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Talking Location with Vikki Patis – Devon and Cornwall
13th December 2016
#TalkingLocationWith… Author Vikki Patis, straddling Devon and Cornwall.
If you’ve ever spent an extended amount of time in either Devon or Cornwall, you’ll know that the dividing river, the Tamar, may as well be a gaping void that is impossible to cross. On one side sits Plymouth, the student city by the sea, and on the other, Saltash, your first stop in Cornwall. Between these two places is a toll bridge. Currently, you have to pay an amount to leave Cornwall (though the Cornish would tell you they’d pay to get back in), and head off up to Plymouth and beyond.
Although you can bypass this bridge by taking the A30, which runs from Exeter down to Bodmin (and is the very definition of the phrase “the scenic route”), I rarely went that way during my years spent in the West Country. I lived in Plymouth, and attended Duchy College in Stoke Climsland, Cornwall (or, to your average Londoner, the arse-end of nowhere), so it made sense to shoot down the A38 and take the A388 straight through. I did this a few times a week for two years, and then even more so when I got a job just past Saltash.
It struck me how the people in the toll booths were sitting in the middle of so many people travelling between Devon and Cornwall. They were stationary, with no doubt thousands of people passing by them every day. They’d see the commuters, sitting in the unavoidable rush hour traffic, impatiently tapping their fingers on the steering wheel; they’d see students, squashed into a Corsa, dressed for the beach; they’d see families, kids arguing in the back, parents in the front desperate to get to their destination and put the kids to bed. They would see so many different people every day, but how many of those people would take note of the person taking their money?
This became the natural location for Simon, the main character in Grave Oversight, the third story in Weltanschauung, to work. Simon is a nobody – at least, nobody you’d ever remember. He blends into any crowd, wears the same bland clothes, and doesn’t attract attention. He simply goes about his day, minding his own business. Simon is completely forgettable. So, despite his job requiring him to face so many people every day, nobody would ever remember him.
I wanted the main character in Grave Oversight to be so humdrum, because it masked the horrors that were going on in the background. As you read more, you discover that all is not as it seems in Simon’s life. His “keep calm and carry on” exterior is forced, false. Inside, he’s in turmoil, and he’s trying to deny it, to run away from it. But we all know that things catch up with us in the end.
I adore Plymouth. Although I was informally adopted by my Cornish friends, I still think I prefer Plymouth to Cornwall, but only just. I love the hustle and bustle of the city centre, the fact that you have everything you need, all the shops, the facilities. I loved being a carefree student in Plymouth; in fact, I don’t think there’s anywhere I’d rather have been. But being able to pop over to Cornwall, to hop in the car and visit so many amazing places, was all part of the attraction of living in Plymouth. I felt like I’d had a little holiday every time I popped over the bridge.
When I finished studying, and had to move back to Hertfordshire, I was distraught. I didn’t want to leave. But I had ties up country, and couldn’t simply ignore them. In the weeks before moving, I drove down to the bridge on a few occasions, taking advantage of the balmy July evenings, parked in the car park next to the bridge, and just sat, looked, burned the image into my memory. The front cover of Weltanschauung is the Tamar bridge, with Simon smoking a cigarette in that car park. The talented artist, Sammi McEwan, has captured that image perfectly.
The Tamar bridge is one of my favourite places to be. It means I’m in my beloved West Country, and I have a choice to make: Plymouth or Cornwall. And I suppose the Tamar bridge is a euphemism for how I feel. I’m in the middle, equally torn between my love of Plymouth and my loyalty to Cornwall. But I don’t feel plagued by this indecisiveness. I feel free, lucky, to have two places I love and hold dear. I plan on moving back someday, but on which side of the bridge?
The harbinger, the oddball, the remaining twin… Weltanschauung seeks to open your eyes to different stories, set in different worlds and at different times, but with the same theme in mind: to make you question your worldview.
This collection of short stories traverses genres, introduces a variety of characters, and shines a light on some of our deepest fears.
Challenge your perceptions.
Weltanschauung is available to download on Kindle now. From 16th – 18th December 2016, Weltanschauung will be available for only 99p!
Vikki Patis is a writer and blogger at The Bandwagon, where she reviews books, interviews authors, and gives her opinions on a wide variety of topics, from feminism to fibromyalgia. You can also follow her via Twitter and Facebook. Buy Weltanschauung here