marty house barefoot booksIn the beginning, there was a farmhouse. Here you see it beautifully rendered in coloured crayon by Nancy’s husband, Marty (as you can see, Marty is a skillful draughtsman, though he is less well known for this gift than for his superlative cooking skills). This is Beach Farm House, home for nine years to the Barefoot Books editorial, production and foreign rights departments.

Beach Farm House, June 1993. Zoë is holding a basket of spinach; Francis and Rollo in the background.

The farmhouse had been empty for some time when I moved here with my children in the spring of 1993. We found birds nesting in the chimneys, many mice in the bedrooms and a great many spiders all over the house. I set up office in the room you can see on the bottom right. This room had an open fire – just as well, since the house had no central heating. My day started around 5.30am and was broken by the school run in the morning and by supper, homework and bedtime in the evening. ‘The whisky shift’ was usually between 8.30 and 11.00pm (this became the wine shift in the summer months). From Beach Farm House, it was downhill to the Atlantic Ocean, so when the wind blew from the west, tiles fell off the roof and the electricity went down.

tessa kids farm house barefoot books

Here too is a magazine photograph from (I think) 1996.  By now, the business was starting to expand and it was time to move to the top floor,  an open-plan attic with space for six desks – and without insulation. During the winter months, we worked with our gloves on and with several calor gas and electric heaters. The summer months were much better – when the weather was fine, we held our weekly production meetings in the garden. Helen Kissler, then an editorial assistant, drove in from Bristol past a farm that sold delicious free-range eggs so the rest of us placed regular egg orders with her. Poppy, my first golden retriever, kept us company, as did the two cats, Crumpet and Calypso (both of them adept at finding the warmest places in the office).

Further adventures at Beach Farm House will follow soon.


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