Hidden toys inspire Budleigh book

A secret stash of toys hiding beneath bedroom floorboards at Budleigh Salterton have inspired children’s author Jan Oke to pen a new book.

Later this month Jan, 54, of Little Knowle, is publishing Major Glad, Major Dizzy, after a pair of Victorian toy soldiers were unearthed from beneath floorboards due for refurbishment.

Jan and her late husband, Jerry Oke – who died suddenly in July 2006 after suffering a heart attack on a Budleigh beach – wrote children’s book Naughty Bus in 2004.

Jan is launching her new book next month, and is reading it at 10.15am in the town’s library on Saturday, September 17, as part of Budleigh’s Literary Festival.

She hopes the book will appeal to youngsters from five to 10 years old, and encourage them to explore local history.

Jan said: “After Jerry died, I thought I’d never be able to do another book – or would want to – but that changed a couple of years later, after a decision to have the floorboards sanded in my bedroom.

“Under the floor, in front of the window, the guys doing the work found a hoard of Victorian toys.

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“Among the toys were two tiny soldiers, and I felt that I had to write a story about them and have it illustrated in much the same way as Naughty Bus.

“It felt like a gift really. It felt like I had to do something with it.”

Jan’s first book Naughty Bus – which makes a cameo appearance in the new book – was illustrated with unique photographs captured by her husband, a professional photographer.

This time she enlisted the help of photographer Ian Nolan, a photo assistant of her late husband, and digital re-toucher Tony Swinney, also an old friend of Jerry’s.

Jan’s father, Bernard Covey, of Stoneborough Lane, Budleigh, remade larger models of the original soldiers, while the layout of the book was the work of Budleigh mum Trudie Burne.

Local youngsters appear as the children in the book, and all the costumes and props were sourced from the internet or charity shops.

Jan also researched the history of her home through Fairlynch Museum and the 1870-1871 Census.