Four Feet Under

By Tamsen Courtenay

Thirty homeless people share the secrets of their lives, through first-hand accounts, conversations and intimate photographs

Friday, 11 August 2017

Update #3

We have done it ...

You all and I. We have made a book that will be on sale in shops. A real book. Real shops. People will buy it, read and people will change. For the better. They will love the stories.

Most of you who backed this book, I have managed to track down and thank personally but there are one or two of you who eluded my detective skills - no clues as to who you are at all (but I suppose eventually I can get your email addresses from Unbound and thank you that way). Thank you.

You should have been reading this Update weeks ago but – as Mistress of Mishap & Disaster – various things stopped me from writing this when I ought to have.

So, before I start telling you about the book (our book) & what’s happening, let me get the ‘Dog Ate My Homework’ excuses out of the way.

The Excuses

I was seriously low when I came back home here to Italy, from London.

I’d damn near killed myself with the attempts to keep raising money from bigger sponsors but for a sort of Kafka-esque range of reasons none of them could pledge. It was a blow. As you know, all too well, this book needed a monster amount of money to get it into print as there are so many pictures and I could not see, for the life of me, where this money was going to come from.

London hadn’t been a happy time: the disappointing (well, at least for me) GE result, the horrible terrorist attacks and the unspeakable fire at Grenfell Tower. That affected me quite deeply. So much so that I actually went down there to talk to people, (old journo habits die hard)


Rather like the subject matter of Four Feet Under, it was as if bad things just keep happening to those least able to cope. And all against such a contemptuous, cynical backdrop of government excuses.

So, I came home, here to my earthquake-ridden bit of Italy, and we moved into our 3rd temporary home of the last 9 months (our own house won’t be rebuilt for probably another 2 or 3 years) so while I was eternally grateful to be here in the new place (as opposed to hotel rooms where many of my fellow-villagers are consigned) it’s a little tough at times.

The people in this hamet we are now in are tremendously friendly but it is living way, way in the past. Communal laundry, chickens whose eggs seemingly belong to all of us, sheep and every other animal from Old McDonald’s farm, wandering at will – oh, and two cockerels with absolutely no sense of what their job actually is. 3am is NOT dawn. Internet is a privilege. Not a right!

The house next door to us!

The wandering sheep

The communal laundry room

The hamlet's alarm system!

So I came back to the above knowing I should write to you all but somehow unable to do so. Then Lucifer arrived. Lucifer is the heatwave that has been here for the last 5 weeks. Italians normally name their heatwaves after evil Emperors (Caligula, Nero ecc) so you can see how bad this one has been as there's nothing worse here than the Devil!

The room where the computer is

The longest and most vicious heatwave anyone can remember. Annhiliated crops (and my will will to live!). Our place here is in what was once an attic and has no insulation so the room with the computer was typically over a 100 degrees every day for the last month and a bit. I have been sleeping on a crappy 2-seater sofa near the front door for whatever pathetic bits of cooler night air might arrive. Good in that respect but also very bad: all the feral cats in the area seek refuge in what passes for my living room. I have worn pretty much nothing but a sheet all this time. I live in a mad house!

And this is one of the feral cats that came and never left. Had to wash off the fleas!! When dry she looks like those dust bunnies you pull out of the Hoover when it gets blocked.

Then, as if that wasn’t bad enough, we’ve had 2 quakes that got all our atttentions. No damage much but it brought all the nightmare memories back form the 6 months that they never ever stopped.

Sort of flashbacks. Earthquake bags back to being packed and left by the door.



And then things started to turn around.

A lovely friend encouraged me to write an article for the Guardian Opinion, about how homeless people are treated on a day-to-day basis.

The article went out both on-line and in the paper itself (a whole page … but with a dire image of me … yes, I do a have vestiges of vanity!)

That’s when things turned around. Pledges poured in. Just a deluge … I got within a whisker of the checkered flag and got my lovely brother, Brooke, to whack in the last bit.


What was important for me -  and for all of you who have dug deep because you care about this subject - about the article was that it confirmed my belief that there are thousands and thousands of good people out there, like you guys, who are interested, who do care and who will buy this book and be changed as a result.

Homelessness is a political choice. It can be eradicated at a stroke with simple changes to the laws about housing and ownership and tax.

Our book is not another screeching voice in that fray – there is enough of that – but it is a voice – a witty, real and authentic voice – that I will ensure carries far and wide.


I am ridiculously excited as now we start on the all the bits that go towards getting the book ready for printing. If I sound vague, it's because I am! Never done this before. Not a clue abot what lies ahead. Only that it will be enormously challenging and totally worth it. I've beavered away improving (with results) my social media skills and have been plotting all sorts of ways to get the book known about when we get nearer to publication. Unbound will - I hope - hold my hand through all this, but if any of you have encouraging words or experience that'll help, fire away. I am all ears.

Literally, today, I’m expecting the start of a long and fruitful dialogue with Anna from Unbound who will help this book edge closer to those book shelves. I have not the faintest idea of what Anna will say – only that there will be a load of work and even more worrying to do, to get it all perfect.

Oh, you probably don’t know a woman called Katy Guest … she was the one who believed in this book, from the day it landed in Unbound’s in-tray. She has been the one who has held my hand, listened to my neuroses, fought for the book, given me encouragement and ideas. All of us owe a debt to her.

I mean this: Ideas are nothing if people don't believe in them. You believed in the idea of FOUR FEET UNDER ... and look where we are now!

Thank you

Love Tam x









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Elaine Chambers
 Elaine Chambers says:

What an incredible update, giving an insight into how the book eventually materialises, but a real look at what's been happening in your life! I for one cannot wait to read your book - and I sincerely hope things get easier too! x

posted 11th August 2017

Bob Saddington
 Bob Saddington says:

What wonderful news Tamsin. I'm so moved. And so looking forward to publication and getting everybody round here to buy a copy, and make it a best seller, and move hundreds of thousands to join the movement to stop the growing scandal and shame of homelessness

posted 11th August 2017

Lulu Allison
 Lulu Allison says:

It's brilliant, with all of that going on, that you have managed to get to this point. Huge congratulations Tam x

posted 12th August 2017

Victoria Green
 Victoria Green says:

I feel I am a little late to this party, but I am so excited to read the book! I've pledged and am awaiting eagerly.
In Nottingham (where I live) I have befriended a few homeless people who I chat to and see regularly, this book is close to my heart and theirs. Thanks so much - really looking forward to it! Xx

posted 18th January 2018

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