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Thursday, January 29, 2015


The Yorkshire Moors in Summer
Award-winning author Helena Fairfax was born in Uganda and came to England as a child. Since then she’s worked abroad in France, Germany, and Austria, and traveled to many countries, from Ecuador to Norway. Nowadays, she lives in an old Victorian mill town in Yorkshire, in the north of England. Today Helena joins us to talk a bit about Yorkshire, England and her latest novel. Learn more about Helena and her books at her blog

For many years I’ve lived in Yorkshire, in the north of England. If you live in England, you’ll know that Yorkshire people (or Yorkshire “folk”, as we say in our local dialect) are often subject to teasing from the people who live in the south. The British enjoy “taking the mickey” (teasing in a harmless way) and southerners’ jokes about Yorkshire include our northern accent (we say grass with a short “a”, as in “cat”; in the south, they say “grahss”, as in “harm”), and stereotypes such as our liking for clogs and flat caps, our love of meat pies, and how we live in poverty in a sort of Dickensian grime.

York Minister
photo courtesy of Pixabay.jpg
The jokes might be good-natured, but for many years Yorkshire has been treated as a poor relation to the more affluent south. London, Cornwall and Stratford-on-Avon in the south were always the biggest draw for tourists, and any travelers who ventured north would bypass Yorkshire altogether and head for Edinburgh and the Scottish Highlands.

Recently, though, our status in Yorkshire as poor relations has changed. In 2013, The Lonely Planet named Yorkshire as one of its top tentravel destinations in the worldFor those of us who live in Yorkshire, the accolade from The Lonely Planet came as no surprise. We call Yorkshire “God’s Own County” (we’re not modest, here in the north!) and we already appreciate the variety and staggering beauty of our large county.

Here are just a few of the attractions on offer in Yorkshire:
A visit to York, a former Roman city with Roman walls still surrounding it, and a medieval Cathedral, cobbled streets and fabulous shopping.

A visit to Whitby, a seaside town, chock-full of history, with an abbey, whaling, Captain Cook, and scenes from Bram Stoker’s Dracula.

A visit to Bradford, the so-called “Curry Capital of Europe” and home to a renowned film festival.

A Street in Saltaire
A visit to Saltaire, my own hometown, a former Victorian mill town and a UNESCO-preserved World Heritage Site.

A visit to Conisbrough Castle, built just after the Norman Conquest in 1066, and featured in Walter Scott’s Ivanhoe.

A visit to Harewood House, stately home of the present Earl and Countess of Harewood with a magnificent interior open to the public, and the setting for Brideshead Revisited.

The Yorkshire Moors in Winter
The area of Yorkshire I love the most, though, is the Yorkshire moors. Many years ago I spent a week in a hostel in the middle of the moors with a group of teenagers from an industrial city in Germany. They were on an exchange with a group of English young men from a similar urban environment. I remember sitting in the coach with them on the way from Leeds/Bradford airport, watching them gaze out at the rolling heather, the moors stretching into the distance, all greens and purples, with not a bar, or a café, or a McDonald’s in sight.

One of the Germans murmured, with his face pressed to the window: ‘Ich habe Grün-Schock.’ Literally: I’m suffering from green shock. What a great expression!

Over the years I’ve thought a lot about that week on the moors, and last year I began to turn the experience into a story. The moorland setting is wonderfully wild and romantic. Kate, the heroine of my novel, takes a group of disadvantaged London teenagers on a trip to the Yorkshire moors, in the company of an upper-class journalist. In the middle of the countryside, surrounded by sheep and moorland, how will they all get on?

Heather on the Yorkshire Moors
Although I’ve lived in Yorkshire for many years, I’ve traveled an awful lot in my life. One thing I’ve learned from my travels is that people are the same the world over. One of the teenagers in my novel is from Afghanistan, and I took the theme of my story from an old Afghan proverb: ‘There is a way from heart to heart.’ My story is filled with differences in culture: between town and country, between north and south, between rich and poor. Despite the outward differences, the theme of the novel is that people are the same across the globe, whether from Yorkshire, London or Nigeria, and have the same human emotions and the same capacity for love. ‘There is a way from heart to heart’ is the positive, uplifting message I wanted to leave readers with at the end of my novel, and it’s also the main lesson I’ve come to learn from my own many travels.

A Way from Heart to Heart
After the death of her husband in Afghanistan, Kate Hemingway’s world collapses around her. Her free time is spent with a charity for teenage girls, helping them mend their broken lives—which is ironic, since her own life is fractured beyond repair.

Reserved, public school journalist Paul Farrell is everything Kate and her teenage charges aren’t.  But when Paul agrees to help Kate with her charity, he makes a stunning revelation that changes everything, and leaves Kate torn.
Can she risk her son’s happiness as well as her own?

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Angela Adams said...

Awesome pictures! Thanks for sharing, and best wishes with your book.

Anonymous said...

Thanks, Angela! Very snowy here today. Picturesque - but cold! Thanks for coming by!