To a Barnacle Goose

Tomorrow sees the launch day of my third novel, The Advice Bucket, which is a comedy fantasy that’s a little different from my previous two books. It is – and I quote from the blurb – that story about an immortal half-man, half-barnacle goose you’ve been waiting for. Yes, my imagination went out for a duck (goose) on this one. Hopefully it will score more than a zero, but we shall see!

The story of a bird man first entered my head when I was twelve years old, playing in the woods near my dad’s house in Farndon, Nottinghamshire. I would frequently hang out there with my best friend, Lorraine Mouraille, who doesn’t recall this story: that we one day found a cluster of grey feathers on the path through the woods and me – being the best friend any 12-year-old girl could have – trying to make her believe that there was a half-man, half-bird living in the trees called The Grey Feather. Worse than that he was following us, trying to decide whether to eat or just haunt us. I never did find out why Lorraine, not content with a change of name when she married, also started using her proper name, Sarah, as an adult so that it took forever for us to get in touch again.

The woods in Farndon that were known as ‘The Copse’ is now a housing estate and one where Lorraine/Sarah and I continued to play while it was all under construction. We wandered the skeleton rooms and climbed the stair frames before the walls had been fully finished yet – that kind of thing. The kind of play that might end in you getting a free blue and white taxi to the hospital. Health and safety? Just ask my friend Lorraine-Sarah if we’d ever so much as heard of the words ‘hard hat’ at that age. Funny to think that by day builders were walking about the site in steel capped boots and heavy duty overalls, shouting, ‘Look out! Nail gun fire incoming!’ While at night we danced about the foundations in our plimsolls and ra-ra skirts, singing our hearts out, pretending to be the children from Chitty-Chitty Bang Bang. But I digress…

When I initially embarked on The Advice Bucket, it was a story not far away from the one I made up all those years before. It was a dark tale about an eerie, feather-covered birdman. Then my comedy brain intervened, and all at once he was a gangly, Jim Carrey type of fellow, falling out of a tree after a spell turned him from a goose into a man. He would then spend a period of time trying hard not to do goose-like things, such as flapping his arms to get away whenever any person approached him. Or falling from a boat into the sea as he tried to take to the air but couldn’t. It all went a bit zany, yet I was loving this barnacle goose/man.

What has finally emerged is a tale of witches and immortal geese that is blended with Scottish folklore all based in and around the stunning, mostly uninhabited Isle of Scarba in Argyll and Bute – an island once owned by Richard Hill, 7th Baron Sandys (no relation, sadly).

The Isle of Scarba

HereĀ is a photo of Scarba taken from the Western end of the Isle of Jura, where my husband and I walked to in October 2015. I sat on a rock looking over the Corryvreckan, the world’s largest whirlpool which is here between the two islands, thinking, ‘what would it be like to live over there?’

 

I will never know; Scarba is very remote and no one has lived there permanently since the seventies. But there is a ruined chapel, an ancient graveyard and the grave of a 130-year-old woman there. To find out for yourself why this is important information you’ll have to read the book. Talking of which – you can get your copy here: THE ADVICE BUCKET

I hope you enjoy it.

Heather Hill

Mum of five (not the band), I am an author and comedy writer based in Scotland, UK

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