It's a while since I wrote an 'inspiration behind the story' post so thought I'd share one with you today. I am lucky to have four stories out in magazines this week: one in The People's Friend weekly, one in Take a Break Fiction Feast and two in The People's Friend Special. Interestingly, they are all very different - one is a ghost story, one is a medieval romance set in France and one is a contemporary story about temptation.
The final story, though, is about one of my favourite things - my grandson. He is the inspiration behind Spread a Little Happiness, which you can read in this week's People's Friend.
It all began when Tyler, had an inset day from school and I agreed to look after him as my daughter was working. It wasn't a particularly nice day but I thought it would be nice for the two of us to go on an outing. It needed to be somewhere where we could shelter if the weather got worse and one which had a cafe where we could have lunch. A place sprang to mind immediately - somewhere where I used to take my daughters when they were children. Amberley Working Museum. Its set in a 36 acre site in the Sussex Downs National Park and is one of those wonderful places that looks rather random and scruffy but is actually a wonderful hotchpotch of things to look at and explore: traditional craftspeople, a printing workshop, transport exhibitions, a narrow-gauge railway and vintage buses to travel on.
Because it was out of season, a school day and rather rainy, the place was deserted when we got there. It was also midday and we were feeling rather peckish. Luckily the museum had a lovely new cafeteria called The Limeburners which we decided would be perfect. Tyler and I chose our sandwiches and settled down to enjoy them while we waited for the rain to stop. The place was practically empty - except for an elderly couple at a table nearby.
I was just taking a bite of my sandwich when Tyler pulled at my sleeve. His eyes shone with excitement.
"There's Grandpa in My Pocket!"
"What?" I said, confused.
"That man in the raincoat. He's Grandpa in My Pocket! He's on television."
I have to confess that I'd never heard of the programme but the man's voice sounded familiar. Where had I heard it before? It came to me then - the voice was from one of The Likely Lads. Might James Bolam also be Grandpa in My Pocket? Under cover of the table I googled his name and yes, Tyler was right, Grandpa in My Pocket was sitting just a table away.
Now my grandson is a very friendly soul and immediately wanted to introduce himself to the man himself. I, on the other hand, was conscious of the fact that James Bolam and his wife were probably wanting a nice quiet day out so I wouldn't let him go over to talk to them.
We had a lovely day but all Tyler could talk about, when we got home, was seeing Grandpa in My Pocket. I started to feel a bit guilty. What harm would it have done to have let him say hello? Too late now though. I'd have to think of another way to make amends.
"How about I write a story about you and me and Amberley Museum? It won't be real, it will be made up, but in this story, you'll get to meet Grandpa in My Pocket. I'll send it to the magazine I write for and one day, hopefully, you'll be able to read it. Would that make up for not actually meeting him."
His eyes lit up. "My own story?"
"Yes. Just for you... and over a hundred thousand other people."
"Ok," he said.
So I wrote it, subbed it and sold it. The boy in my story is called Taylor, Amberley Museum has become Tambury Open Air Museum and Grandpa in My Pocket is now Grandpa Joe. The fabulous illustration is by Mandy Dixon.
Today, Tyler went with me to the shops. We bought the magazine and he got to read his very own story... well I did promise him, didn't I? Luckily he loved it!