It is 1798 and our story begins on an early day in autumn after some of the wettest summer days on record. Admiral Nelson is at last beginning to win the war at sea against the French and life in the English countryside should be good. But it isn’t.
In a quiet Devonshire valley a family lives and works peacefully at their flour milling business. On the hill above their small cottage stands a windmill, a robust tower that is the heart of their business. It is old, built nearly a hundred years ago, but in the hands of the master miller it produces flour that is famous for its quality throughout the south of the England.
To the North of the Mill, is a vast estate owned by Sir Jeremy Wyke, a domain that the mill had once been a part of.
England’s Lords and countryside landlords are losing their manpower to the autocratic war-machine, as well as having their purses bled dry to finance this terrible conflict and many of them are approaching bankruptcy with remarkable speed.
Our friends at the mill fall foul of the corrupt, desperate plans of Sir Jeremy that are designed to reclaim the land on which the mill stands and to absorb the income that it generates. And for Joseph Goss, the owner and the family’s Master Miller, that awful day began the same as countless others before it.
Alan was born in Poole, Dorset, England on October 1st 1948. As a child, he lived in Canada for a few years in what was then a tiny settlement village called Malton in Ontario. He went to his first school in the village, a one-room school that was quite basic but typical of the time in those outlying areas of the Canadian countryside.
Later in life he travelled to Western Australia where he worked as a design draughtsman and played drums in his spare time with a very active band called “Unicorn”.
Eventually, Alan returned to England, where he found a winter season of high unemployment and a frosty cold that he'd forgotten about. After a couple of dead-end jobs he joined the Royal Navy and quickly worked his way up to become an engine room Chief Petty Officer.
Alan now lives with his wife Stella in a quiet part of Western France, surrounded by books, forests, fields and their precious dogs, Elsa, Jester and Monty.
He still plays drums occasionally too.
I have had an interest in country life for many years and the difference between how folk lived two hundred years and now is quite amazing.
It was hard, every day was often a challenge to be able to reach the end and still be alive. For the gentry of course, things were different, but even they had their problems, not normally as extreme as life and death, but in a flash, a twinkling, they could sink in the tidal flow of corruption.
Joseph Goss slipped out of bed as quietly as he could and shivered as he felt his way along the cold, dark, flagstone passage to the kitchen. He pulled on his thick flannel shirt, tugging it tightly about his wiry body. All the while he was very careful not to wake anyone, least of all the old mother-in-law, whose snores he could hear coming from the snug attic room.