Thursday is here once more, which means more ‘Opening Lines,
This week I’m pleased to welcome Suzi Stembridge to my site. Let’s ‘Cast a Horoscope’…
Although this book is inspired by my four years as an air hostess in the early 1960s it is not autobiographical. CAST A HOROSCOPE has been awarded a Chill With A Book Readers’ Award in August 2018. It is volume One in the Quartet “Coming of Age” and the fifth volume for readers reading the whole JIGSAW series in chronological order. All books can be read independently of the others in the series but do combine as one long family saga. CAST A HOROSCOPE begins when Rosalind (Roz), the great-great-grand-daughter of the main protagonist in the first two volumes of “Greek Letters Quartet, starts her career as an air hostess full of excitement and hope. It continues into her life as a young woman in the seventies when the old Victorian mores of marriage and starting a family were still strong. This is an era when memories of WW2 are still fresh, when the pilots had either been World War 2 pilots or trained in the tradition of the RAF. There was a very different and much more casual attitude to training based on common-sense rather than formal examinations. Aircrew and passengers alike were living in a time before mass travel and enjoying a new sense of freedom. Shorthaul flights at this time were typically in Vickers Viking or Dakota aircraft with two pilots and a stewardess. It was unusual for an aircraft to travel say as far as Athens without a touch down to refuel at Lyons or Rome. Most holidaymakers travelled not just to lie on the beaches, but to see ancient sites and museums or absorb the culture of a country. People were happy to enjoy the new sense of peace but with traditional attitudes still prevailing life was not perhaps as liberating or as easy in the sixties and seventies as young people assumed.
Rosalind Peters, known as Roz, is an air-stewardess in the early 1960’s; in the days when they were called air-hostesses. With a one hour induction, a training flight to Paris and an afternoon swotting from her manual, she is embarking on her first flight at night and she is solely responsible for thirty-six passengers on a Viking aircraft. The chief pilot of the small Yorkshire-based charter airline is her captain and in these days of fledgling package holidays her passengers are businessmen going to Hamburg to play hockey. It doesn’t take long for the sardonic captain, ex RAF and Berlin airlift, and seeming to the youthful Roz as middle-aged and corpulent, to size up the rooky learner. But rather than suffering the agonies of initiation Roz is won over by the Captain’s winning smile and the joy of flying. The whole glamorous Mediterranean world is opened up to Roz. Greece: Athens when one could walk inside the Parthenon on the Acropolis, Lindos on Rhodes with pristine beaches, Crete when airplanes landed on grass airstrips, Cyprus: Kyrenia before its annexation to Turkey, Cairo: when you could touch the Sphinx and Jerusalem: when the airport was in the Jordanian quarter, not to mention Tangier: city of blackmail and torture, and all before the days of mass tourism. But Rosalind’s middleclass background is conditioned to preserve her virginity and allow her to make a good marriage; these are days when strict rules govern life outside marriage and young people are expected to abide by what is acceptable in respectable society. Do her Northern roots compete to draw her back from the heat and dust of a Europe fast recovering from, but still affected by, the horrors of two world wars? In an era when sex outside marriage, worse illegitimacy and adoption carry such stigma will Rosalind find true love and be able to resist the temptations and excitement on offer in this liberated life style? Will the consequences of her actions affect other lives?
First 500 words…
With a buoyant step Roz Peters entered an aircraft for only the second time in her life. Uppermost in her mind was the knowledge that she, as the sole airhostess, would be entirely responsible for all the thirty-six passengers of a Vickers Viking aircraft. She had been told the night flight would be full. Once through the door in the tail she walked up towards the cockpit which was on stand-by lighting. She stopped where two small steps took her up over the wheel axle. Although there were passenger seats in the forward section before the cockpit door she felt inhibited to go further.
As the Ferryair Captain climbed on board, using the same and only entrance to the dark aircraft Roz was facing him. She welcomed him and introduced herself, lighting the entrance from the galley at the back with a standard issue torch. She had thought that if she switched on the cabin lights at night she would harm the aircraft, much as using the headlights in a stationary car flattens the battery. Roz was confident that her Captain would have been told that his regular hostess had gone sick and she was taking her ‘stand-by’ place, after completing only one training flight instead of the prescribed six.
However, without attempting to reply to the young hostess’ welcome or to reassure her, the stocky short Captain merely put down a switch marked ‘cabin lights’ and strode up to the cockpit. ‘We are on ground power now,’ he snapped as he marched up the aisle, with the tall first officer silently following him. They then shut the forward door to the cockpit leaving Roz in the empty cabin nervously replacing the torch and awaiting the arrival of her passengers from the departure hall. A ground hostess led out the passengers, all men.
To her amazement, Roz found her nervousness quickly evaporating and she was able to remember the procedure she had been taught the previous day, particularly when it came to demonstrating the emergency procedures. She was glad she had spent all that afternoon swotting up from her manual, although the expression ‘if the aircraft has to ditch it may float’ was reverberating through her head, but she was not going to alarm the passengers by telling them that. It was midnight and she didn’t feel ready for bed, just for work.
‘How long have you been in this job?’ one passenger asked her as she helped him fasten his seat belt.
She replied ‘half an hour!
He laughed, ‘that makes two of us…. I’ve never flown in a chartered plane before.’
Rosalind remembered sitting in the London flat, fed up after a hard day’s shorthand and typing, and that was little more than a month ago. On her application form she had given her full name, Pandora Rosalind Peters, and made a split second decision to be known henceforth as Rosalind or if pushed simply Roz. ‘This will be truly a new beginning,’ she said…
We live on the Pennine hills in West Yorkshire between Halifax and Huddersfield but my heart is often in Greece.
I write historical and contemporary fiction, most of which has a Greek bias, either being set or partly set in Greece, with other scenes in the UK, particularly Northern England and Wales. Many of my characters like to travel, so much of Europe has been covered in the whole series which I have called JIGSAW. Jigsaw comprises two Quartets, THE GREEK LETTERS QUARTET which starts towards the end of the Greek War of Independence in 1827 and finishes in the present decade around 2011, and a second Quartet THE COMING OF AGE with a time span from 1960 to the present decade. The protagonists in these Quartets make up a family saga, with Rosalind, her son and her great-great grandfather, who was a Philhellene, being the main characters.
Because these 8 books are actually one long family saga, seven generations from 1827 to the present day, I have had to keep my mind very well organised to remember who is related to who, keep the dates tidy, and it has been quite a challenge. Despite this massive link I have also had to work hard to keep each book as an independent and different read.
As the books developed I realised they captured an age, a time from the industrial revolution but before the digital age. I love planning out a book and particularly the research. It has been a passion to check the facts, making sure that they are accurate. Studying for my Open University degree taught me the importance of primary and secondary sources. If I say it was sunny on a certain date – it was! It is a great pleasure to work at my desk in Yorkshire with windows over-looking the hills or alternatively by the sea in Greece and have time to write.
More than 30 years in the Travel industry has introduced me to many wonderful places in the world, but our extensive travel around mainland Greece and its remote islands when we founded and ran our two travel companies for 25 years has taken us to remote and stunning areas of coastal and mountain Greece. In addition, we built a small house in the foothills of Mt. Parnon in the Peloponnese, overlooking the sea, where we learned to appreciate a lovely local community.
Social Media links:
Twitter Name: WriterOfGreekNovels@zaritsi
Website Link: www.greco-file.com
Facebook: Suzi Stembridge
Pennine Writers & Landscape Artists Capturing Greece
GREECE IS THE THEME
Jigsaw: Greek letters & Coming of Age – Two Quartets
Linkedin: Suzi Stembridge at Freelance Author and Writer
Many thanks for such a great blog, Suzi.
Come back next Thursday to read 500 words from Madeline Black.