Characters are a very important part of any book. Once you’ve seen the cover, read the blurb and decided to buy, they, along with the plot, are what make you decide if it’s a 5* read. Whether you love them or hate them, they need to stir some emotion and make you feel a connection. It could be delight at their happy ever after, or satisfaction at seeing them get their come-uppance.
My first guest is TJ, from ‘Story of a Country Boy.’
At first sight he’s not the most lovable hero, but is there more to him than appears at first sight?
Hello, TJ and welcome.
I presume TJ is not your real name so can you tell us what it is?
On the island where I was born, everyone had a nickname, either as an individual or through the family. In the 50s and 60s it would have been pointless to go to a village and ask for the equivalent of your ‘John Smith.’ As a small country, there were few individual surnames, so you would ask for something like ‘L’Orangio’ the orange seller, or ‘Barbiere’ the barber, and would be pointed to the correct house.
I understand that, but what does TJ stand for? I can’t think of a trade which would fit.
The names weren’t necessarily an occupation. When I was young there was a popular British singer who made all the girls scream. We were similar in build, had the same curly hair and if I heard music I had to dance. My moves were like his, and the name stuck, even when I moved to England.
Is it true you were illiterate when you came over here?
Yes, only the rich families could afford a good education so it was quite common for my age group not to be very good with reading and writing. If the family owned a farm, the children would be needed there, so it was accepted they would skip school to help out. They learnt from life not books.
Is that what happened to you?
Not exactly. My father kept some livestock but he was a baker. My job was to take the horse and cart and do the deliveries, but I wanted more than that.
Why did you come to England?
Village life stifled me, the girls were chaperoned until they had a ring on their finger, and I learnt there was a whole other life out there. When I had a little run-in with the law, my father thought I had shamed the family name and paid my fare, so I was able to escape to where I wanted to be.
What were your first impressions when you arrived? Was England everything you hoped it would be?
It was so cold. I was accustomed to the heat and sunshine, and even in the winter at home it was warmer than it was in London, and I couldn’t believe the amount of rain, even in the summer. Ah but the people, and the excitement and the buzz, and the shops, and the cost of a designer dress in one of the West End shops. It would have been a year’s wages where I came from. A lot different from one of the village girls buying some material from the local market and sewing it herself. My family at home wouldn’t have understood, but to me it was class, and I wanted to be part of it.
It must have been a very different world. Was it difficult to find a job? How good were your language skills?
I only knew a few words of English, but I was always a quick learner when it suited me. There was plenty of work available, but I had no intention of slaving in a factory for a pittance a week. I soon discovered there were other options with the clubs, the nightlife and the girls in Soho. If you saw me as a cleaner, how do you think I afforded the sharp designer suits?
You seem to love your adopted country and yet you married a woman from your own community. How did that come about? Were you homesick?
That was different. She might have been born in the village next to mine but she had lived in London for many years, and despite her family rules, understood the English way of life. She respected the old traditions of honouring the man of the house, and I knew our children would be brought up to enjoy the heritage of the best country in the world.
It sounds as if you had the perfect life, and yet you deserted her for a young English girl. What went wrong?
You never stop learning from life. There are always new opportunities and you have to grab them while you can. I made sure my first-born was not neglected, but had to embrace the future and not be confined by outdated traditions. Life is for living.
If you had the chance again, would you have done anything different?
Not if it meant missing out. Many of the guys from my village are like old men, even though we’re the same age. To them, a trip to the next village is exciting. They’ve married the girl next door, had their kids and carried on living the same life as their grandfathers. My life hasn’t always been easy. I’ve had good times and bad times but I broke away and wouldn’t have changed it for the world. Everything is a gamble and sometimes you just have to believe in Lady Luck.
Where did you end up? Did you ever go back home?
You’ll have to read the book to find out, but I’ll always have the memories.
© Voinks September 2020