Memoirs of a new life on the hills
By Nicky Carter - Reporter
LOCKDOWN provided the ideal opportunity for a former teacher to complete her memoirs of life in the North Pennines.
A Shoulder on the Hill was published in December and author Carol Graham is delighted with the response since it was released with readers describing it as “unputdownable” and “the ideal tonic for the lockdown blues”.
The 336-page paperback book, published by Wagtail Press in Hexham, mixes tales of life at 1,150ft restoring an historic dale home into a popular bed and breakfast
with humorous anecdotes of building up a flock of sheep and caring for hens.
Mrs Graham said: “It’s a little bit of everything. It’s sort of a cross between A Year in Provence and All Creatures Great and Small with a bit of the Good Life thrown in, about our life in Weardale.”
Mrs Graham moved to East Hill House in Westgate, with her husband John, 20 years ago. They purchased an old farmhouse and ran a successful business.
With hand-drawn sketches and eight pages of colour photographs of the area, it is filled with cleverly crafted anecdotes of neighbours, guests, Westgate’s lead mining history as well as hilarious tales of their animals.
Mrs Graham said: “It’s not written chronologically, but rather in sections. There are sections detailing when John and I moved to the area 20 years ago and restored the farmhouse, turning it into a B&B. There are sections on how we started our own sheep flock and the people and characters that we have met over the years.
“I love writing and it was lockdown in about April I thought if I’m ever going to make it into a book, it was ‘now’. I have always written down little stories and events when they’ve happened to remember. I had them all stored up on bits of paper, on the computer and storage pens. There was about 70,000 words.”
In little under four months she added an extra 80,000 words and completed the book in August. She added: “There is a character that shines out in the book and that’s Ian Dent, a third-generation shepherd, friend and neighbour. He’s the salt of the earth and humorous but we shared good times and without him there would be no book.”
The book also follows the trials and tribulations of starting a flock of sheep with no experience.
“We got a zwartble tup, Zulu, and he was more like a giant Labrador,” she added. “He followed us everywhere. He got to the stage that there was nothing left for him to mate with because a lot of the sheep were his off-spring so Ian Dent wanted to send him off to the mart.”
The tup didn’t make it to the mart, managing to escape from a wagon and so became a feature in their flock.
She added: “We really wanted to keep him, but Ian said ‘can’t keep a tup without any ewes and can’t have him barging through walls to get one’. But Zulu managed to squeeze through an 18-inch gap to get off the wagon. Ian arrived and told me if I wanted him I could have him.”
A Shoulder on the Hill costs £10 and is available to purchase from Wagtail Press (wagtailpress.uk) or direct from Mrs Graham by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. It is also available through Amazon.