A LOT of people have used lockdown to try their hand at a new skill or found the time they have been waiting for a long time to complete a precious pet project.
Eugene Barter was one of those people, using his downtime from the coronavirus pandemic to publish a book – aged 93.
Eugene has a solid background as a writer, having started his professional life as a junior reporter for the Barry Herald. She has always been eager to take on new challenges, with her life having seen many incredible twists and turns including her move to France and her career as private secretary to former Prime Minister Sir Edward Heath.
The Best of Times is Eugene’s second book for which she says she has to thank the lockdown.
“I belong to Brecon WI and Probus and I was asked to write a few articles for their newsletters, which they each circulated to members because they couldn’t meet,” he said. she declared.
“I started to write memories of my youth in Penarth, and they seemed to fall well.”
At 60, Eugene decides that it is better to spend his retirement in France with his sister and his brother-in-law to run an inn. A few years later, upon her return to the UK, she decided to write about her experiences there, which became her first book, Blackbirds Baked in a Pie, published by Sunpenny Publishing, when she had 80 years old.
Her literary beginnings led her to give numerous lectures and attend book signing sessions. “Whenever I gave a lecture on my writing, people were especially fascinated by my time with Edward Heath – who is barely mentioned in my first book,” Eugene said.
His memories of life with the former Tory Prime Minister, who was in power from June 1970 to March 1974 and succeeded by Margaret Thatcher, combined with stories of work for him, seamlessly morphed into The Best of Times.
“I certainly consider working for Mr. Heath to be one of the happiest times of my life, and our friendship continued for many years thereafter,” added Eugene.
Eugene’s friendship with the former Prime Minister continued after his retirement, helped by the fact that he was a regular visitor to a music festival held not far from his place of residence. She mentions it briefly in the first book but, thereafter, whenever she has brought it up, questions have always strayed from her time with Mr. Heath and what he really was. Eventually, she decided to write a biography about him, but by the time she finished it, several books came out about him and she failed to arouse interest in his manuscript.
Then Covid-19 hit, and her usual WI and Probus club outlets in Brecon came to a screeching halt, and she became very isolated, living with her son in Trallong, between Brecon and Sennybridge. In order to keep morale up and entertain his colleagues, both organizations asked him to write articles for their newsletters, and anecdotes about his youth were written.
She was already in discussion with Saron Publishers about his Heath manuscript, and she believed that combining her anecdotes and memories of him with an account of her own adventurous life would make a great book. And so, the idea for The Best of Times was born.
“Working on my book was definitely the one thing I held onto during the pandemic and kept me busy and focused for a time that would otherwise have been unbearable,” Eugene added.
“Other than my son, I have no family nearby and I don’t socialize – all of my manuscripts are typed.
At 93, Eugene is not sure if she has any other books in her, although she still has a mass of material that she has collected for the full original book on Mr. Heath, to include her parliamentary career and d ‘other aspects, so she’s still considering a follow-up with Saron.
From his childhood in Penarth to the rigors of WWII and a variety of jobs here and abroad, The Best of Times shines with candor and wit. And Eugene’s passionate support for Edward Heath shows another side of the man many considered difficult.
“A delightful book, full of humor and fun anecdotes,” was how BBC correspondent John Osman described the book.
It’s available now, priced at £ 9.99. Copies can be purchased directly from the publisher by emailing [email protected], or through Amazon, in paperback or e-book format.