HEATHER Chamberlain, who during her 22-year career as a primary school teacher produced shows, often with the help of ‘Lady in Red’ singer Chris de Burgh, has just produced the first in a series of books for children aged six to nine.
Major Payne in Happy Bottom - fowl deeds and feathers - is written in humorous rhyme with illustrations that children will love by Robin Edmonds.
Heather who lives in Bloxworth, just outside Wareham, explained how the character and the location came about.
“I was driving through Corfe Mullen one day when I saw the sign for Happy Bottom, and thought what an interesting name it was.
“Then I was listening to a Radio 4 interview with a Major Payne, and the two names just clicked.”
Although undoubtedly she would have been able to find a publisher, Heather decided to self publish as she wanted to choose the illustrator.
“I went on the Internet and having found Robin sent him some material. Although he was very busy, he said he liked the text and was keen to illustrate it,” she said.
The book tells the story about a Major, who, after inheriting his uncle Derry Ayre's Happy Bottom, sets off for a new life in the country. Dreams of a rose covered cottage are soon shattered and the Major, as he attempts to triumph over disaster, is forced to accept that his life will never be the same.
Heather taught at Upton Junior School - the very school she had attended as a child.
Always interested in the arts she soon found herself producing shows at the school.
“Staged at Upton Community Centre they were very popular, each attracting around 800 people,” she said.
She had been a fan of Chris de Burgh since his early days, and when she discovered he was coming to Bournemouth to perform she wrote to him to say she would love to meet him.
He didn’t reply, but ten months later, when Heather was at home recovering from flu, the phone rang - it was Chris de Burgh.
“He said he was in his office when he spotted my letter and that the next time he was in Bournemouth I was to get in touch. We chatted for ages. I said I couldn’t believe that he would phone me, and he said ‘fans like you made me what I am’.”
She eventually met him, and over the ensuing years he gave her permission to use his music.
In 1995 she was working on Brothers in Arms for the Royal British Legion to mark the 50th anniversary of the ending of the Second World War.
“I wrote to Chris again, and sent him the script. He suggested I use ‘Up Here in Heaven’.
Heather, who is married with three sons in their 20s, left teaching in 2002 and sadly had a long period of ill health.
However, her new career has put her back on track, and she is also working on her second book Mishap and Mayhem.
She is also hoping that now she is a children’s author that she will be invited into schools for storytelling.
If you would like her to come to your school you can contact her through her website, www.happybottombooks.co.uk or phone 01929 459501.
Meanwhile Major Payne in Happy Bottom is available from Amazon and from Gullivers bookshop in Wimborne.