I am delighted to catch up with an old friend today, Kirsty popped by to talk about her new book Bea’s Magical Summer Garden.
Kirsty Ferry is from the North East of England and lives there with her husband and son. She won the English Heritage/Belsay Hall National Creative Writing competition in 2009 and has had articles and short stories published in various magazines. Her work also appears in several anthologies, incorporating such diverse themes as vampires, crime, angels and more.
Kirsty loves writing ghostly mysteries and interweaving fact and fiction. The research is almost as much fun as writing the book itself, and if she can add a wonderful setting and a dollop of history, that’s even better.
Her day job involves sharing a building with an eclectic collection of ghosts, which can often prove rather interesting.
Kirsty, thank you for coming on to my blog today. Can you tell us a bit about your new book please?
What’s not to love about Bea’s Garden?
Its higgledy-piggledy layout, fascinating plants and occasional resident black cat makes it the most charming place to visit on a sunny afternoon. Plus Bea has bees – and her Honey Festival is sure to create a buzz.
But not everyone thinks Bea’s Garden is the bee’s knees.
The Man at the Big House next door has been a thorn in Bea’s side for the longest time, with his unnecessarily snippy letters about her beautiful climbing plants ruining his ‘clean lines’. Could he and his poisonous project manager Carla pose problems for her Festival? Or can Bea rely on the Man’s cousin – and her newest annual pass holder – Marcus Rainton to fight her corner?
With bee best friends, big black cats, a secret garden gate and a surprising identity reveal, Bea’s Garden is surely in line for its most magical summer yet!
Book 6 in the Schubert series but can be read as a standaone story.
I love the start of this book with Bea I love the start with Bea sitting on a fence dressed as a – bee! I once registered with an extras’ agency and the only gig I was offered was to be dressed as a burger in a shopping mall for ten hours outside a burger shop handing out leaflets, so I sympathise with Bea’s marketing efforts, but it does mean my first question has to be about fancy dress. Tell us about one of your fancy dress experiences.
Thank you for having me back, Anni. I must say, I love your questions. They always make me think. The incident that springs to mind regarding fancy dress was when I worked at a bank when I was about 18. We had an annual tradition of getting dressed up for Children in Need, and one year we decided to go for a circus theme. I was a gypsy fortune teller, the supervisor was a furry brown bear, the office manager was a ring master, the spindliest young man in the office was a strong man, the personal banker was a trapeze artist, and so it went on…we had such fun and decided to record the day in some photos after we’d closed up for the night. We all piled into the banking hall and took the photos. Afterwards, the manager looked at the brown bear, and asked did she have the keys to get us back into the office. The bear looked at us all, patted herself down…and said no, she’d left them on her desk. We looked at the second keyholder, a clown. Did he have the keys? No. He did not. Did anyone have the keys? No. Nobody did. So there we all were, stuck in a banking hall, dressed as circus performers, with floor to ceiling plate glass windows and an alarmed, burglar-proof locked door between us and the telephone to summon help – this was in the late 80’s, before we all had mobile phones. By now we were attracting a bit of a crowd of passers-by who were peering in the windows and waving happily at us. We waved back, then pulled the blinds down. What could we do? Should we send someone into the pub next door to get help? That wasn’t a great idea. The pub was a bit rough, and we’d gone in there to fundraise dressed as pantomime characters the other year and had been lucky to escape with our costumes intact, clutching our empty fundraising buckets to our chests as we ran out the door. We had to think outside the box. We knew there was a button on the other side of the screens the head cashier had control of; if only we had something, or someone, skinny enough to wriggle through the four inch gap at the top. We looked speculatively at the not-so-strongman, who refused to help. We then searched the banking hall and the outer offices, and found the manager’s golf umbrella. A lot of balancing and climbing later, and the ringmaster had managed to slide the umbrella through the gap, drop it down towards the button, and press the release button with the end of the brolly. He was very tall, and had very thin arms – which meant it was possible to do that. An average sized person couldn’t had reached down far enough. It’s very lucky that he didn’t drop the umbrella, or we might have had to go into that pub anyway. I have to say, that branch is no longer open, but every time I pass the building, I do have a smile to myself and remember how we had to break into work like criminal masterminds!
Marcus is the presenter for a programme Hidden Architecture, Imagine for a second that you are the producer tell us about the next building Marcus is going to uncover?
I think I’d send Marcus to my current place of employment, and ask him to look at the old Georgian Terrace which some of our offices are based in. It’s a row of five houses, all knocked together, and the rooms inside still have many of the original fireplaces, plasterwork, banisters etc. The basements are incredible. We got into them once when some workmen were on the premises, and discovered that the rooms housed the old kitchens. One still has an old kitchen range in it, which was made at the metalworks the resident owned. Talk about taking your work home with you! We’ve often said if we could do something overnight in those buildings and sit quietly, they could reveal all sorts of things to us. I’d love Marcus to go in and tell me more about what they used to look like – we do know, for instance that one has a staircase that was refitted and turns the ‘wrong’ way onto the attic floor, which throws you a bit. I wonder what else the terrace would tell us, if we could have someone in like Marcus to unravel it for us.
What do you think about the remodel of Battersea Power Station?
I think it’s great – after Covid and lockdown it’s exciting to be able to visit somewhere like the new Battersea. I haven’t been myself, but my friend has, and she says it’s amazing. She threw me as I didn’t realise it was being ‘done up’ and when she said she and her husband were going to Battersea Power Station, I asked if they were going on a guided tour around the power plant. When she told me they were going for afternoon tea, I realised I’d missed something! In general,
Should old buildings be restored to original or modernised?
Tricky – I’d love to see them look original on the outside, but be a bit more modern inside, I think; but still retain their character. I hate it, for instance, when someone buys a house and starts ripping the heart of it out. I think I’m the only person at the moment who doesn’t want my kitchen knocked into my dining room to make a big kitchen-lounge thing. I just think of the heating bills, and the fact I’d be relaxing amongst the smells of fried bacon and curry after cooking dinner. No thanks. I like to shut the door on all that and relax in a proper lounge!
At some point soon, on my list of things to do this year, I’m off to discover some of the lost underground stations in London – they do tours – don’t suppose you fancy coming too?
I would be sooooo up for that. I do want to come down and see the lovely Berni Stevens and visit Highgate Cemetery with her. How wonderful to be able to visit lost underground stations with you as well. What a treat that weekend would be!
Bea’s honey festival – I’ve managed to secure you a stall there, what would you be selling?
Thank you – it’s quite a popular event, so I’m glad you got me a stall. I’d sell my homemade honey lemonade. We love it in our house during the summer. This is the recipe I use:Honey Lemonade Recipe | The Prairie Homestead1 cup freshly-squeezed lemon juice1/2 cup honey 5 cups cold waterLemon or lime slices — to garnish (optional)Mix the lemon juice and honey together until thoroughly combined.Add the cold water and briskly stir. Chill and serve over ice. You can garnish with a lemon slice if you’re feeling extra fancy.
Yoga retreat or writing retreat?
Writing retreat. I can’t contort my body like a yogi – I am a bit too voluptuous for that – although I did try some easy yoga a couple of years ago. The thrill wore off when I realised how inflexible I was and that the only position I could happily do was to starfish on my back and do the relaxing thing at the end. My boobs and stomach get in the way of bending forwards and curling up, but I have age, genetics and hormones that I can’t fight against so those horrible ‘assets’ aren’t going to disappear. What do you do to relax? I adore a hot bubble bath with chocolate and wine at hand, a good book and a candle lit. Perfect. I’m one of these people who isn’t very good at doing nothing and I prowl around looking for stuff to do, but at least I’m contained in a bath tub. I think there is a quote from Jane Eyre where someone says a person should fill every minute of the day in, and do something productive with all those minutes. I sometimes feel like that, and feel guilty if I’m doing something fun like art or writing, and that I should go off and do something else instead. I’m my own worst enemy.
Lemon and Courgette cake sounds okay, you said vegetable and cakes shouldn’t mix, but there are lots that work quite well. I give you Chocolate and beetroot for one, and I think we made one once with avocado which was nice too. Although we never had much success with Ube, shame really, I did so like the idea of a purple cake. But, if you were baking for Tavey’s stock of cakes for sale at the Honey Festival what would you produce? – You must use at least one vegetable.
I think the thing to remember with Tavey is that her enthusiasm outweighs her talent at baking…I have had a very nice beetroot and chocolate cake at a National Trust place, but in Tavey’s hands….hmm. If I was making a vegetable-based cake, it would have to be a carrot cake. I have just fallen down the Google rabbit hole though and carrot and ginger cake caught my eye, as did pumpkin and caramel. Interesting. I’d certainly give either of those a go.
The temple of four winds, is this based on any real folly? Do you have pictures of what it will look like when it’s finished.
It would be a smaller version of this one, at Castle Howard. We have a Capability Brown landscaped garden at Wallington, a few miles up the road from us, and at Seaton Delaval Hall, a few miles in another direction, there is a great view across the landscape to a kind of needle-shaped monument on the estate. Some old houses have fantastic vistas, and I just thought how nice it would be to have something like that Temple in the eye-line of Glentavish House, running towards Bea’s Garden.
What’s your favourite plant in Bea’s garden? And why?
In the ‘real’ Bea’s Garden, which is Dilston Physic Garden, near Corbridge in Northumberland, my favourite plant is the Jacobite Rose.
I just love the myth and history surrounding it, and I love stories about the Jacobites, and Skye, and Bonnie Prince Charlie and Flora MacDonald… I recently did one of these DNA tests to discover your origins. I am 52% Scottish which maybe explains it. I’m also 27% Irish, 18% North Yorks/Lincolnshire and 3% Norwegian. A proper Northerner! I wondered whether a Scandinavian hunk had fallen for one of my far flung relatives to get that mix of DNA, but it’s probably more likely to have started with the fishing industry and my ancestors moved around with that.
And I know I ask every time, but what’s coming next?
I actually don’t know. I’m part of the way through a Padcock book but it isn’t really growing much and I think the bit I’ve done needs a good looking-at to establish why I’m not loving it and why I can’t make it work. Us Choc Lit and Ruby authors have just moved to a different publisher, Joffe Books, so I suspect I’ll have to consider whether to pursue Padcock or do something different when we all find our feet. It’s quite exciting, but also a little weird not having any idea. I normally have two or three books percolating, and so I feel a bit adrift in my creative mind at the minute. I’m sure I’ll settle on something at some point though.
Thank you Kirsty for dropping in, It’s always so much fun to talk to you. Let’s hope in the near future we can look at railway stations together.
For more information about Kirsty visit:
Kirsty’s book is available at:
Goodreads: Bea’s Magical Summer Garden by Kirsty Ferry