Genre: Sports Fiction
Length: 254 pages
Release Date: February 5, 2015
Andy Armstrong is a borderer from rural Northumberland. His father is a postman with a pigeon ducket. When Andy is six in 1978, England haven’t qualified for the World Cup, so he supports Scotland instead.
First Plane Home follows Andy as he grows up over four World Cups following the Tartan Army.
It’s a story of finding identity, of friendships and the legacy of the Border Reivers, Georgie Best and, of course, soccer. The Thatcher years provide a backdrop to the novel, with her presence looming large before she becomes Prime Minister in ‘78, The Falklands War in ’82 and the aftermath of the Miner’s strike in ‘86.
First Plane Home is a nostalgic look back at working class culture and the last of the British blue collar manual workers while also examining the nature of the Border itself.
Currently Available at:
FIRST PLANE HOME BOOK PAGE
BARNES & NOBLE
About the Author
Jon Tait was born in Northumberland and now lives and works in the Great Border City of Carlisle with his family.
He has previously written two chapbooks of poetry – Midnight at the Snake Motel (Alternating Current, 2010) and Lucky to get Nowt (Blackheath Books 2011) and a walks book, Northumberland: 40 Coast and Country Walks (Pocket Mountains 2013).
He has a degree in Journalism from the University of Cumbria and is a soccer writer for a number of local newspapers.
Last year’s big referendum on Scottish Independence stirred up some passionate debates on the feelings of national identity in the UK. Anglo/Scottish border writer Jon Tait examines some of the notions of belonging to a race or nation in his debut novel First Plane Home from GMTA Publishing. We caught up with him for a few words.
So, Jon, what’s it like living on the border between two great old countries?
I currently live nine miles from the border, in the English city of Carlisle, which has a long history associated with the conflicts between the nations in the past. Ask some of the bowlers and bingo players that come down from Dumfries on a night out and some of them will tell you that not much has changed! People have been known to get attacked in Carlisle on the basis of a Scottish accent alone, but it’s rare. Carlisle is a pretty neat place to live, with the Lake District right on the doorstep.
The main character in First Plane Home is a boy called Andy Armstrong, who we follow as he grows up over the course of four World Cups. Why Andy Armstrong?
The Armstrong’s are well known as an old reiver family from the Borders. They came from Liddesdale and were notorious cattle rustlers and murderers. There’s an underpass in Carlisle with all the names of the reiver families on the walkway. The reivers were basically the original mafia, who ran in family-based gangs and didn’t really care about their nationality – all the loyalty was to the clan headsman. I wanted to incorporate that sense of muddled identity in a national sense into the book.
The book is set in rural Northumberland. Do you know the place well?
I grew up in a village in north Northumberland, so I can empathise with the Andy Armstrong character well. There are more castles in Northumberland than any other English county. It has had a turbulent relationship with Scotland in the past. But I’m also from a Scottish family if you go back a few generations, so I was able to use that for Andy. He’s English, living in England’s border country, but his forefathers were Scottish. It’s a way of looking back in from the outside.
Soccer features strongly in the book. Have you been involved in the game?
I played amateur football in local leagues from the age of 15 to 29 and then covered the game as a reporter for newspapers, before becoming the press officer at the now-defunct Scottish side Gretna. I’m still involved writing reports on the Northern Alliance now. I enjoyed going back over Scotland’s World Cup campaigns. They make a good story and record in themselves. It’s an examination of expectations and disappointments, really. The hopes and dreams of a nation focused through their football team.
What can readers expect from First Plane Home?
It’s a warm, honest book, I feel - written from the heart. It’s a celebration of British working class culture as well as a study on the notions of a ‘Border.’ Former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher looms like a dark shadow throughout the work, with it basically taking place throughout her time at number 10 Downing Street and her attacks on the trade union movement and the North. There’s pigeon racing, school, games nostalgia and friendship. That’s the very important core of the book – it’s driving force - the friendship between two boys as they grow up together.