In Summer on a Sunny Island I’ve made heroine Rosa’s mum, Dory, like me. She was born into an army family and lived in Malta for several childhood years. She loves Malta and is thrilled to have the opportunity to rent an apartment there for six months. (I would be, too!)
Rosa doesn’t completely understand her mum’s joy. The sun gives her headaches, there are insects, it’s too hot, too busy and there’s too much building going on. I made her fall in love with Malta eventually but while I was busy burrowing under her skin and trying to understand her, I began to realise that she didn’t particularly understand Dory’s childhood, so different to her own.
Hero Zach’s the son of an army kid too and his grandmother’s Maltese. When he goes to live in Malta he realises that he’s got two sets of roots there. The book was more about identity than I’d realised.
And that made me think about my own.
Both my parents served in the army, although Mum had to leave to marry Dad – unfair but common in those days. I was born in Germany and left aged six weeks. Like most army kids, I was registered as a British citizen. Apart from a two-year posting to Hampshire, until I was eight-and-a-half I lived on the Mediterranean islands of Cyprus and Malta. I don’t remember Cyprus so most of my childhood memories are bound up in Malta.
The majority of people didn’t look like me and spoke a language I didn’t understand. Whether army schools should have taught the language of their host country is up for debate but I didn’t realise I was a minority. If I thought about divisions and differences it was probably more about the army, navy and RAF than about British and Maltese – or, perhaps, officers, non-commissioned officers and other ranks. The army was unified by the colour khaki. Our fathers wore it. The kids wore it to school in summer. Vehicles were painted in it. Where we lived was owned by the army and so was the furniture. We had our own places: our own schools, barracks, quarters, a lido, the NAAFI and a host of military buildings with shutters in a particular blue.
Our next posting was to London and we lived in Inglis Barracks in Mill Hill East, near Finchley. This country I was supposed to call ‘home’ was cold and suddenly we were a long way from the sea. When I complained, Mum said, ‘Well, we’re not in Malta now!’ Still, I went to a school outside the barracks without realising it wasn’t an army school because it was filled with army kids, like me.
Then we moved into Civvy Street. And no one was like me.
The majority looked like me and spoke the same language but there the similarity ended. I was branded a liar when I said I’d lived in Germany, Cyprus and Malta and wasn’t even grudgingly accepted until I won a fight (it’s not always wise to pick on a barracks brat, to be truthful). I’m pretty sure some continued to think I was a liar and I needed to fit in to survive so I said a lot less about Germany, Cyprus and Malta after that. What I learned from the experience was that in order to earn friends I had to be like them.
Even now, I meet comparatively few service kids. When I do, I love chatting about shared experiences because I’m still conscious of being the misfit. I don’t remember the same childhood TV programmes as my local friends because we got Australian and US programmes in Malta. At one time we didn’t even have a TV! I was sitting on cannons to wait for my dad to finish work or snorkelling, diving from tall rocks, watching battleships and frigates sail into Grand Harbour.
Do I have a sense of identity? Well, yes, but it’s a fluid thing. It’s contextual. I’m adaptable and self-sufficient. Like many service kids, I have no ready answer to ‘Where do you come from?
I no longer hide the fact that I lived in Germany, Cyprus and Malta, though. It’s a big part of me.
With HUGE thanks to Sue Moorcroft and HUGE congratulations on the publication day of Summer on a Sunny Island. I am currently reading it, so watch this space…
Sue Moorcroft is a Sunday Times and international bestselling author and has reached the coveted #1 spot on Amazon Kindle. She’s won the Goldsboro Books Contemporary Romantic Novel Award, Readers’ Best Romantic Novel award and the Katie Fforde Bursary. Sue’s novels of love and life are currently released by publishing giant HarperCollins in the UK, US and Canada and by an array of publishers in other countries.
Her short stories, serials, columns, writing ‘how to’ and courses have appeared around the world.
Born into an army family in Germany, Sue spent much of her childhood in Cyprus and Malta.
Summer on a Sunny Island blurb and buy links:
The #1 bestseller is back with an uplifting, happy read that will raise your spirits and warm your heart!
This summer, sparks are flying on the island of Malta…
When Rosa Hammond splits up from her partner Marcus, her Mum Dory suggests a summer in Malta. Not one to sit back and watch her daughter be unhappy, Dory introduces Rosa to Zach, in the hope that romance will bloom under the summer sun. But Rosa’s determined not to be swayed by a handsome man – she’s in Malta to work, after all.
Zach, meanwhile, is a magnet for trouble and is dealing with a fair few problems of his own. Neither Rosa or Zach are ready for love – but does fate have other ideas? And after a summer in paradise, will Rosa ever want to leave?