Books, Books and More Books

DSCF2455B-day arrives. The day that 1000 copies of Remember Then are supposed to descend on my doorstep. Well not actually on my doorstep but on a driveway near me. I am not supposed to lift much following the car accident so I have enlisted help. Unfortunately the help I have enlisted isn’t supposed to lift either! Ten out of ten to the delivery driver who finds my house without being misled by his sat-nav/enquiring at the local shop/phoning me in desperation/giving up and going home all of which have been resorted to in the past. I have been asked in advance if there are any narrow lanes to negotiate. I live in the middle of nowhere, of course there are narrow lanes.

DSCF2457The delivery lorry is quite large, it is rush hour, traffic is at a standstill ok, for traffic read one car and a tractor but at a standstill nonetheless. My pallet of books is duly deposited. Said pallet is the focus of attention for my assistant – it will be firewood by tomorrow. The books are shrink wrapped in packets of 16. That means an awful lot of packets, more indeed than we anticipated as it turns out that my 1000 copies is actually 1146. Weird number I know but that is how many there are. Living as I do in a very small cottage this poses somewhat of a problem. I have persuaded my trusty assistant that he must have a bed at home that needs supporting with several hundred books underneath. That still leaves a ridiculous amount for me. Far more than my already overflowing loft can cope with. I stow a few packets in the cupboard under the stairs. A few more (far too few) fit under the spare bed. The only option is to leave a not insignificant pile in the tiny spare bedroom. By my reckoning it will be two years before I get said spare bedroom back, to say nothing of the rest of my house and as for my assistant’s ……..

DSCF2460Fortunately my lovely ladies who contributed to the book and others have been ordering copies so some are already winging their way to new homes. One lady collects eight copies, now all I need is 100 more like her ……. In order for this winging to commence, books have to be wrapped and posted. A quirk of the Post Office’s pricing structure means that, although some people have ordered several copies, it is cheaper to post these singly. So my initial tranch of orders from twenty-five people needs to be fifty parcels. An industrial scale production line is set up on the kitchen table. I have been hording bubble wrap for this for ages. Resisting the temptation to spend the morning popping bubble wrap instead, we begin signing, wrapping and addressing books. Two rolls of brown paper and one roll of brown sticky tape later we have a pile of not very elegantly wrapped books. Brown sticky tape is second only to cling-film in the non-user friendly all-time list. Now to post. The mobile post van is outside my house. There is already a queue of eight people waiting in the rain. Anyone who ends up behind me in the queue will not be thrilled that I have fifty parcels, all of which need proof of posting. Aside from which the van only has another half-hour before it departs for its next stop, so it is off to the Post Office six miles away. Two circuits of the block are required before a parking place appears. Then half an hour to get the pile of books on their way. The poor assistant had to renew his printer roll to produce all the proof of posting slips. Good job we didn’t try the post van option.

CoverSo in the interests of returning my home to some sort of normality/retaining my sanity orders are very welcome. If you remember the 1950s and 1960s you should enjoy reading it. I can say that as it isn’t really my work, although my name is on the cover, it is the work of my wonderful volunteers. Even if this period is distant history it is a fascinating insight into the recent past. If you have thoughts about writing your own memories, the book gives you guidance. Further details can be found here.


Christmas preparations, missing decorations, typos and a little about research

It was the end of November. I had been away for seven weeks but I had cleaned my many inherited brass ornaments, made my Christmas cake and pudding, written my Christmas cards and made chutney. How can this be? Do I never sleep? The truth is that I was without a functioning laptop for a week; hence the paucity of blog posts lately. The old one died of overheating, Basically, if it was turned on for more than ten minutes it turned itself off in order to cool down. I became adept at judging the crucial ‘save’ point before it died but any attempt at proper work was thwarted. I have been provided with an early Christmas present in the form of a new ‘industrial strength’ laptop. I did ask if I was required to save it for 25th. Strangely, the generous donor did not relish another month of associating with me whilst I was computerless.

Either I am turning into a grumpy old woman (I can hear my descendants muttering ‘turning?’) or I have been surrounded by an unusual level of incompetence lately. Firstly I was totally confused for a day and a half (easily done) by the fact that the new computer’s date was set for 24 hours ahead of real time. I couldn’t understand how I was receiving emails marked Yesterday that had clearly been sent today. Next I attended a local planning meeting where two architects, who looked about twelve, were defending the indefensible. They lost all credibility when I discovered three errors on their presentation boards within five seconds. I know it isn’t necessarily a word in everyday use but surely an architect, or at least their spell checker, should be able to spell vernacular? Then FindmyPast announce their latest indexes and appear to think that the 1600s are the fifteenth century. Not sure that inspires faith in the accuracy of their transcriptions.

Whilst on the subject of FindmyPast, I returned to the 1939 Register to try again to find my grandparents’ home at 159 Davidson Road. This time, I ploughed through all 600 properties in Davidson Road, arranged in random chunks of odds and evens but about 30 numbers were missing and somebody-or-other’s law dictated that this included number 159. After some very imaginative searching I discover that these properties had been listed with the address  ‘Davidson’ instead of ‘Davidson Road’. Why had I not been able to find my grandparents by name you ask? Well I had identified a possibility for granny – the middle initial had been wrongly transcribed, either by the enumerator or by FindmyPast (I still haven’t succumbed and parted with money) but I had dismissed this entry as she was not accompanied by Grandpa. Mystery solved – Grandpa’s birth year was incorrect by twenty years – sigh.

There have been various social events in the locality in the run up to the festive season, including a village quiz. I was enlisted on to a team who were, we later found out, identified as the pre-quiz favourites – we did in fact win but mainly due to a very lucky choice of round on which to play our joker. The trouble with being recruited on the history platform is that one is expected to know everything about the history of the whole world from yesterday back to the dawn of time – no chance. I failed spectacularly on UK Prime Ministers and the Wall Street Crash but my moment of glory came when required to name the Teenage Ninja Mutant Turtles!

DSCF2453Then there was the saga of the decorations. Two years ago I blogged about my treasured historic Christmas decorations. Suitably large tree purchased I ventured up in the loft and brought down the decorations. Lights affixed I went to hang the most precious decorations first. Exasperated, I realised that I hadn‘t got that box, so I waited for assistance and returned to the loft again. They weren’t there! They had to be there. I knew exactly where they should be and in what box – a red and white box that had contained a turkey in the 1960s. With a sense of rising panic I ransacked all the boxes in loft. This is harder than it sounds as the height in my loft means you can’t stand upright and I am still recovering from the car accident so heaving a very large number of heavy boxes in a manner that would alarm ‘lifting and handling’ trainers was not desirable. Boxes heaved not once but twice and I am in despair/in tears/beginning to think I am losing the plot. Martha contemplates a 600 mile journey to help me look. I was disproportionately upset about what are after all just ‘things’ but I haven’t ever spent a Christmas without these decorations on my tree and they bring back many memories. I cannot understand where they can be. After all, half of my loft had been emptied and sorted this year and they should be in the other half – notwithstanding I check the other half as well. Surely they can’t possibly have been given to a charity shop during the clearing of the other half of the loft? Irrationally I search every cupboard in my house, places in which I know they cannot be. Equally, I know they are in the loft. Do I have Borrowers? Have I had burglars? I know, what self-respecting burglar is going to leave no trace and only steal a box of Christmas decorations?! I spend a sleepless night. Next morning, loft search take three. Eureka! There they are, ok the turkey box is in another box but this is a box I swear I have looked in three times already. In the same box was the stocking my mum made for me for my first Christmas and its twin that I made when I had a second child – I hadn’t realised these were also missing, so that was a trauma avoided!

If I don’t get a chance to blog again before the big day – have a lovely Christmas and I hope that 2016 will be a year of peace, tolerance and joy.

Remember Then: memories of 1946-1969 – a book for Christmas or shortly afterwards?

TCoverhis post was going to be the sad tale of the missing Christmas decorations and other stories but you will have to wait for that. I can finally announce that we might (and I stress might) have my new book available for Santa to bring to a home near yours – if you are in the UK at least.  Remember Then: women’s memories of 1946-1969 and how to write your own is almost ready but although I am hopeful, I am not in a position to 100% guarantee that it will be with you for Christmas. I have been told that it will be with me by 21st December at the latest (but publishers have known to be wrong!). This is the last date for posting before Christmas but means I will have to send first class if copies are to stand any chance of reaching you in time. The book is a collection of reminiscences that 80 lovely ladies helped me to compile and should bring back memories for anyone who grew up in post-war Britain. You can find more details of the publication by following the link above. Please email me on for details of how to obtain copies.