Wednesday, 22 June 2016

Its All In The Detail

A few weeks ago I did something I've been meaning to do for a long time - I visited Cheshire Records Office.  I've drafted a book set in Chester in WWII and now that I'm editing it, I need more details of what life was really like in the area.  I'm fortunate that I don't have to travel far to get my hands on all this lovely history, but still I never seemed to make the time.

It might sound a bit boring for some, but for me it was a thoroughly enjoyable day.  I phoned in advance to book a microfiche screen and when I was there I had to register and was given a free membership card for the next five years.  You are only allowed to take pen and paper into the main library so I was given a locker key where I had to stow my bag away.  (I felt like a proper historian!) and then I was shown how to work the machine and where to find the tapes for each newspaper in the timescale I wanted.

Obviously I've done a fair bit of research already but what I really wanted to know was how the run up to the war affected people and what was in the papers at the outbreak of war.  

It felt really strange to read a newspaper which is still a weekly publication today, but from all those years ago.

These days we don't currently have a cinema in Chester but then there were three.  The week before war broke out, one was Showing Stage Coach with Claire Trevor, John Wayne and John Carradine and the other The Perfect Specimen starring Errol Flynn.

I found out what the main shops were in the centre and adverts which were truly of the day.

Browns of Chester have men and materials available now to black out your home in accordance with the ARP.

Each year Cheshire holds a county show.  Now its in June, based near Knutsford, but then it was scheduled for 7 September at the Roodee which is Chester's racecourse.  The week before there was a big page spread showing who was going to be show and the next a tiny box saying that it had been cancelled.

At the outbreak of war everyone feared that Hitler would instantly bomb Britain so all the precautions were in place but the saddest one I found was this:

Send pets into the country.  It is better to have your pet destroyed than to leave it to wander about.

Poor things - I'm not sure that I could have done that.  Mind you, I'm not sure if I had lived a city, that I would have been able to let my children be evacuated either.  

It just makes you realise how lucky we all are now.

But on a happier note, it was a thoroughly productive day, hopefully the first of many I will spend immersed in the past.

Saturday, 18 June 2016

Boxing Day!

No, I haven't gone completely mad, I know the year is going quickly but even I know its not Christmas already.  I'm sure it will be here soon enough though!

I'm talking about Boxing Day's as taken from Peter Jones' Book: How To Do Everything And Be Happy

Now, I have to confess that I read this book a long time ago, and its probably time I re-read it again - if only I had the time - ha ha!

But one of things which really sticks in my mind is his theory that Boxing Day should be the day that you do exactly what you want to do, when you want to do it and that it should be a gift to yourself.  Also, Boxing Day doesn't have to be on that one particular day of the year, but that you should schedule in lots of Boxing Day's throughout the year.

Now, I've tried repeatedly to schedule Boxing Day's into to my but they don't seem to happen. I end up having unexpected work come in or sudden appointments, or there is just too much else to do.

But yesterday my lovely husband went away for the weekend golfing. (I did emit a small cheer when I dropped him off at the coach pickup point).  Now, I don't mean that in a bad way, I love my husband to bits, of course I do, but it meant that for one day I could do exactly as I pleased without being interrupted or having to do things for other people.  Yippee!  As it was cold, I also put the heating on for a little while, knowing that I wouldn't get caught in the act!

I shoved aside all thoughts of work, paperwork, cleaning the house or cooking (we all had pizza for tea) and set myself the task of doing exactly what I wanted to do, which was course was writing and reading, having a lovely long bath and going to bed with a good book and the whole bed to myself).

Now, I wouldn't want life to be like that all the time - I do miss him and am looking forward to him coming back.  But for the rest of the weekend I'm going to chill out with my boys and have a mini holiday myself.

Boxing Days - I can't recommend them enough.  Thanks Peter.

Wednesday, 15 June 2016

Me Before You

Last week I went to the cinema to watch Me Before You.  This film is based on the book by Jo Jo Moyes who, I understand, also wrote the screenplay for the film.

I'd already read the book (and wept copiously) so I was interested to see how the film would turn out.  Then I watched the trailer  and I decided it was definitely a film to go and watch at the cinema rather than wait for the dvd to come out.

And I was glad that I did.  I thought the film was wonderful and for a brief period I managed to escape my life and get lost in someone else's.  The film has caused quite a bit of controversy particularly regarding the fact that an able bodied person has written about disability without the knowledge of what disability feels like.  It has also brought controversy on the subject of assisted suicide.  I'm sure by now most people know the ending, but just in case anyone is reading who doesn't, then I'm not going to give it away.  But what I will say is that I don't think the storyline was ever meant to be representative of a group of people.  This story is a work of fiction and as such its the author's interpretation of what she thought it would be like to be a fit, healthy and incredibly sporty and competitive young man who had everything he could wish for, suddenly to have it all ripped away from him.  True, she wasn't writing it from a perspective of  having lived the experience, but the same could be said about historical novelists or crime writers; you don't have to have lived through the period or to have killed someone to write convincingly about it.  

Obviously this is just my opinion, but I think Jo Jo Moyes took this one fictional character and tried to imagine how he would feel and what he would do in that situation.  And what he did was make a choice.  It might not be the right choice for everyone but it was the one she thought he would make and at least he had one.  In her novel what she also did was successfully create characters the reader cared about. I cried when I read the book and the cinema was full of people sniffing into their hankies, so I think she got the screenplay right too.

Often when you watch a film after first having read the book, the film can be a disappointment as it can be chopped and changed around too much.  This didn't happen here, probably because she wrote it herself.  

The actors have received much praise for their roles in this film and I wholeheartedly agree with that.  The setting was wonderful too, and that was a pleasure to watch on its own.  

I think this is definitely going to be the Brit flick of 2016 and I hope it will be watched time and time again in the same way that Four Weddings And A Funeral, Love Actually and Notting Hill are.  

Just one last note, Mr Bates (Downton Abbey) was brilliant as the dad!

If you do see this film I hope you enjoy too.


Sunday, 5 June 2016

Enjoying the Sunshine

I don't know about you but it's rare that I get a day doing things I want to do.  Today, my husband went to golf while my children were happy to chill.  There was nothing on the agenda - no family commitments, no taxi service to administer, the house was as clean as it gets and the garden bin was full so I couldn't do any more gardening.  So for a change I decided to suit myself.

If the rain had been pelting down, I might have spent a productive day writing, but I'm afraid to say that I spent the day reading instead - well the laptop is no good in the garden, and it was far to hot to hold a pen.  It wasn't all indulgent reading though, I did some research, caught up with Writing Magazine and yes I did read my current book on the tbr list - The Lake House by Kate Morton.  As much as I love Kate Morton, I've struggled a bit to get into this book, but today I got well and truly engrossed in it.  (Much to husband's annoyance when I decided that I didn't want to go to the pub or eat / cook Sunday dinner - but that's another story.

I might be feeling a little guilty about not writing today when I had the time, but I'm justifying it by telling myself that there are days when you just need to recharge your batteries.  Well, that's my excuse and I'm sticking to it!

Hope you have all had a nice weekend and the weather has been just as good with you.  Long may it last, although judging by our climate it's highly unlikely.

Wednesday, 1 June 2016

Things That Make You Go - GRRRR!

In order of experience here is today's list:

1. Stroppy teenage tantrums

2. Ended up having to reverse down a narrow road due to road works even though the traffic lights were on green.

3. Work laptop wouldn't connect to printer despite turning printer on and off (repeatedly and turning hub off and on - again repeatedly). 

4. Figures in a spreadsheet that refused to add up.

5. Package delivered yesterday to home while I was at work and had to be rearranged for delivery today.  Of course, wouldn't tell me what time so on tenterhooks when I had to go out that it would be delivered when I was out.  Package containing leaflets urgently needed for work tomorrow delivered but turned out to be for a different company entirely! Still hoping (probably in vain that the correct ones will turn up).

6. Email on work laptop refused to work, despite (see 3 above).

7. Received a short story rejection in the post.

8. Received a rejection for another short story by email.

9. More stroppy teenage tantrums.

10. Received unexpected freelance work which needs to be done urgently, removing any time for writing.

Now, I think its time to go and have a glass of wine or three.

What things make you angry?