Always attached to her father’s background, the family spent much time in Italy and at the Galletti family home near Gubbio in Umbria.
On leaving school Antoinette trained at RADA and went briefly into the theatre, her first love. In 1965 she married novelist and poet John Moat. They have lived ever since in a remote, magical valley on the North coast of Devon, where they brought up their two children, Elsbeth and Ben. For many years their life included a small-holding: vegetables, sheep, and Antoinette’s special concern: bees, chickens, ducks and a cow, producing milk, Devonshire cream, cheese and butter.
With John and the poet John Fairfax, Antoinette was involved in setting up the Arvon Foundation, furnishing its first two creative writing centres, in Devon and in Yorkshire. She helped found and then over many years, sustain the Yarner Trust Centre in Welcombe, North Devon, which runs practical courses in sustainable living. She is both a qualified teacher of the Alexander Technique, and a Psychosynthesis counsellor.
In 1998 she began research and set up a Drug Day Care Centre in Bideford, North Devon, devoting four years to the venture. This required that she acquire computer skills which she subsequently employed in the large-scale undertaking of transcribing the family letters of 30 years that form the basis of ‘On Two Fronts’. She also turns her hand to writing poems and ‘the odd bit of prose’.
Travels have included a seven month trek with the children when they were small, across the States and into Mexico, where the family made home for three months in a mountain village. Twenty years ago she and her husband set off around the world for four months as back-packers.
Richard Baldwyn used to direct the making of the audio books for EMI. Because he was in the war himself he says – ‘…I am therefore not an entirely disinterested reader! I suppose this might make me more critical, but my judgement is very far from that. When I read the plaudits at the front of the book, I was intrigued that a couple of them indicated it was hard to put the book down! It struck me that a book of love letters between 2 relatively unknown people wasn’t really the kind of book to bear this kind of plaudit. That was before I read it! Having read it I understand such opinions entirely.
Antoinette, your book is very moving, very, very moving. The backdrop of wars, politics and empire, highlights the simple devotion your mother and father shared through family traumas. The world was in turmoil, your mother and father in love and you made that so very clear in the way you so carefully and lovingly linked the letters with your own comments….
…The photographs added a huge amount to the book. The fact they were nearly all snapshots heightened the very vivid contrast between the tragedy of conflict and war and the simplicity of the letters, of love…’
Lucy Galletti. The only problem with On Two Fronts is that I got so engrossed that I read too late!! I so enjoyed your book and found it fascinating reading… I felt quite lost when I’d finished!
Nick Stimpson has written two books of verse, ‘Magnet Air’ and ‘Flying Figs’. He is also a writer and director of music drama, action and lyrics. He won the Vivian Ellis Prize for best young people’s music theatre of the year award. At present working with Howard Goodall on a musical version of A Winter’s Tale, with The National Youth Music Theatre, to tour prior to London. I wanted to tell you how good I think your book is… I found myself getting completely engrossed by the whole thing, by these people I had never met but whose lives were being lived before me. What's remarkable – to someone like me who knows no one in the book – is how rich and powerful is the sub-text of so many of those letters. Unlike a novel or a play where the hand of the writer is guiding the destiny of the characters… there is this extraordinary feeling of traveling along on these journeys but never knowing what to expect next. I found myself entering…into worlds about which I knew nothing.
The tenderness is amazing - perhaps we wouldn't see that today, perhaps the world has shifted, I don't know. I was also struck by the 'completeness' of the story…it's something to do with the accumulation of all those small things, those concerns, worries, joys, dreams and disappointments, that go to make the great big stories that constitute our lives and so make the book so appealing and readable and valid. A tremendous achievement. Human and humane. . 27th May 2009
Richard Thomas. Director of many TV films and series, including the first ‘Dr Who’.
Three main things will always now be part of my consciousness, the policing of the North West Frontier, Army Life in the 30’s and that awful campaign among waddies of NE Africa. The immediacy of the letters and Antoinette Moat’s questing love carries the day…
Michael Henderson (writer of several published books including ‘No Enemy to Conquer’.)
I have finished your book and found it fascinating. It is wonderful that all those letters were kept. I particularly enjoyed the schoolboy period. I wish my wartime exchange of letters had been kept. What a wonderful picture it paints of your father and so sad that you only knew him for a few years…..
Bill Collier (Historian) Many congratulations on your book, which I’ve been reading with absorbed interest and great appreciation. On Two Fronts has so much immediacy as a result of your skilful interweaving of letters, photos and commentary, that one glides into a rapport with both your parents. I found the last part very moving. They come across as such genuinely nice people caught up in the turmoil of a far from nice world. The most fascinating chapters for me must be those on the North West Frontier, a world that has vanished but returned in a different guise in Afghanistan… You must have had an excellent proof reader….! I do hope your book will sell as it deserves…Thinking about your wish to cut On Two Fronts, I have looked again very carefully. Because this is essentially social history I can’t see how it would work without losing what is the very essence of it, since it is the day to day detail which makes it fascinating.
John Lane Artist and Author whose books include The Spirit of Silence, The Living Tree.
…The result is amazing – something of which you can be very proud…I can’t say I couldn’t put it down but I was always eager to pick it up… So congratulations on your superb achievement.’
Alex Holmes. Creative calligrapher in stone. Glasgow. I was caught up in not one, but two fascinating journeys. The first was her father Arthur’s – rich in detail, abundant in adventure, near global in dimension. The second was mine….This book is poignant and an utterly compelling read.
Harry Laing. His first fine book of poetry ‘Thirst’. Scottish now living in Australia. …‘On Two Fronts’ more than absorbed me, it really became my life for the days I was reading it. I got completely taken up by the flow of the lives of those people.
I felt so inhabited by this couple, not least because their letters are so much a product, a manifestation of daily life. And it’s the accumulative effect of all that ‘dailyness’ that comes to have such power as ordinary life is sucked into the vortex of the war-to-come and into the forcefield of the war itself.
So I wasn’t reading the book with a view to how it might be cut further (the letters already cut by half)... Inevitably there’s a quickening of pace as the war-clouds loom... From then on there is a sense of urgency…
…what a special kind of person Arthur was. He had not just tremendous integrity…it also sounds like he had a terrific sharp sense of humour and was shrewd about people…and was able to master whatever he put his hand to. And took the trouble to do it – to spend time with junior officers, talk to the survivors of the earlier Nth African campaign in Cyprus, and find out what went wrong etc., - the kind of man, in other words, it would have been a huge pleasure to meet…But of course he and Rachel are such a lively, engaged and spirited couple and it’s their dynamic that gives the book it’s momentum. There’s an appetite for life in both of them that is intoxicating. I also much enjoyed the Italian element…with the rumblings of fascism and complex family response… I do think it’s an amazing thing you’ve done …
Richard Buckley, former equerry to the Duke of Kent. An intriguing and touching collection of family letters illuminate the upbringing and career of a fine, brave British Army Officer from a complex European background, but much influenced by India and the NW Frontier in the time of the Raj. His outlook moves from tentative sympathy with Italian Fascism to giving his life fighting this ideology in North Africa.
Timothy Ricketts. Ex Marine. In finance. …It has been such a great read that I have had to wait for Margot to finish before I could get my hands on it. I have thoroughly enjoyed your writings, particularly Rachel’s letters which were so warm and lively...
Sarah Faulder, Devon I didn’t want to put it down! A riveting and absorbing book of travel, but also a tender love story between two people caught up in the ravages of war.
Clara Muzzarrelli, author of several books in Italian including ‘Max Salvadori. L’uomo, il cittadino.’ It is a really good book and an interesting one too… for anyone who will read it. It is well organised and the photos talk to the reader. You have put your mind and your heart in this book, and the reader feels it, believe me. Your poems ‘Old Bones’ and ‘My Hero’ go straight to my heart.
Jane Topliss. (taken from the front of the book) …The emotion and humanity leaps from the pages to give the events of yesterday a true relevance for us today. I could not put this book down…
Helena Michie, poet and film producer I have been totally fascinated by your book, have just loved it and it has led me to go and try to find our own family letters….
The `Hartland Times’ …Moat’s project has finally resulted in the publishing of a unique and poignant book…I have been greatly moved by the poignancy and richness of those deepest emotions that separation at times of great trouble so obviously bring to the fore... I have only had the opportunity to dip at random, but look forward to a much deeper experience of her remarkable book.
Nick Galletti, Paris. First of all, I wanted to thank you thank you thank you, to infinity, for the amaaazing book… it has kept me up till late at night, totally hooked! I wanted to congratulate you on the fantastic result of your labour... The letters are so moving and the photos too, so wonderful! Its such a great pleasure to discover and appreciate these characters through their own words, in the context of their fascinating, complex lives! …
Pauline Placzkowski. U.S. I did not want to put your book down, and I did not want it to finish!
I found the book compelling. What an accomplishment, and an honour to your parents deep love of each other. I hope you decide not to shorten it. In my opinion it is perfect as it is.
Deirdre Hansen. (taken from the front of the book) This book has something for everyone…The author has brilliantly woven a rich tapestry solely from letters stitched together by brief explanatory passages.
Lindsay Clarke. Novelist. Author of The Chymical Wedding ... What a fine production it is and what a labour of love, in the best sense, it must have been. I've only had time to leaf through the book but the ground it covers looks fascinating…
Tom Welch died very soon after writing the following letter. Former Brigadier of a tank regiment, Tom worked tirelessly for a better world. Well what an amazing gift... for me at this time - I never realized this your so dedicated wonderful work was 'on the stocks' anyway...! I will say no more other than I'm working on it on it, with it, in a parallel context… And so deeply, deeply grateful to you now all the time - that is with a similar historical aspect that has come into my life...your book is already taking me into something other it seems of value…
Caroline Lichfield. London …It is so gripping, un-put-downable, so I must get it together and start from the beginning and read the story as it is written… It really is so vivid, which is why I found myself sitting-up, shivering, in the Penzance Art’s Club at 3 am in the morning unable to put the book down and get into bed… What a fantastic achievement, thank you so much!
Mick Dollimore (55 a builder and wise man. Devon.) I simply love your book and the thought that Arthur will die just gets me... I am near the end and just read slower and slower because I don’t want it to finish.
Grania Luttman Johnson (psychotherapist) I absolutely LOVE your book and just can’t put it down. Sometimes I read it in the middle of the night.
Mr Furber. Our grandchildren’s school master I am just loving your mother’s book, am totally fascinated, have not got to the love bit yet.
David Tillet. Business man. I hugely enjoyed your book; it was such a wonderful story. I did not enjoy any one bit more than the other but loved it all. I did not think it was too long. But the letters were wonderful, so well written.
I found the end very sad, that Arthur should have died the day before the particular objective/operation was abandoned.
Sue Aldous. A North Country civil servant. I loved the book and found it fascinating. It was so compelling I read it all in just over a week
…you couldn't help but feel for Rachel (also as representative of all those women of her generation). The letters after Arturo died when she didn't know were heart wrenching.
…It's not only a lovely book… but also a really good read and thought provoking - I loved all the photos which contributed to the feeling of knowing everyone…