50 Years of CAMRA

Unbelievably my book, 50 Years of CAMRA, is now available for pre-ordering from the CAMRA website. It will be released on the actual day of CAMRA’s 50th anniversary – 16th March 2021. After a year of work it seems quite incredible to be a couple of weeks away from holding a copy in my hands. It has been quite a project. Not least because 2020 didn’t really go the way any of us were expecting. I thought you might be interested to hear the story behind the book. I write in solidarity with all pandemic parents.

Meeting New Challenges

I wrote a progress update in the spring of last year when I had been unexpectedly been gifted lots of free time to work on the interviews for the book because of the pandemic. I could no longer go to the CAMRA Member’s Weekend and interview people in person. Then it was cancelled anyway. And then everyone was free for me to call them at home for a chat. This resulted in me conducting interviews with well over 100 people all told.

However, as well as being in lockdown, I was also heavily pregnant. Writing a book with a new baby to look after is perhaps not ideal. Life doesn’t always care so much about what you think is best! We welcomed Bam Bam in May. After a break of 10 days, I got back to work on the manuscript. I knew I had a real mountain to climb. Yes, the fear set in good and proper that I only had 7 months left to produce a book.

The Cover

Most interviews had been completed by the time the baby was born, but not processed. They were all usually around an hour in length. Of course some were considerably longer. They all needed to be listened through again and the salient points drawn out of them. This took a long, long time. I have ended up with a document of ‘spare’ content that I cut from the main draft. It amounts to nearly 20k words! Hopefully I can put that all to use in other articles in the future. However, listening to recordings, noting down key points and transcribing quotes gets much more difficult when you have a newborn baby crying in the room as well. The fun is compounded when that baby cannot be put down. Ever.

Working from home whilst breastfeeding

This led to us looking for creative solutions to allow me to keep working while Bam Bam was breastfeeding or napping on me. In the event this was most of the time, particularly in the first three or four months). I bought a wireless keyboard. This could be placed directly underneath whichever hand I happened to have free at the time. I bought a little table that has legs to slide underneath the bed. It is just like the sort of thing you get in a hospital. When Bam Bam was cluster feeding for 5 or 6 hours at a time, I could have my laptop by my side.

The hastily grabbed pillows and cushions that I was using to prop up the baby and to try and stop my back, shoulders and arms from aching were eventually replaced with a My Brest Friend nursing pillow. I spent longer than I probably should searching online for how to convert an office to be breastfeeding friendly. I was pretty annoyed to find out that all the information is about your rights for expressing milk when you go back to work, which was not what I wanted to know about at all.

Working Hard or Hardly Working

Type with one hand

I tried to do an online course in one handed typing at one point. Then I realised would have to take it twice – once for each hand. My time was better spent just getting on with it. As the weeks and months progressed I found that my upper arms were getting stronger so I could type with one hand hovering over the sleeping child without getting cramp for longer and longer periods.

She’s a pretty demanding baby (just like her Mama). But Bam Bam and I have worked out an uneasy accord over the course of our time working on the book together. That said, I do feel like the entire text has been written in five minute bursts. The real victim of lockdown, when it comes to writing projects, is being able to get away for some serious thinking time. I think there were two occasions where restrictions allowed me to spend an hour at a friend’s house. It was bliss, working on the book in peace and quiet, sans interruptions. In an ideal world I would have skipped off to a pub or cafe for a day two or three times a week to really get the work nailed.

Working Mamas

Now the whirlwind is coming to an end. I can’t quite believe that it is possibly finished and a real book has come out of the process. We have had our fair share of tears and tantrums. I have unbelievable respect for everyone who is homeschooling or looking after multiple children, or dealing with babies and pre-schoolers as well as working – whatever your work is.

There is truly no escape. How do you go about clearing your mind? How do you get the space to concentrate and really getting immersed in your workk. It is nigh on impossible and I still don’t have a resolution. So I don’t know if I’m proud of what I have achieved or making excuses for it to be honest! I have absolutely loved getting to know all of the brilliant characters that have made up the CAMRA story over the years. I hope that you will enjoy reading about them too. But I have no idea how this book compares to what I would have written, were we free and easy (in every sense).

Get it while it’s hot

I hope that’s given a little insight into the process that I went through to write this book. I think it’s worth committing the tale to this blog because it is pretty unusual!!

Pre-order your copy of my book here. And share your tips in the comments below. How are you parenting and working in the same space, when there is no escape?


Bestselling author and freelance drinks writer. Champion of pubs and breweries. Occasional printmaker.

2 thoughts on “50 Years of CAMRA

  • Alas, life changes forever. I remember doing my masters with one sleeping 3 year old and a baby on the breast into the wee hours of the morning. Then after that the brain cells. You are a super duper trooper. I am floored by your achievements and dedication to get there. Brava πŸ‘πŸΎπŸ‘πŸΎπŸ‘πŸΎ

    • I am very flattered but I’m not sure I can accept being complemented by a mum of 4 – there is only one super woman here Freda!!
      I remember brain cells… πŸ˜€


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