Delighted to be involved in the blog tour for this lovely dual time story
27 June 2019
My thanks to the author and publisher for my invitation to be part of this blog tour
I'm delighted to be able to share this exclusive book extract from Another You
I am about to turn on the shower when I hear it. Distant at first, almost thunder — but with a definite pulse. I throw open the bathroom window and look to the skies: heavy, low and revealing nothing.
Studland Bay is shrouded in early morning mist, still and silent over the sea. The dampness clings to the folded umbrellas in the pub garden, staining the fabric with dark streaks. With the habit born of years I listen for the sea, but all I can hear is thrum, thrum, thrum from above.
The sea is beyond the garden. Figures move along the shoreline, somehow lacking the randomness of dog walkers. Something unfamiliar jars. Thrum, thrum, thrum.
The mist makes Studland a strange, enclosed world. On a clear day I can see the cliffs to my right rise to meet the sky at Old Harry rocks, a wall of chalk which dazzles in the sunlight before plummeting into the surf. Now it is as though there is nothing there. I shiver and wrap my towel more closely around me.
As the thrumming fades into the distance my attention is caught by a jeep bumping over the field in the direction of Fort Henry, its concrete mass just visible between the trees to my left. Two men jump out and call to each other, their words indistinct on the breeze. That’s it — I remember now — the re-enactment.
Music from Jude’s radio alarm reaches me through the wall. Time I was getting on, but a movement in the bay catches my eye. The mist is breaking a little, wisps like candyfloss spiralling past the window. The prevailing wind has changed but there is something else… I sniff the air. The merest hint of cordite.
Shapes shift beyond the thinning curtain: huge, beige, intangible. I lean out further. The men from the jeep are dragging a wooden crate towards the fort. Gears grind in the lane as an army truck negotiates the bend at the bottom of the cliff path. It stops in the dip and soldiers stream out, disappearing down the gully to the beach.
The wind is an unfamiliar visitor to the bay but this morning it sweeps in from the east with a vengeance, whipping the water into angry furrows and peaks. The shapes in the sea edge into view, pitching and tossing in the swell. I can only count three of them, but something makes me think there are more beyond. I strain my eyes — what in heaven’s name are they?
There is a tap on the bathroom door. “Just putting the kettle on, Mum. Want some toast?”
“Please.” I shake myself and turn on the shower.
But still I am drawn to the window and the sea, gunmetal grey as the shapes emerge from the mist. Steam fills the room behind me as they appear then disappear, never quite reaching the shore.
Jude has the Bournemouth Echo spread out in front of him on the kitchen table. I pause at the bottom of the stairs — he’s so like his father was when I first met him: tall, blue-eyed and with a smile to melt hearts at fifty paces. All he’s inherited from me is my coppery-blonde hair.
“Morning, Mum. Just checking the timings for today.”
“No, that’s in a couple of weeks — today’s the memorial service for the tank crews.”
I sit down next to him and pour myself a mug of tea from the pot. “Are you sure? It’s crawling with soldiers out there.”
His finger moves across the paper. “Well, there is a bit of historical stuff going on; Bovington Museum’s bringing down a tank to drive ashore from a carrier and there’ll be an old plane flying over to drop some poppies.”
I lean towards him so I can read over his shoulder. It’s a big day for Studland; exactly sixty years ago the village stood silent witness to the first of a string of rehearsals for D-Day, which went horribly wrong when the amphibious tanks that were meant to float didn’t. The army picked the Studland peninsular because the terrain, with cliffs at one end and sand dunes at the other, was similar to Normandy. And it was secret; the paper says during the war it was almost completely cut off from the world.
Exercise Smash was so hush-hush it’s only recently that anyone’s heard about it and today a memorial to the men who died will be unveiled. The editorial proclaims that without their sacrifice the story of D-Day might have been very different, but I bet their families didn’t think so. There’s an interview with the last remaining widow, who says they were told nothing in 1944 and just accepted it. Stiff upper lips and all that. What a time to live.
Jude stands up and stretches. “I’d best go prep the bar. It was busy last night, and if we’re opening for coffee we’ll need stacks of cups and saucers.”
“What time’s your father coming in?”
He rolls his eyes. “Who knows? Said he had a date last night, remember?”
Nothing new there.
As Jude clatters down the stairs to the pub the feeling washes over me. Drab, familiar, bleak as the misty dawn. How the hell did the six inches of cold sheet between Stephen and me stretch until it became three miles of chalk headland? And would I change it? No. Not now, anyway.
Jude was conceived in this grey prison of a place, long before the mullions grew bars. Upstairs, on the lumpy mattress of Uncle Ted’s spare bed, before we knew it would become our future. Even before we knew we had one. We curled together under the blankets, star-struck by the novelty of a whole weekend together, oblivious to the fact I’d forgotten my pills.
In the morning we walked along the beach, barefoot, my skirt trailing in the sand. Behind the tide, with salt and a bucket we pulled up razor clams. I cooked them for supper, with pork, wine and garlic. Uncle Ted said I should be running the kitchen in his pub. Oh, how we laughed at the idea.
I’ll never forget waking here for the first time. We arrived in the dark, not long before closing time. Smoke filled The Smugglers’ public bar and Stephen’s Uncle Ted, a narrow whippet of a man, was polishing glasses behind it. He grasped my hand.
“Welcome to Studland, Marie.” His voice was gentle, his smile slow. I miss him to this day.
Although brought up in Cardiff, Jane Cable now lives in Cornwall and is a full time writer. Another You is a moving saga of family life in the 21st century which draws on the horrors of combat, both in modern times and World War Two as down-trodden Marie fights to reclaim her identity and discover what really matters to her. Jane’s next book, Winter Skies, will be available for pre-order from Sapere Books soon.
Twitter @JaneCable #AnotherYou