ANYONE who has ever fantasised about what it would be like to up sticks, board a yacht, set sail to distant warmer shores than what old Blighty has to offer, and spend their lives writing a book or two, would be well advised to read Kay Pope’s book, Cabo Trafalgar in the Moonlight, Pen & Sail.
This is the story of her life with prolific historical and nautical fiction writer Dudley Pope.
From Bexhill to the West Indies, Kay Pope’s memoirs effortlessly draws the reader into the romance and adventure of her life as Dudley Pope’s wife and typist, encompassing both the thrill and anxieties that go hand in hand with sailing some of the world’s most beautiful and treacherous seas - which they did for nigh on 30 years along with raising a daughter, Victoria Jane - and the financial concerns that went with living off the royalties from Dudley’sbooks.
Kay describes growing up in Bexhill, living with her family at the Geneva Hotel on the seafront. Often, in a small room on the top floor of the hotel overlooking the sea, she dreamed of travelling to faraway places.”I went to sleep each night seeing the Royal Sovereign lightship flashing on the horizon - keeping guard and warning ships of the rocks and shoals out there. I always loved the sea and used to dream about sailing one day and visiting places all over the world.” Little did she know that her hopes for the future would soon come true.
Whilst working at her first job at the London Evening News, Kay met feature writer Dudley Pope, who had similar dreams to hers; she was 17, and he was 27. The meeting was to forever change the course of their lives and despite Kay’s parent’s concerns about the age difference, and warning her against marrying a writer, whom her father said was, ‘most likely to have an artistic temperament’ the couple tied the knot a year later at St Peter’s Church in Bexhill’s Old Town. Kay vividly recalls that day: “I entered the west door on my father’s arm and saw the man I loved so much and who would be my companion for the next 43 years, waiting for me at the altar.”
Dudley Pope’s esteemed body of work includes critically acclaimed naval histories, biographies and novels with many featuring high on best seller lists, and Kay was there beside him throughout, typing all his manuscripts.
Many would question how a married couple living in close quarters could also work together and not want to jump ship but Kay’s words makes it clear that this was a very special relationship.”We worked both hard and well alongside each other, whilst visiting many places and bringing up our daughter... I was specially blessed in my marriage.”
Dudley’s ‘artistic temperament’ is hinted at throughout the book but Kay, who describes herself as patient, easy going and an optimist, makes it clear that this never fazed her. “He had a very quick mind, and I always found it impossible to argue with him...””In any dispute between us everything was said and then forgotten. He never held a grudge and he apologised later when he thought he’d been unkind.”
Kay and Dudley’s unity stood them in good stead and saw them through the trials and tribulations that beset many writers, established or not, along with the stress and politics of dealing with contracts, agents and publishers. At one point, just as things were as dire financially as they could possibly be with just $6 left in their bank account they received a welcome royalty cheque.
Kay’s book also contains copies of many fascinating and personal letters including correspondence between Dudley and English warfare novelist CS Forester, writer of the Hornblower series.
From the beginning of their time together to the end of Dudley Pope’s life in 1997, Cabo Trafalgar in the Moonlight cannot fail to appeal to a wide audience who will want to travel with her as she re-lives her journey with Dudley, be it sailors, writers, historians or just plain old romantics who love a good real life love story.
Cabo Trafalgar in the Moonlight Pen & Sail: My Life with Dudley Pope, is published by House of Stratus and is available on-line at www.amazon.co.uk at £9.99.