Saturday, 28 September 2013

A Birthday Present To Myself

I’ve written a lot over the last nine months about other people, other Shrewsbury lives, other facets of Shrewsbury’s 2013.  This time though, because yesterday was my birthday and it was one of those dates that has a sense of significance about it, I’ve decided to write about myself. I hope this isn’t too self-indulgent of me, but here I go:

Q. So, what’s it like, Pauline, having a birthday in Shrewsbury?
A. So far so good.  Thanks for asking.

Q. Is that all – can’t you say a bit more?
A. Like what? What more do you want to know?

Q. Well, how many Shrewsbury birthdays have you had - in other words, how long have you lived here? What brought you to Shrewsbury? How old are you? Why do you write about Shrewsbury?  What else do you write? How have you spent your day? Why the sudden decision to do a post on yourself? Why…

A. Whoa there - like they say on the Caribbean island of Caye Caulker - GO SLOW! Here are a few answers.  I hope they’ll do:

HOW LONG HAVE I LIVED IN SHREWSBURY? Sixteen years next month, though before that I lived in Worthen for a further twenty-four, moving there from London, which is where I was born.

WHAT BROUGHT ME TO SHREWSBURY?  A mixture of things.  Back in the days when I lived in London, I remember driving home through Shropshire from a weekend in north Wales and thinking how much I preferred Shropshire’s green rolling hills to the more dramatic mountains of the Snowdonia range.  I’d felt enclosed amongst the mountains, spectacular though they were, but the more open views of Shropshire and its softer hues enchanted me.

Again, a summer spent on a farm in Worcestershire, within striking distance of Ludlow, warmed me towards the rural life, in particular the Marches region on the border of Shropshire, Worcestershire and Herefordshire. My husband and I brought up our family of five children in Worthen, and loved our life out there.  What brought us to Shrewsbury, though, was a recognition that the family was growing up and that the patterns of our lives were changing. My husband was commuting too far for comfort by train every day. Our children’s lives were very Shrewsbury-based. Worthen, sadly, was no longer ‘working’, much as we loved it there. In addition, a very special house in Shrewsbury town centre was on the market at a price we could afford.  It was the house as much as anything that brought us here.  I love living where I do.

HOW OLD AM I?  A few months ago, the film company R & A Collaborations made a film[] about me to celebrate the relaunch as an e-book of my novel, 'Telling the Sea'. Seen in close-up on the beach, lit by sea-light, the lines were all there, plain to see on my face, and I felt affection for them. I felt as if I’d earned them. They were as much a part of my life as the books I’ve written, the children I’ve raised and the husband who today put himself in my good books by buying me an ice-cream making machine.  I’ll never stretch and tuck and lipo-suck and dye. I’m proud of who I am – and I’m proud of my age. I’m still running round, bright-eyed at the world around me, ears pricked up at sixty-five.

WHY DO I WRITE ABOUT SHREWSBURY? A year ago, my daughter Beulah lent me a book called ‘The Gift’ by the writer Lewis Hyde.  It explored the concept of giving from early days to the present age, looking at the value and purpose of gifts in differing cultures around the world.  Time and again, as I read, I found the idea cropping up of giving back to the source that has nurtured one’s gift [be it food on the table, or the ability to write, paint or make music etc], thereby ensuring the fertility of that gift and its enrichment and continuance.

I was thinking about this one night, returning to Shrewsbury by train after a day visiting publishing friends in London.  I arrived in town late at night and began to walk up Castle Gates. The air was fresh and crisp.  It had been raining and the streets and pavements shone.  The sky was clear though - no more clouds, and ahead of me I could see the great bulk of the library and, after that, the Darwin statue in the library garden. Where else would I ever want to live?  Words and phrases rolled through my head.  My Shrewsbury… Tonight in Shrewsbury… My Tonight in Shrewsbury… and out of them an idea was born.

SO, WHAT ELSE HAVE I WRITTEN? Eleven published novels for children and young adults, one of which won the Smarties Book Prize, and the latest of which was set in the jungles of Belize, which I visited a few years ago courtesy of an Arts Council grant. Also some poetry, a few short stories, a blog and a lifetime’s worth of what I think of as ‘bits and pieces’.  Some of my novels are set in Shropshire, a couple in Shrewsbury. A few have come out as ebooks, a couple of which have been reissued by me, If you want to know more about my books, go to my website. Here’s the link:

 WHY TODAY HAVE I DECIDED TO WRITE ABOUT MYSELF?  Despite the ‘my’ in the title of this blog, the intention has always been to shine the light fair and square on Shrewsbury.  That’s still an objective I adhere to, but I do live in Shrewsbury too; I’m a part of whatever our town is all about in the year 2013, and so I reckon this has its place. You could also say this is a bit of a birthday present to myself. 

The highlights have been family, old friends, vanilla ice-cream and the Golden Cross.  Probably in that order.  Oh, and good books too.

Q. So, Pauline, you had a good day?
A. Yes.

Q. Is that all you’re going to say?
A. That’s all I’m going to say.

Q. Couldn't we just have a couple more pics?
A. Here's me trekking in the Belizean jungle [and feeling very hot], and underneath it me, aged three, all those years ago, telling stories to the big kids next door.


  1. The video is superb, took me back to childhood days of Pembrokeshire summers.
    I took the liberty of posting:

    Belatedly I wish you a good birthday weekend :-)

  2. Pembrokeshire summers were all-important in our family. We looked forward to them all through the year. Thank you for posting my video, and for the birthday good wishes. It was an excellent one and the spirit of celebration has spilled over into today.