Had a lovely trip to Agatha Christie’s magnificent holiday home last Friday. Greenway, now owned by the National Trust, is set in stunning Devon countryside overlooking the River Dart with views down to Dartmouth and up to Dittisham. The house is elegant and huge but still feels like a family home as it is so cluttered with collections of all sorts of things. Agatha was married to archeologist Sir Max Mallowan and accompanied him on several digs in Syria and Iraq which explains the collections. (I thought I was a hoarder…)
From 1972-74, my parents, two older brothers, Sammy the cat and I lived above the Candy Shop on Belgrave Road in Torquay. It was a shop that you only find in seaside towns; we sold sweets, fags and grockle tat (for those of you that are not Devonian, ‘grockles’ are holiday-makers). I was only little but this time and place has always stayed vividly in my mind and became the setting for my debut novel, The Generation Game.
The Candy Shop is now a security shop. But I still drive past every now and then, just so I can remember…
There are far more famous connections to Belgrave Road. Agatha Christie was baptised in All Saints Church which was just over the road from us. And further down, towards the seafront, is the Grosvenor, made notorious recently from the hilarious Channel 4 documentary, The Hotel.
A few months ago I visited my old school in Teignmouth and talked to some English students about the book. They asked me who would play Philippa if the novel was ever made into a television drama. I turned the question back on them, and one lad suggested Miranda Hart. Genius. But I only discovered today that Miranda was born in Torquay in 1972… How cool is that?
Don’t ask me how my brain works, because I don’t know, but today I was listening to the classic pop song Hold Me Close by David Essex. Check out this Youtube video to see the 1970s in all its gilded glory and spangled splendour.
Just love the way men could dress back then, anyhow they wanted. A flowery choker and a hairy chest could sit well together (admittedly looking like David Essex helped – not sure my dad could have got away with it)…
… so I was only a 7 year old when this song was in the charts but, whenever I hear it, I go straight back to the sweet shop where we lived in Torquay at the time. This was the setting for my debut novel The Generation Game and indeed Hold me Close is ‘played’ twice in the book at significant moments. There’s something about the cheesy words, his slight cockney accent, the flares, the cheap Top of the Pops set that makes me long for that simpler world.
Or is that just plain old nostalgia…? And is there anything wrong with that?