Working at the Theatre Royal, Margate in the late 70s and 80s and memories of school rebellion, a first kiss and a realistic nightmare have inspired author Rachael Anderson’s trilogy of tales set on the isle.
The former Thanet College student began to write after the birth of her granddaughter – launching The Granny That Rocks blog and then penning the first book of the trilogy, The Clawed Hand & The Wounded Heart.
Here she shares her tale of growing up in Cliftonville and how her first book was born:
I spent the early part of my life growing up in Suburbia, surrounded by flocked wallpaper and leafy lanes, then at the fragile age of ten, following my father’s illness, my sister and I were taken out of our convent education and relocated to Cliftonville, where my Uncle Roger had settled a couple of years earlier.
This was 1978 when Cliftonville and Margate were at their finest. Department stores such as Russell & Bromley along Northdown Road, Dreamland in its glory and two Butlins hotels standing guard at the bottom of my street.
Our new home was The Cartwheel Guesthouse at No. 41 Norfolk Road. A three-storied red brick house with a painted cartwheel doing its thing in the front garden. Even 40 years later, I can still smell the dust from the faded carpets and the feeling of excitement of living in an eight bedroomed house. This excitement did not last for long, however, as my sister and I soon realised that those bedrooms were reserved for paying guests only.
Our bedroom was initially a large shed/garage at the end of the garden which we shared reluctantly with a colony of earwigs. I remember on one occasion being given the rare treat of a bedroom for the night, on the proviso that we would evacuate early, so, early the next morning, my sister and I decamped to a rubber dingy in the garden. We awoke a few hours later to the sight of the paying guests, faces pressed up against the dining room window, displaying expressions of upmost disbelief.
Life in a guesthouse in Cliftonville; Guests, bingo nights, ballroom dancing, Kajagoogoo (that’s another story), access to free booze and fags, fish on a Friday, meat pie on a Thursday, coloured street light, living in a kitchen, a pay phone, Dreamland, swimming at the Walpole Bay till our skin turned white, an unmeasurable amount of freedom.
Then there was school, Catholic again, but this was Catholic with grit. Rulers on the back of legs, made to stand at the front of the upper year classes to remove your illegal Heather Shimmer and blue kohl eyeliner with IZAL and a solution that bared a close resemblance to lard. My sister, with her hair clipped firmly into place, clutching a brown leather briefcase, excelled, I on the other hand, rebelled.
I left school at the age of 15, the proud owner of a CSE in Fashion (needlework). This was quickly followed by a failed YTS, a passionate romance (we met in The Ace of Clubs) resulting in the leaving of home (at the same age) and later two children born to someone still a child herself. And forward. Divorced at the age of 24, a single mother with two children under the age of five. But this was not a desperate state, you see, for I had hidden ammunition, concealed in rebellion from an early age, intelligence and the ability to write.
Thanet College; BTEC Nursery Nursing Diploma with Distinction, GCSE Maths & English -worked towards at Night School and gained sitting alongside angry looking teenagers. A BA in Education and a Postgraduate qualification in Teaching gained in my late 30s.
But all this gaining of qualifications and raising two children left me with little time to write and it was only after the death of my beloved brother-in-law and the birth of my beautiful granddaughter that the words began to flow.
And so my blog was born: ‘The Granny that Rocks’ and from this one singular platform I found a way to express my thoughts and words with others and, once I had started, my pen would not stop.
At the beginning of December last year, I started a new position as a cover Front of House Manager at The Theatre Royal in Margate, a grand Georgian theatre, tucked away in a corner of Hawley Square, it was here that my writing moved up a level and where my novella came into life.
Part of my duties at the theatre was (and still is) to lock up at the end of the evening (when everyone else has left). This at first scared the life out of me (okay, it still does) resulting in a very realistic nightmare. I told my friend about this dream the following day and he said that I should write a story about it. That story was written, and it grew into a novella.
The Clawed Hand & The Wounded Heart is the first part of a trilogy, set in the late part of the Victorian era. The Novella starts its life in Brighton but soon travels to Margate. It is a Gothic ghost story, set in and around a theatre whose identity remains anonymous. The tale is told through the narrative of the main character and tells a story about love, heartbreak and revenge. Areas such as Hawley Square and The Jetty feature in the book.
I have now moved out of Margate but continue to work here. It is also where my grandchildren live. So, like the characters in the story, I continue to haunt its shores. It is where my ghosts live, where my skeletons are stored in their cupboards. When I am there, I turn a corner and there is the place where I had my first kiss, the place where I got drunk on Barley Wine. Margate is like that, it takes possession of your soul, and I for one have no wish to be exorcised.
The second story in the trilogy; ‘The Children’, set in Broadstairs is due to be released late summer.
The Clawed Hand & The Wounded Heart by Rachael E M Anderson is available now on Amazon