Wednesday, 13 March 2019

Spotlight: Strays and Relations by Dizzy Greenfield

Strays and Relations by Dizzy Greenfield

Excerpt from chapter 9 of Strays and Relations

Since giving up on the search for her birth family, Dizzy had been getting on with living life on the tiny farm and everything had been fine. But sometimes, extraordinary things happen on ordinary days and this extract tells about one such day in June.

‘On this particular day, all seemed normal. From the forge came the clatter of hammers, punctuated by occasional cussing and swearing as Will and Nathan the “apprentice” wrestled with huge chunks of steel. Nathan had obviously dropped something, because I heard an awful crash.
For pity’s sake, Nathan, were you born yesterday?’ Will said… then silence.
On this particular day, we found ourselves outside – the weather wouldn’t allow Merlin and me to stay indoors – and it wasn’t long before I was staring through the open forge door.
The temperature inside the building couldn’t be contained within the walls of the old milking parlour, it hit me – along with the deadening thud of the power hammer. The terrible working conditions – the daily physical grind, meant blacksmithing was
becoming a dying art.
Will, bent double over the anvil, wiped the sweat from his eyes with his sleeve. He scraped a wire brush along a bar to remove the scale that had formed as it was heated. This bar was one of the many hundreds of railings that Will was making for a heritage project. This particular labour would take him eighteen months, and pave the way for changes in our lives which were as yet unseen.
I watched as Will plunged the bar into the fire and waited for it to turn from red to white, the colour he needed to fire weld it. Normally, the fire only needed to heat up the metal to scarlet.
Most techniques could be achieved at this colour stage. Will had told me that once it reached the required white-hot state there was only about thirty seconds when the metal was malleable. He said that you had only three attempts, the bar started to weaken after the first heat.
I watched as he took the bar to the forge, then quickly back to the anvil, where he brought it to life. It sparked its objection – now at its most vulnerable – as the fire had denatured its structure, turning it from red to yellow to defenceless white. The sulphate the bar released as it changed smelled of onions, rather than the normal musty odour reminiscent of domestic coal fires and what I witnessed certainly wasn’t a cosy homespun scene. Staring through the door into the forge was like looking into a bygone era. The environment for Will’s working world seemed, to me, to belong to a diļ¬€erent century, more like the early 1800s – rather than 2004...
I heard the postman’s van push the gravel further into the impacted soil as he careered down the drive and watched as he rolled down the window and handed me a bundle of letters...
I was expecting a letter from my mum. Her advice notes were legendary. We hadn’t received one for a couple of weeks, not since a disagreement a few weekends back involving the tricky subject of MMR childhood vaccinations. A note was bound to be wending its way by now. Mum used assorted communications to get her point across to me – face-to-face chats, phone calls, but sometimes she preferred to write her feelings down, rather than saying them out loud. 
So, I really wasn’t expecting to receive a letter from social services that June morning – certainly not one that said someone was looking for me. It was carefully worded in case, I suppose, it fell into the wrong hands, but it didn’t take long for me to realise that it related to my adoption. Why now after all these years? I was thirty-six years old. I was at a loss to know what to do. Sugar was at work, so I did what any girl would; I rang my mum.’

Strays and Relations follows the story of Dizzy, whose search for her birth parents is sad, humorous, and in parts bizarre. Dizzy learns that she began life as a surviving twin, then was fostered until a permanent home was found.

Dizzy begins her search for her original identity. Why was she given up for adoption in the 1960s? Following a tenuous lead, she travels to Ireland with her best friend Sugar, but the trail takes a misleading turn. It ends in what they mistakenly believe is Dizzy's mother's grave.

Dizzy falls in love with Will, a blacksmith. But something is missing. Dizzy's life changes when her birth father Tommy makes contact using a private detective. He reveals that her birth mother is alive and married to a man called Vernon. Now the bigger, trickier task lies ahead: working out how to fit the disparate bits of her life together. This is a book which will both amuse and touch readers' hearts.

Strays and Relations manages sensitive subject matter with engaging wit and sharply-observed dialogue, and includes vivid descriptions of some rather unusual animals and people. It will appeal to readers who have encountered a recycled animal or family.

I have lived in the West Country all of my life, but never in such a remote place as I do now - in the middle of the woods with rooks and bats. It may be remote but it's never quiet in Dizzyland! When I'm not looking after the dogs, chickens and a six-toed cat, I help run a blacksmith's forge with my partner.
My ideas come from humorous incidents in my own life, which I fictionalise. Strays and Relations is my first novel.
Before I began writing I had various jobs, including working in a wildlife park and as a youth worker.


Twitter: @DizzyGreenfield