Last week, I wrote about planning my week. It was all going so well! I was on track with the plan, blog posts were written and appearing on schedule, I was pretty much up to date with everything on my list.
Then this week, it all went a little pear shaped!
Monday was something of a black hole. We had come home from a woodturning weekend the day before – I didn’t even hear my Monday 06:00 wake up call and the day was a blur of general catch up, food shopping, banking and domesticity. Tuesday, we had a visitor who came for a meeting with Chris, I also created his entry on the RPT website; Wednesday, we filmed a new Blind Woodturner YouTube video and had a public speaking engagement in the evening; Thursday, I went to the engravers to have a woodturning commission inscribed, we left for Huddersfield early afternoon for an evening woodturning demo; which brings me to today. We finally got to bed at 01:00 this morning so, yet again, my 06:00 wake up call came and went. This morning, my head’s full of things I know I need to do but I’m not making masses of headway.
As they say, the best laid plans of mice and men …
Clearly, we’ve achieved a lot this week but my own list has had very few items ticked off.
I was hoping to work on a blog post, start mapping out a book idea and edit the podcast. Maybe even write a newsletter. All of these are still languishing on the to do list.
And then I added something else to the ever growing list.
As we were driving to the woodturning weekend, an idea popped into my head – to write a fictionalised account of the life of my maternal grandmother. I started thinking about her life and the many challenges she had faced, and the thought that it could make a fascinating story began to percolate. I’d already done a lot of research on my family tree several years ago but, over the weekend, I renewed my Ancestry subscription and started delving into that branch of the family. I came up with some new detail and it started looking even more interesting.
On and off this week, I’ve been researching a few conundrums and contemplating the facts as part of a life story rather than just records on a website. How do you deal with four of your children dying, three in infancy and the other aged 12? How do you keep it all together when your mother dies and you’re then responsible for your father and umpteen other siblings, while holding down a job and walking miles back and forth to work every day? What’s your opinion of your husband’s mother taking up with a man almost twenty years her junior and bearing his children?
The research has been compulsive. Whenever I’ve had a moment, I’ve had a quick look at one or other of the characters. There are a couple of dark horses in amongst them. I love that one of them lived next door to a chip potato shop. That’s definitely going in the book. Several of the family were itinerant, starting off life in Warwickshire and then travelling to Yorkshire before settling in Lancashire. One of my grandmother’s uncles was a hatter. Because of the mercury used in the hat making process, many hatters suffered from mercury poisoning, which gave rise to the term mad as a hatter. This will make a sidenote to the story.
While I have a lot of data to work with, as well as stories my Mum told me, plus a few others I’ve learned over the years, inevitably I’m going to have to fill in some gaps. Call it poetic licence, call it educated guessing, some of the detail I’m going to have to make up.
What I have, though, is a brilliant starting point. By basing the book around my family tree timeline, and specifically Alice’s life, I’ve got the back story to work with and a potential outline.
At the moment, this is an as and when project but I’m thrilled by it and it’s occupying my thoughts. I’m jotting down names, dates and facts in my Lemome and on random pieces of paper as I discover them. Each find sparks new ideas.
I’m not sure yet how I’m going to approach the writing. I didn’t think I would ever contemplate writing fiction and this is going to be an amalgam of fact and fiction. Alice was never, as far as I know, a diary writer but perhaps another character could be, and I could use that as the device for telling the story. I’ve yet to decide.
My next step is to start mapping out all the characters and their back stories on index cards. Apart from Alice, I’m going to change their names. While historical accuracy isn’t critical in some areas, I want to research events of the day and incorporate some of those into the story.
It’s a while since I’ve felt so enthused about a project. I’m looking at the family tree in a new light and, although I never knew the vast majority of people listed, I’m looking forward to bringing them to life again in this book.