Updated: Jul 17, 2021
It's Father's Day in the UK today.
My Dad died thirty years ago so I'm very used to not having him around. I feel lucky to have known him for as long as I did. And I knew he loved me - in his way.
The first Wonder Girls book is in memory of him. It's not about him it's about a gang of thieving girls stopping some British nazis in their tracks, but he features.
The Wonder Girls series is set in the 1930s where I always thought my dad belonged. He was born in 1914 so in 1936, the year of the first book, he would have been 22, about the same age as the character I named after him - Leonard Cook, reckless laundry van driver.
My Dad did drive a van for the laundry as well as being a farm labourer, steam traction engine driver and lorry driver – you can see a theme. But there was only one time I experienced his death defying recklessness. And to be fair to him, he didn't make a habit of it.
My mum had already died, which I suppose made him feel a little more liberated. And he had bought his first brand new car to celebrate – a Russian Lada. My eldest daughter was a few months old and Dad was taking me and baby Daisy to visit my brother in Wiltshire. The visit passed as family visits with new babies do and we made our way home.
Dad knew the roads around Salisbury Plain 'like the back of his hand' he said. He was always round there with the laundry van. He was always round there in the 1930s or 40s - I'm not a hundred percent sure on dates. But, at any rate, it was well before the M4 was even a sparkle of an idea in some government visionary's imagination.
Dad tried once to give me a driving lesson - just the once, far too traumatic for a man with a heart condition. But he did give me lots of advice about motorways. 'Don't use 'em Janet. If you break down it'll cost you an arm and a leg.' He was a man who followed his own advice too. 'Keep a rope by an upstairs window, Janet. A long one, in case of fire.... ' And he did.
So at about 5pm that weekday evening in 1988, on our way home – pre car baby seat law – with me in the back holding baby Daisy in my arms, Dad found himself on a slip-road heading down to the M4. He didn't realise until he was on the three lane motorway itself. At rush hour, as it was getting dark, he panicked.
I have very vivid memory of what followed. Although it's one of those memories where you wonder did that really happen? Or was it a dream and I've just turned it into a memory through the re-telling.
I can still see the headlights.
Dad did a u-turn into the fast lane before crossing all three lanes of rush hour traffic to drive back up the slip road against everything trying to join the motorway.
Strangely, I don't remember blaring horns, screeching brakes, or urgent police sirens.
I don't think he was stopped all. The rest of the journey is a blur. But needless to say, we survived.
Anyway this is all to tell you that The Wonder Girls Book 1 ( in preparation for Book 2 any day now!) is a free download on Smashwords. I'd love you to sign up to my mailing list but bear with me, I'm still pinning that down.
You can get The Wonder Girls Book 1 featuring 'Lovely Leonard' here:
I hope you enjoy it and if you do I'd be so grateful if you left me review – makes a huge difference to me!
Thanks so much for reading!