners did actually move out, by the way, and bought a huge thatched cottage in the hamlet down the road, so now it’s our house – our house I tell you! Actually even we refer to it as the Skinners’ house.
The children, are now well ensconsed in the village primary school and sometimes I feel cocooned and safe in this cosy villagey nutshell and other times I want to sit on top of All Saints Church Spire and yell expletives and then get on a train and go to a very big town. Any very big town. Here’s the thing, I’m a writer or at least I’m trying and I want to share with you, village tales, school tales (including stories of the PFA!) All glued together with some updates about my ailing/but I’m sure it’ll take off again soon- writing career.
If you want to know how to survive small village life, read on. If you do the school run, read on. If you’re trying to write a book, read on. If you like a human interest story, read on. In fact just read on because my aim is to try and entertain you.
Characters in the blog:
*Hillie Richens, small village survivor, mum, writer, and a whole load of other stuff, I won’t be defined! Get to know me via the blog. Actually, I’ll tell you some of my likes: shortbread with coffee, has to be cake (but not carrot cake-bleeugh) with tea. I enjoy sampling cream teas on hols/days out in Devon, Cornwall and Dorset for compare and contrast purposes (will be publishing my findings with some serious graphs, pie charty things and jammy finger prints). Skinny jeans and 70s melancholy song lyrics. Dislikes: Broadbeans. Pigeon poo. Not having any cake in. 1.Village Survival, starting from now!
The Family: Ted my quite-laid-back husband, owns a luxury bathroom fitting company. Toby – our 9 year old son, good at being 9. Lottie – our 7 year old daughter, good at being 7. My Mother/Grannie-Helen: glamorous but lives too far away to be of any use. My Father Martin or Granddad. My sister Deedee – short for Delilah, lives in Bath with her husband Rob, and their two boys, Liam and Henry aged 10 and 12. I sometimes get Bath Envy because it’s a big smart town with good shops and marvellous cafes and I love it’s Regencyness and Romanness and the fact that it’s not a small provincial village!
Vertonbridge: Our village is in a valley surrounded by beautiful rolling hills. The river Ver runs around the village but it’s more of a babbling brook than a river, actually it doesn’t babble at all (trades descriptions act) and is therefore really just a lame stream with a few cursory ducks. There is a small ancient stone bridge that straddles the lame stream on the outskirts of the village, hence the name Vertonbridge. The village boasts (sounding a bit like a pompous estate agent) a church – All Saints, a school- Vertonbridge Village Primary School and a pub – The Huntsman Inn.
There is also a large strip of grassland which used to be the common land where the village folk grazed their sheep and cows in the olden days. At the far end of it, by the pub, there’s a duck pond and nowadays they call it the village green which is tenuous because it’s rather scrubby in places, with patches of tall grass and it’s often liberally covered in mole hills and duck poo. But the village green is much beloved by the locals because it is where the summer cricket matches are played and the village fete is held, defecating ducks and all.
Lots of pretty houses and cottages line the main road through the village, some thatched, some brick and some solid and stout (if a little damp) and made of cob – like ours. There’s a useful village shop called Vertonbridge Stores and Post Office which rather fancies itself with it’s £3.50 chutney and hides its value custard creams on the bottom shelf. Oh and it’s twinned with Fonteney le Vert in France. Which is a small picturesque village in the massif Central with an old bridge over a lame stream. They’re good those Twinning Committees!
Anna: local-best-friend in the village. A talented cake maker and decorator (particularly wedding cakes). Married to Ben who is a spare bedroom husband, i.e. they still live together but aren’t doing the business anymore. He has just moved out actually, updates as and when! She has twin boys Marcus and Miles aged 10. 4.Village Survival, 132 cupcakes.
Horsewoman: the Mum who brings her daughter to school on a horse called Nancy. She has a daughter, Skyla aged 6. Hasn’t heard of Health and Safety or those hair removing roller things.
The New American: Lorelle, “Oh my gard like….” the newbie in the village who happens to be American. She has one daughter called Rumer aged 8 and is married to Dylan.
Clare Carberry: Vice Chair of the PFA. Clippy cloppy mid heel wearer with clipboard permanently attached to her left arm. Married to David Carberry (parent governor and all round bounder!)
Thatcher Man: the Thatcher who worked on Anna’s house who happens to be ridiculously good looking and a bit of a flirt as it turns out, and crops up occasionally going about his thatching business. The male ‘muse'( I know that’s an oxymoron) for the novel I’m writing Twelve Days and the Thatcher!
Mr Tatcombe: Elderly villager, calls a spade a shovel and isn’t dead apparently.
Babs: village Mum and annoyingly good at tennis, plays for the county or some such over achievement! She has a son called Jack aged 6 and twin girls Myah and Maya aged four. Husband Pete (good friends with Ben- Anna’s husband).
Deirdre Snellon: officious member of the Vertonbridge Village Horticultural club – (Dictatorship).
Rebecca Langbourne: my former Literary Agent.
Jen Stratham: Assistant to Felicity Burrell.
Felicity Burrell: an lovely and enthusiastic Literary Agent.
Belinda: Hillie’s cousin, 30, lives on the Brick Lane, East London. Fashion stylist.
Meryl Watson: editor and chief of the Vertonbridge Parish Mag!
Miriam Ledgeworth: all round jobsworth a officious local Post Mistress.
June Nesbitt: W.I baking expert and all round cowbag.
Behind the scenes!
Turning Up In Devon Blog Diary by Hillie Richens is written and illustrated by Jane Hirst. www.janehirstillustration.co.uk It is entirely fictional- ish but behind all fiction there are the funniest, awfulest, bizarrest, ridiculousest, saddest and unbelievable-est truths about human behaviour! I like to try and see the funny side! Any coincidences (regarding names or plot lines) are entirely coincidentally coincidental!
A note about the blog content: I’ll be blogging each (well nearly) Tuesday and every post is supposed to be a thing in it’s own right but if you read the blog posts numerically hopefully you’ll see the bigger picture too. I will be blogging a ‘chapter’ a week, this is a bit of a personal challenge and involves me Turning Up (To The Page)In Devon – which means I’ll write regularly (did you see what I did there!!) We’ll see how I get on? If y’all like what I write then I’ll keep on keeping on (if you don’t – then I’ll go and leap off Hay Tor on Dartmoor). Be a lover not a Haytor! Please feel free to comment, remembering of course that the blog is entirely, totally, completely, like fictional.
A note about swearing: I’ve decided to try and not do too much effing and blinding in my blog. I’ll probably swap the ugliest ones for slightly lamer ones where possible and delve into the depths of the English language to portray emotions more eloquently…..yeah yeah I know – that’s probably just piffle and bollox but I’ll do my best.
A note about punctuation/grammar/spelling: Right, I’m going to say right here, right now (right here, right now -gotta love Fatboy Slim) that I’ll do my bestest with this. Sometimes I just go off on one and it all goes a bit awry, will try and keep it under control for your ease of reading. Oh yeah, capital letters! Sometimes I over capitalise words because they seem important to me! Hold on tight to the grammar grab rail – you’re riding my blog bus!
A note about other characters: I’ll add in other characters as I go and as they become relevant, so pop back here if you don’t recognise someone or you want to know more about them.
A note about Devon: Like the best County – ever! It fills my boots with joy to live here mostly all the time. When I can-I’ll always big it up! It goes in this order – scone, clotted cream, then jam btw (in Cornwall it’s jam then cream) but when I’ve got my face buried in one – It means nothing to me oh Vienna.
A note about ‘brands’: I may mention the odd ‘real’ brand occasionally in a positive light and do so because it suits me (sir) and what I’m writing about. I am not being paid/getting cool free stuff to do so.
A note about the blog Imagery: I’m qualified (and everything) to do a bit of drawing and colouring in. Could there be more illustrations for adults? I think so!
If you would like to get in touch: I am a freelance writer and illustrator. firstname.lastname@example.org www.janehirstillustration.co.uk