This morning it hits me like a bolt from the blue: I need to speak to Fred Handford’s daughter, Katrina.
Surely Katrina will be able to give me an honest opinion of her father? Surely she will be able to tell me what sort of man he was? Was he a good father? A good husband? Did he love his wife and daughter? Why did Katrina not appear to feature in his life – or at least the part of his life that Janet describes? Were they estranged? Why did her parents get divorced? Was it Fred’s love for Ball Beard Farm that overrode his love for his family?
I know this sounds fanciful but I’m starting to feel that neither Janet nor Fred are the most important characters in this story any more – it’s Ball Beard Farm. Perhaps it’s all about that gypsy who has put a curse on the farm and perhaps that curse is still there?
I Google Katrina and she comes up straight away. Sometimes the most obvious things are staring you in the face. I phone her and she is surprisingly forthcoming – after an initial and lengthy silence – once I explain who I am.
“Hello, my name’s Helen Parker. I am researching the biography of Janet Holt and, if I have the correct person, I am hoping you will be able to shine some light on the character of her business partner, Fred Handford who I believe was your father.”
A fabulously written memoir, which reads like a slick piece of fiction, made all the more powerful that it is fact. The Stranger In My Life grabbed me by the throat from the first page and insisted that I continue reading it until the very last page. A stunning first memoir from an amazing woman.
There is no response.
“I would really like to know more about Fred’s character, his love for Ball Beard Farm and if he was close to his family. I would very much appreciate it if you could share your memories of him with me.”
“Yes, Fred Handford was my father,” she says eventually. I listen attentively. I have no idea yet if she is going to be happy to talk to me or not. “But why is Janet Holt writing a story about Ball Beard Farm?”
I tell Katrina that Janet approached me in my role as ghost writer with a 70,000 word manuscript.
“I hear tell that she is quite a devious character,” says Katrina in the same calm and soothing manner. “And that she has a terrible temper. But of course I hardly knew her. She was a year younger than me. It isn’t for me to comment: I barely knew her.” She pauses again, no doubt thinking about the past.
“You do know that my father disappeared? No body was ever found. It was very strange.”
I say nothing.