The story of an abandoned and unloved VW beetle

Beryl the Beetle
Jayne Reed

Pulblished by Austin Macauley Ltd.

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The story behind the story

Beryl the Beetle
by Jayne Reed

The year we lost Dad was horrible. I was desperate to have, or to do something as a tribute to him and all our memories whilst growing up, through married life and when my own children were young - and so I wrote. I scribbled down ideas whenever they came, whether it was walking the dog after work or any time I was alone with my thoughts. Sometimes it would only be a sentence or two here and there, others an idea for a character; a plot for a book, or just a group of words I wanted to use. It gave me something to focus on and it helped me grieve. In a way, I was bringing my dad back to life. I thought, one day, my children would be able to read my story to their own children and they would know about their Great Grandad Ernie.

For a couple of years, the ideas didn’t come freely and I didn’t think I could do it. It was pointless I thought. It wasn’t good enough. But Richard, my husband, encouraged me and told me to keep writing. He taught me to believe in myself. So, I carried on, a couple of lines here and there, just plodding on but nevertheless not giving up.

Then, as time went by, it began to get easier. During a holiday something told me that I should put all my ideas into a story and so I wrote and I wrote and I sketched and painted my ideas. The ideas came easily and my writing flowed freely. I looked at the sketches of Dad and his workshop and it made me smile; I could almost see him smiling back at me too. Over the course of a couple of months I tweaked and changed parts of the story, moving a sentence here and adding an extra few words there. I drafted and redrafted until finally it was finished and I was happy.  And so, Beryl was ‘born’.

Where do I go from here?

I shared the story of Beryl the beetle with my family, and I felt proud. I was pleased that I had finished it and I thought that it wouldn’t even matter if no one else read it again. But, I would self-publish my story for my dad and it would be out there nevertheless, for him. I took the finished manuscript to the school where I worked and read it to all the year groups and staff just to see what the response would be. They loved it!  Even the kids in year 6 told me that they wanted to be the first to buy it and said that they wanted me to sign it for them. I had children in Reception sitting quietly listening, waiting for the secret I promised to tell them at the end. I told the story of Beryl and Ernie the paint shop man and then I told them the secret; that Ernie the paint shop man was a real person – he was my Dad.

Because I’d had such a great response from the kids at school, I decided not to self-publish after all but to try my luck at finding a publisher - what was there to lose? I started by sending off my story to 10 publishers, having researched the ones most suitable for my target audience. I planned a list of another 10 possibilities ready for the next batch after the rejections that I expected to come. I knew it would be a tough journey and probably one that would never happen, but I still thought it was worth a try.  So, I submitted my manuscript for Beryl the Beetle and I waited. 

A couple of publishers came back straight away and said although it was well written and had great potential, it wasn’t for them. Do they say that to everyone I thought? Another said they would like to see more of my stories before they would then make a decision. Then a couple of days before Christmas I opened the door and found a large white envelope on my doormat. I opened it and read the letter. I had to read it several times before it actually sunk in. My manuscript had been accepted! A publisher wanted my book! I had a contract to sign!


Meet the Characters

I had sketched ideas of how I wanted the characters to look. I had painted ideas of settings in watercolours, how I saw them in my head, how I remembered Dad’s workshop. Even though this was fictional, I wanted the real Ernie the paint shop man and his workshop woven into the story. I dug out all the old pictures, of the cars, the workshop and yard, and of course Dad is in my mind - The way he looked in his blue overalls, his black hair covered in dust from sanding down cars and his hands and nails covered in spray paint. He even smelled of the workshop too. I close my eyes and I can still smell that smell. I close my eyes, I breath in and he is with me.

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Once a beautiful classic VW Beetle, poor Beryl is now abandoned, sad  and lonely.
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Ernie the paint shop man. He is a specialist in all things Volkswagen.
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Morris the Mouse

Now meet the little mouse, let’s call her Morrisette I think, or Morris for short. (Ha Ha! Morris after the Morris Minor – my dad really didn't like them and disliked having to do them up even more!) Morris is the only thing that loves Beryl in the beginning of the story as that is where she has made her home. For a little bit of fun Morris is hiding in each picture in the book. You’ll have fun looking out for her.


and not forgetting...

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Jasper the Jaguar


Marcus the Mercedes

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Norman, Ernie's son



Where it all started

Over the years growing up and when my own children were young we always had VWs, Once it’s in the blood and all that…

I never actually owned a ‘Beryl’ (Beryl green is an original VW colour and it is just gorgeous – hence the name of my character). I did however have three different VW beetles. My first one was Kansas beige, then I had a red left hand drive and then dad got me a Marina Blue one. They were all 1970s but I can’t remember exactly what year, I just remember that I loved them! My friends teased me about my little bug, called it a shoebox car, I still don’t know why, but it didn’t put me off. This was in the mid 1980’s of course, just before the ‘Cal look’ came in, the BOOM in Vee dubs. Our enthusiasm and love for VW started much earlier than that though. It was when I was little in about 1972. Dad bought a 1969 panel van that he converted into a camper for our holidays - BYR 769H - Ha Ha! I still remember the registration number. I think you could say that that is where it all began.

So, because of that love of VWs, there will be more stories of our much-loved vehicles and of Ernie the paint shop man. After all, if Rev Awdry can do it with Thomas the Tank Engine and Friends, then why not me?  The characters and stories will be fictional but there will be an element of truth in them nevertheless. They will be my memories of Beetles, Squarebacks, Campers, Beach Buggies and more. All our own cars and all with their own stories. The memories of these much-loved vehicles hold a very special place in my heart. Treasured memories of my own childhood, when my children were young; and of those I love most dearly, and this is a way of keeping those memories alive.

My only regret is that Dad isn’t here to share this with us and to see ‘his’ book in print but I can close my eyes, breath in deeply and smell him and the workshop and I see him grinning from ear to ear in his dusty blue overalls. I think he would have loved it…


Background info

I didn’t write this story for any sort of personal gain, it was purely as a tribute to my Dad. I won’t therefore be receiving any money from it. I will be donating any royalties due to me to Marie Curie Cancer Care. They looked after my dad at the very end and were so kind and caring.

Why not support this very worthwhile charity by buying your very own copy of Beryl the Beetle? You will be helping someone in need. I think Dad would like that.

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Jayne Reed
Children's author

For more information, simply get in touch.