Jane Yeadon is a native of Forres and she trained in Aberdeen as a nurse before undertaking further training in Belfast and Edinburgh and becoming a district nurse. "Telling Tales" is a departure from her previous work, a series of three books "It Won't Hurt a Bit", "It Shouldn't Happen to a Midwife" and "Call Me Sister",which are her recollections of her life as a nurse in the 1960s, in that it takes us back to her early years growing up on the family farm.
To those who have enjoyed Jane's previous work, "Telling Tales" will prove equally engaging. This gentle tale of life in Scotland in the 1950s is a delight. It tells the story of two sisters, Jane and Elizabeth, who are growing up at a time when life somehow feels more safe and innocent than today. We meet Jane in the months before she starts school. Elizabeth is her older sister. Their mother and father own and run Tombain, a farm equidistant from Forres and Grantown-on-Spey. Life working the land is clearly hard, but to modern eyes can seem almost idyllic, until one day, the family's life changes forever, when their father is killed in a tragic motorcycle accident. From that day onwards, it becomes a struggle to make ends meet and hold onto the farm.
Other local families pull together to help Betty and her girls and Dod, son of Mr and Mrs Bremner, a couple who live close by, becomes an invaluable help and eventually a permanent fixture in their lives. The story develops at a gentle pace and we are introduced to a whole host of characterful farm animals, from Shadow the family's pet lamb, to Pansy the feisty yard cat, to Charlotte the milking cow and Frankie the farm's raging Ayrshire bull, who only Betty's stern words can tame. We also meet Jane's best friend Rabbit and the girls' prized dolls, though we see that Elizabeth is growing up, often leaving behind her own doll Belinda. We learn of the seasonal demands of the farm, of harvest and the challenges brought by bad weather. We join Jane as she starts school, see her experience the ritual initiation into the school community and learn of the feared headmistress, Miss Milne. Elizabeth learns to ride a bike and Jane is left to fend for herself on her walk to school. We see Jane's character develop as she interacts with other local folk she encounters on the way. Both girls are growing up and spreading their wings, though Elizabeth will inevitably always lead while Jane follows.
It is the pace of this book that adds to its charm. Whilst harvest time is the most hectic, life otherwise proceeds quite slowly and we are able to savour the moments that represent rites of passage in the lives of this little family. Would that life were so simple today!