BY BENJAMIN MYERS
‘That distant stretch of sea where sky and water merge. It’s called the offing.’
Dulcie Piper had always been expecting Robert Appleyard. Sixteen year old Robert has wandered into the gardens of her small cottage overlooking the North Sea. ‘Oh, there you are.” says this tall, eccentric elder woman as if she had been expecting him to walk into her life that very second. And so begins this beautiful story of a remarkable relationship. WW11 has just finished and the resulting hardships and rations are very much still in place. Robert has completed his school exams and decided to explore the country before returning to follow his father’s inevitable path down the mines when he stumbles into the idyllic, overgrown grounds of Dulcie’s home.
Decades apart in age, Dulcie opens Robert’s eyes to a world beyond the collieries awaiting him. Through nature, good food, plenty of alcohol and most importantly literature she uncovers his potential. In return for her hospitality, Robert renovates a small cabin which clearly holds secrets from her past. Dulcie is plain speaking and opinionated but also generous and intelligent. She revels in shocking Robert with her views on Germans, famous people she has met such as Noel Coward and D H Lawrence and delights in his ignorance of good food and wine. Despite her cantankerous, abrupt manner, she nurtures this young man and allows him to see an alternative future for himself. At the same time Robert exposes Dulcie’s vulnerability, unravelling her past and allowing her to finally emerge from her buried secrets and tragedy.
Myers appreciation for the beauty and healing power of nature and the countryside of North East England compliment this unlikely friendship and it is hardly surprising this touching story is due to be made into a film starring Helena Bonham Carter and directed by Jessica Hobbs.