Click on the image below to read the back cover of the book
The Walnut Tree began as a very vivid dream. When I woke up I could rewind it and play it back like a film in my head. I wrote down everything that I could remember. I had no name for Carrie. I had no face for her. I’ve lost count of how many times I tried to write my story. I never got beyond the first page – I just couldn’t do it! The only words that I was sure of were the first three: ‘You bloody idiot!’ I must say, I certainly felt like one! I felt silly and incredibly guilty at taking time out to try to write a story. There wasn’t much time for being artistic in-between being a mum with three small children, working part time and having a husband who worked away from home quite a lot.
The Walnut Tree remained a folder of first pages until I decided to get fit by going for a run a couple of times a week with my friends, fellow mums, Emma and Louise. Quite by accident, one day, I told them about The Walnut Tree: ‘That sounds like a great idea for a story, you should write it!’ they said. So I did. This time, I got beyond the first two pages. There’s nothing like a bit of pressure if you need to get something done is there? I made a promise to them to do it. They threatened to come round for coffee to listen to the story. I kept my promise and they carried out their threat. My friends got me moving in more ways than one and I will forever thank them for doing so from the bottom of my heart. Eventually, one by one, our knees and our lives gave way to follow different paths and our running came to an end. But my writing carried on, albeit in fits and starts. Then one day, a man came to my house to fix the double glazing. I was sitting by the window doing a drawing of my daughter’s bed toys as a surprise for her. ‘Will you do a picture for me?’ he asked. ‘I’ll try,’ I said.
The man wanted a picture of three motorbikes and a boxer dog. The experience reminded me just how much I enjoyed painting and drawing. All of a sudden I found myself painting animal portraits, teaching music, and then I started writing music for the children that I worked with. My own children thought I was ‘nutty as a fruitcake’ and I quite possibly was…still am! The Walnut Tree didn’t stop growing but it slowed down because there was so much going on in my head…until I slipped on the shiny marble floor of a shopping centre and something went ‘ping’ at the bottom of my back. I was in agony and could barely walk. I was well and truly slowed down. I couldn’t paint anymore. I couldn’t play the piano anymore. I couldn’t practice my beloved karate anymore. It seemed like everything I loved doing had been taken away from me. Clearly I had something to learn. I learnt about how it feels to be stared at when folk think you’re disabled in some way; I learnt about the kindness of lots of other folk; I learnt that every cloud has a silver lining – I could still write.
‘It just goes to show…that something good always comes from something bad, one way or another, even if we can’t see it at the time.’
From ‘The Walnut Tree’
Winston Churchill said: ‘Never give in, never give in, never give in.’ The more I did it, the more I needed to do it. After all these years of longing to write The Walnut Tree I completed the first draft at two minutes past twelve on Sunday September 14th 2014. Many revisions later I am thrilled to publish it as an eBook at Amazon Kindle Store. (Paperback copy available fore pre-order here)
Now I know how Carrie feels in The Walnut Tree:
‘Oh my God, what have I just done?’
I knew nothing about how to write a book. I can’t say that I do now – there’s always something new to learn whatever we’re doing. It’s the excitement of evolution that we can share with our earliest ancestors. The one thing I did learn fairly early on was that I needed solitude, peace and quiet in order to write The Walnut Tree. The answer for me lies in my garden shed. It’s a 6’ x 4’ garden shed with a window. I have a view of the fence panel on the opposite side of my garden and the flowers and birds in-between. I get up early every morning, anytime from 5 a.m. onwards, shove on two old jumpers and a pair of thirty year old tracksuit bottoms over my pyjamas and, clutching a very large mug of coffee I start my day by writing in my garden shed. It is cold in winter and far too hot in summer. There is just room for my old desk, my chair and me. Apart from the men who built it in the first place, no one has set foot inside it – apart from me, of course! This is not strictly true as I get visits aplenty from spiders and creepy crawlies of all shapes, colours and sizes. Every morning I am a happy dog like Jip, in The Walnut Tree:
‘Jip, the conscientious security guard, ran in first to check out the premises…Ears pricked, on full alert, he darted into every corner to check for mice, rats, or anybody else who shouldn’t be there.’
I can tell you that I have only seen mice, and a rat (once), outside.
Also from The Walnut Tree:
‘Morning came, bringing with it a copper horizon and a sad song.’
I have seen some fantastic skies in the early hours of the morning.
‘The most personal secrets of every cow that came into the ring were shared with the audience…It all came down to sex, sex, sex.’
I have seen pigeons mating on the fence.
‘Carrie…stood up so quickly that she made her colleagues spasm with a nervous jump as her chair scraped the floor violently.
‘I need coffee,’ was all she said in answer to their silent alarm.
This wasn’t true. Carrie needed dirt and sweat. She needed to be outside and hot and cold. She needed to feel alive, not sterilised.’
When I smell coffee, touch pen and paper, and hear the blackbird dancing on my garden shed roof, then I know I’m awake. Then, I feel alive.
‘They felt safe. They were far away in their own beautiful world, and nothing and nobody could take that away from them.’
This is my garden shed.
For as long as I can remember I have enjoyed painting and drawing; a few years ago, I ended up setting up a small business as a pet and animal artist. Most of my clients were dogs, but I also had a few horses, the occasional cat and a very beautiful cow called Lucy! Coming from farming stock I have a soft spot for cows and dogs, as you will soon discover when you read ‘The Walnut Tree.’
I wanted to create my own cover design for the book if I could; something that would reflect the feelings behind the story – ‘the unexpected; the unforgettable; the unwanted.’ I found it very hard going at first. I was used to drawing and painting animals; it is altogether far more difficult to create something from the mind rather than copying something from a photograph. I could see what I wanted to achieve in my head but I didn’t know if I had enough skill to produce it on the paper. I decided to have a go. Music saved the day! I had already discovered, when working on animal portraits that listening to music helped me to paint. By listening to particular types of music I could create the right kind of mood in my head and the right kind of control in my hands to do the work.
‘This morning, as she drove to the farm, the melody wrapped itself around her, soothed her soul, protected her body, healed her mind, in a way that only music can.’
From ‘The Walnut Tree’
The cover illustration for ‘The Walnut Tree’ was just the same. The music I listened to, over and over again, whilst I worked on my drawing was Claude Debussy’s ‘L’Apres midi d’une faune,’ his ‘Nocturnes’ and his famous piece about the sea called ‘La Mer.’ This beautiful music, passionate and peaceful by turns, helped me to breathe life into the image I saw in my head.
My son created the finished cover design. I am very thankful to him for his vision, expertise and patience – I expect I was quite a difficult customer to please! I am also very thankful to Sylvia, Simon and Mark at Hawksworths Graphics and Print Ltd, www.hgandp.co.uk for their kindness, generosity, help, and encouragement.
Here’s what others say about The Walnut Tree:
‘I’m speechless!!! Just finished The Walnut Tree. It’s absolutely brilliant…I just couldn’t put it down. Well done, sweetheart, it’s an absolutely fantastic book.’
Emma Titterton, Friend and Businesswoman
‘This morning I started reading The Walnut Tree. I must say I am very impressed with its originality. All characters are damaged: stutter, disfigured hand, unusual height, needing a tailored raincoat to feel protected against the world…which all rings true to me. There is a strength and originality to your work. Your story is gripping right from the start.’
Helen Cooper, Playwright
‘The Walnut Tree has all the hallmarks of a best seller – and a great cover illustration too!’
Gerald Michaluk, BSc DipH-WU MSc DipM FCIM Managing Director, Isle of Arran Brewery, CEO Marketing Management Services International
‘A great read, a real page turner, possibly the best book I have ever read by a new author, I am looking forward to the sequel!’
Helen Crowson, RMN,MA,CBT Accredited, Service Manager/Lead CBT Therapist
‘This (The Walnut Tree) is a book to take on holiday.’
Irena Beaumont, Retired Reflexologist
‘I thoroughly enjoyed reading The Walnut Tree and I look forward to reading Caroline’s next book.’
Brenda Croft, Retired Office Manager
‘I see this (The Walnut Tree) as a film.’
Mark Davies, Hairdresser.
‘The Walnut Tree is a wonderful read; a beautifully written novel that’s impossible to put down.’
Tim Hodges, Engineering Manager
‘I just wanted to read and read and read The Walnut Tree, I just couldn’t put it down. It’s a fantastic story. I’m very proud of you, Caroline.’
Mary Wedd, Caroline’s mother
‘An enthralling, multi-layered debut novel. The Walnut Tree is a captivating read, highly recommended.’
Ian Hewitt, Managing Director, Pianoworld
My second cousin, Flight Sergeant Clifton Wedd, was a surf lifesaver at Coogee beach, Sydney, Australia, and lost his life flying for the RAAF over the North Sea in World War II. On 27th April 2014 the Fallen Lifesavers Memorial at Randwick, Coogee beach, Sydney, was unveiled in honour of the thousands of young men who, like Clifton, gave their lives for our freedom. Clifton was just 21 when he wrote the following letter to his mother. I am very grateful to Clifton’s sister, Marcia Gifford, and her family for kindly granting me permission to quote a sentence from the letter in The Walnut Tree. Marcia Gifford and her family also give permission for Clifton’s letter to be included here in full. It is a very beautiful letter; it deserves to be seen and heard. Clifton was an exceptional young man with a huge potential who didn’t get chance to fully express it. I have been given an opportunity in my life to write a book and do many things; it is important to me that I pay tribute to his memory and as such, he is included in the dedication of The Walnut Tree.
Clifton Warwick Francis Wedd, the only son of Mr. and Mrs. Frank Wedd of Randwick, and brother of Marcia, was born on 21st April, 1921 and lived in Randwick and Coogee in Australia during his lifetime. He was educated at the Marist Brothers’ College, Randwick and was exceptionally proud of his college. Clifton was a keen “all round” sportsman, but he particularly excelled in swimming and diving. Some of his achievements whilst attending the College were:-
Cricket Premiers – 2nd XI 1936
Football Premiers – 2nd XIII 1936
– 2nd XIII 1937
Swimming – Juvenile 1934
Championships – Junior 1935, 1936, 1937
– Senior 1937
Diving – Juvenile 1934
Championships – Junior 1934, 1935, 1936, 1937
– Senior 1934, 1936
Metropolitan Catholic Colleges Swimming Championships
Champion Boy 1937
Clifton intended preparing to study for a career in Industrial Chemistry prior to his enlistment in the R.A.A.F. in 1941. While stationed in Darwin, in 1942, he wrote this, most eloquent, letter to his Mother, in case he should be killed. While stationed at R.A.A.F. Deniliquin also in 1942 he was involved in the rescue and resuscitation of a local boy who had disappeared in deep water, in the Edwards River. Also, about an hour later he recovered the body of the boy’s elder brother, who, without being noticed, had tried to save his younger brother. Clifton’s deeds were published in the local paper and he received the gift of a Conway Stewart fountain pen as a token of gratitude from the Daly family.
Clifton was attached to the R.A.F. in England, and was killed when the Lancaster Bomber he was flying went down in the North Sea on the 12th April, 1945, just 9 days before his 24th birthday.
Here is the full transcript of Clifton Wedd’s letter:
Darwin, Northern Territory
My Dear Mother,
Hope everything is the best that could be expected down South. Also that yourself and the rest de la famille are well.
I feel I should like to tell you some things I’ve wanted to say for a long time.
When I was going away nothing worried me so much as the thought of the trouble I was causing you by going away, or might cause you if I were killed.
I certainly do not find the thought of death a great terror that weighs on me. I feel rather that, if I were killed, it would be you and those who love me that would have the real burden to bear, and I am writing this letter to explain why, after all, I do not think it should be regarded as such.
We make the division between life and death, as it were, one of dates.
But just as we sleep half our lives, so when we’re awake we know that we are only half alive. Life, in fact, it seems to me, is a quality rather than a quantity, and there are certain moments of life whose value seems so great that to measure them by the clock, and find them to have lasted so many hours, minutes or seconds, as the case may be, must seem trivial and utterly meaningless.
Their power is such that we cannot properly tell how long they last, for they colour the remainder of our lives, and remain a source of strength and joy.
The first time I heard Brahms’ ‘Requiem’, or, Enrico Caruso singing ‘O Sole Mio’ remains with me as an instance of what I mean.
If such moments could be preserved and the rest strained off, as it were, no one could wish for anything better.
And just as these moments of joy may fill our own lives so, too, they may be prolonged in the experience of one’s friends and, exercising their power in those lives, may know a continual resurrection. I don’t think you will mind a personal illustration.
One of the ways I live in the truest sense is in the enjoyment of ‘sporting activities,’ and I would like to hope that my love of ‘sport’ might be for those who love and survive me more than a memory of something past, a power rather that can enhance for them the beauty of sport itself.
Or, again, we love Sydney, and I would hate to think that, if I died, the ‘associations,’ that is, the College I attended, the baths and races therein, the club (surf) on the golf links, would make it ‘too painful’ for you, as people sometimes say.
I would like to think rather that the joy I had in those places might not merely be remembered by you as a fact in the past, but transfused into you and give you a new quality of happiness to your life there.
Will you at least try, should the unexpected come to pass, not to let the things I have loved cause your pain, but rather increased enjoyment because I found such joy in them. In that way the joy I had can continue to live.
I cannot bear to think that, if I died, I should give you sorrow.
Your Ever Loving Son,
The English walnut tree (Juglans Regia) is originally from Persia. Walnut trees secrete chemicals into the soil, a process called ‘allelopathy’, which prevents competing vegetation from growing. ‘Why don’t you cut this tree down? It’s virtually dead. It bears no fruit, and nothing will grow near it. Maybe it brings you bad luck.’ From ‘The Walnut Tree’ The roots grow deep, and are difficult to remove. The Romans associated the Walnut with Jupiter, the God of abundance and positivity, and his wife, Junno, the Goddess of women and marriage. They believed that eating Walnuts encouraged fertility. Symbolically the Walnut tree is believed to offer strength and protection, the encouragement to take chances, the courage to let go of the outgrown parts of life and to embrace the new, the unknown; ‘the unforgettable; the unexpected; the unwanted.’
‘You must be prepared to step into the darkness if you want to live in the light.’
From The Walnut Tree
There is plenty of light, enough for all of us if we can just take the time to look for it.
All best wishes to you on your journey