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Daisy’s Secret

Extract - Chapter One

Laura had been awake for hours, had watched the sun come up through the narrow window of the lofty bedroom, seen the first rays light the yellow flowering broom into a glorious blaze of gold, and on the distant horizon a dazzling glint of snow crusting the summit of Helvellyn. By seven she found it impossible to stay in bed a moment longer, pulled on a pair of jeans and sweater and, padding to the kitchen in her woolly socks, made herself toast and coffee which she ate standing on the doorstep, marvelling at the view and revelling in the sensation of clean, fresh air that tingled on her face and sparkled like champagne in her lungs.

The night before, once everyone had gone, she’d trawled through the house like a lost soul, then like a homing pigeon had found herself up in the attic, and the room she’d always slept in as a child. The blue and white gingham curtains still hung at the window, though now somewhat faded from the sun; the patchwork bed cover that Daisy herself had stitched out of scraps of old curtains, still covered the bed. On impulse, Laura had run back downstairs for her wash bag and night-shirt and slipped with a contented sigh between sheets that smelled slightly musty, of a different age and old lavender, dry and soft against her skin. She knew it was sentimental of her, but she’d always felt safe there, cosy and strangely secure, and quite blissfully alone. With a pair of socks warming her cold toes and her night-shirt tucked firmly around her knees she’d soon thawed out, for all the wind was howling and rattling at the windows and the rain still hammering on the panes of glass.

It must have played out its temper during the night for the morning brought one of those rare, unexpectedly sunny days of spring, perhaps heralding a good summer to come. It was far too wonderful to waste by eating inside. Up on the higher slopes she could see the sturdy, dark Herdwicks, heavy with lamb. Perhaps the weather had lifted their spirits too for they seemed almost frisky as they browsed for new young grass shoots. And who could blame them, having carried their progeny through the long, grim months of an endless Lakeland winter, with freedom from their labours almost in sight.

Some said the Herdwicks had come to Lakeland with the Armada, others that it was the Vikings who brought these small, sturdy sheep to these shores, darkly beautiful with their hoar-frosted faces. Or then again, it might have been the Celts who’d first appreciated their hardiness, unless of course Daisy’s theory had been correct, that they’d always been here, walking these barren passes long before even man attempted to tame this landscape.

Finishing her toast, Laura brushed the crumbs from her hands, tugged on a warm jacket and boots for the breeze would be cold higher up, and set off up the smooth slope of Blease Fell. It was a long climb but fresh air and exercise, she decided, were the perfect antidote to stress. By the time she reached Knowe Crags her heart was pounding but there was the view as recompense for her effort. She sat on the grassy slope to catch her breath and look back upon a chain of mountains, only a few of which she could name: Wetherlam and Black Sails, Helvellyn of course, Crinkle Crags and Scafell Pike. The glint of Derwentwater to her right and the grey huddle of houses that was Keswick. And further away still, in the far distance, the hills of Scotland and the Solway Firth.

The grandeur of the scene had a marvellous effect upon her, seeming to fill Laura with a joy as heady as wine. There was much still to explore on the mountain itself, which would have to wait for another day. Daisy had always called Blencathra a proud mountain, a benevolent giant who kept watch on the cluster of white walled cottages that formed the village of Threlkeld in the valley below. It’s shape, being that of twin summits linked by a curved depression, had tempted the Victorians to give it a new name: Saddleback. Daisy had hated this pet name. If it had originally been named Blencathra, then Blencathra it must remain. Strong, indomitable, lofty, rather like herself in a way. She’d loved living here, claiming that the Lake District, and in particular this mountain, had captured her heart from the first moment she’d set eyes upon it, and Laura could only agree.

Once having discovered this place, Daisy had stayed for the rest of her life. But how long could she stay? Was it pure fantasy to even consider such a prospect? Living under the harsh conditions that were common in these climes wasn’t something to take on lightly. In the upper reaches of Lakeland, summer and autumn could be magical but winters were long, and spring more often than not little more than wishful thinking. Could she cope?

As Laura sat thinking this over, a lone walker passed by several feet below her, acknowledging her presence with a cheery wave. Perhaps he was staying at the Blencathra Centre further down, the restored Victorian buildings that had once housed the Sanatorium and was now a Field Study Centre. The mountain was certainly busier than in her grandmother’s day, with its procession of walkers heading for the summit via various ascents, their copy of Wainwright’s walking guide in hand. But it was still lonely, still empty for much of the year.

How much easier it would be for her to decide if Daisy herself were here to talk to and share her troubles. Laura’s eyes filled with a rush of tears. Yet she could guess what she might say. ‘Do what you must, girl, but remember men are delicate creatures. Tread softly. Make your point, aye, but don’t go at it like a bull at a gate.’

And Laura could only agree. Felix was not one to let go easily.

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'Another Lightfoot triumph' Dorset Echo on Daisy’s Secret

'A glorious story' Bangor Chronicle  on Daisy’s Secret

An emotional and gritty Lake District saga. Coventry Evening Telegraph on Daisy’s Secret

The Lakes 2012

Laura is having problems with her marriage, so when she is left a house in the Lake District by her grandmother, she starts to look at her life anew. And she begins to investigate the cause of the feud between her father and his mother. What was Daisy’s Secret?

Manchester 1939

Abandoned by her sweetheart and rejected by her family, Daisy agrees to being evacuated to the Lakes at the start of the war. Still grieving for the baby boy she was forced to give up for adoption, she agrees that he will be her secret - a precious memory but spoken of to no one. She seeks consolation by taking under her wing two frightened little girls. Can helping evacuees make up for losing her own child?