Last word on NaNo… (for now!)

This is the fourth year I have attempted the challenge of writing 50,000 words in the month of November. I didn’t decide till the last minute, for several reasons – I was three-quarters way through another book I’m writing, I seemed to have hit a bit of a slough with writing anyway, I had an empty head – empty of any ideas.

I was undecided up until the last moment, the actual day the challenge started, November 1st and then I plunged in. The challenge is supposed to be a new novel, but I only had half-started ones, so I went for an idea I’ve been playing about with, of writing a sort of memoir, sort of family history, but using my imagination to make it more interesting and detailed than if I just tried to remember particular things from my childhood.

The connecting thread running through my stories is the River… the River in actual fact is many rivers, the Cam from my early years in Cambridge, the Mersey, the Irwell and the Medlock from living in Manchester, the Axe from living in Somerset, the Bann and the Bush from visiting Ireland so many times. I wrote quite a few stories about the Cam and my experiences, by it, on it, in it, and also its own story, where it comes from, what it’s like, where it goes and which other rivers join it on its way. I returned to the Cam with memories of it freezing over in years gone by, and from there I explored skating on the Cam and other fenland rivers and waterways, and became intrigued and involved with the story of a party of skaters in 1903 who had a tragic accident.

I started to write about the Irwell in the same way, but I got side-tracked by the actual river, and there is not much about me and my time in Manchester… something to go back to… ditto the Medlock and the Mersey.

I felt sure that since I am now living by the River Axe, a few hundred yards from it in fact, that I would write a lot of my own story; in fact I got involved in someone else’s life story, a man who died nearly sixty years ago, drowned in the Axe while trying to save someone else. While researching him, I came across a distant cousin of his, who also drowned at a similar age but in a river round he other side of the world, the  Campaspe in Victoria state,  an inland intermittent river… however in my writing the river played a very small part, I was  more interested in the life of the man before he sadly died. In turn I became interested in the pub his father owned for a few years, and then the man who built and started the pub thirty years previously – a long way from rivers, and from my own life story!

Of all the rivers I have loved the one which has featured most and in most of my novels has been the River Bush; I wrote about it, but again it was more the factual side of it… and so to with the bann, and then somehow St Brenadn was brought into my mind, St Brendan who is supposed to have gone on an amazing voyage of adventure… and suddenly I was writing about him and his companions and their experiences on the sea in boats, retelling his story. This in turn made me think of Nicholas of Lynn, a priest and monk who also went on great voyages – or so he wrote! Lynn is King’s Lynn, not far from where the skating accident happened…

Nicholas of Lynn

Somehow I moved away from English rivers to the Mighty Amazon,and my grandfather who went up it to Manaós in the early part of the twentieth century…

What a muddle it all seems looking back… a muddle but if I unpick it and reknit it in a more ordered pattern, maybe I might make something out of it all!

  1. the Cam, in it, on it, by it
  2. the Cam its composition and history and geography
  3. skating on the frozen Cam
  4. tragic skating accident in the Fens in 1903
  5. the story of the young people before and after the accident
  6. the Mersey, the Irwell and the Medlock
  7. the Axe
  8. Edwin Clogg of Looe, Cornwall
  9. Edwin Clogg of the Camberwell Hotel, Victoria
  10. the Camberwell Hotel and George Eastaway
  11. George Eastaway of Bristol
  12. Edwin John Clogg
  13. Arthur Parker the billiard marker
  14. Arthur Barker the farmer
  15. David Hoy the ship builder
  16. The  Bush and the Bann
  17. St Brendan and his voyage
  18. Nicholas of Lynn and his voyage
  19. Reginald Matthews and his journey to Manaós
  20. The Bush and my novels
  21. coracles and curaghs
  22. my writng

 

 

Family history again…

We went out for a lovely meal with friends tonight, and as often happens, the conversation drifted round to talking about family and family history and family stories.

Some sides of my family seem, only seem, more interesting than others but I actually got thinking about my mum’s paternal line, the Matthews family. Here is something I wrote about them some time ago:

My mother’s paternal family name was Matthews; she was the youngest of four children, William Alan, Audrey, Rene Beryl Lois and Phyllis Monica.

Beryl, Alan, Audrey, Monica

William Alan, always known as Alan was the eldest son of my grandfather William Reginald, always known as Reg, who in turn was the eldest son of William Henry Matthews. William Henry was always known as Billy and he was the son of yet another William Matthews, who was the son of the original William, son of Solomon Matthews.

Four Williams, photo taken about 1919

  • William Alan Matthews, 1918-2001
  • William Reginald Matthews, 1887-1962
  • William Henry Matthews, 1861-1933
  • William Matthews, 1838-1920

Four Williams, photo taken about 1892

  • William Reginald aged about five, William Henry aged about thirty-one and William aged about fifty-four.
  • William Matthews, 1813-1896

When the oldest William  was born in 1813 to Solomon Matthews and Mary Davies, Napoleon still ruled France, Prince George was regent in Britain for his father, King George III, the Tsar of Russia was Alexander I and James Madison was President of the United States. Germany and Italy had yet to be unified, slavery to be abolished and steam engines to be invented.

William Reginald sat on old William’s knee, and I sat on Reginald’s knee when I was a child – I feel as if I have touched the past.

 

Family photo

When i see old photos I somehow get drawn to imagine not necessarily the lives of these people, but the relationships between them. This is my family, my grandfather as a young and very handsome man and his three brothers. He was the eldest, and I guess in this photo he may be in his  twenties; he was born in 1887, his brother Percy in 1890, Wilfred in 1891, and Stanley, always known as Tom, in 1894. They were all born and brought up in Littlehampton on the South coast, and their father, William senior was always a dapper smart man with a great personality. William senior was called Billy by his friends, which seems to suit him.

Matthews family, William and fannyI never met any of my great-uncles as far as I know, but I think in this picture they are from left to right Tom, Wilf, Percy and my grandfather stands on the right.

 My grandfather when i knew him seemed closest to the youngest brother, Tom, and always spoke about him affectionately. Tom had four children who were called by their nicknames, Billy, Bobby, Brucie and Barrie – Bobby was a girl by the way.  However, the family as a whole were close because the brothers children, my mother, her sisters and brother and their cousins, remained in contact all their lives, and even tried to meet as often as possible when they were adults.

I’ll never know the relationship of these people from a hundred years ago, but looking at photos like this is a very good way to be creative and imaginative, and very useful as a writer!

LITTLEHAMPTON (2)Littlehampton

The Five Williams

Revisiting the past:

My mother’s paternal family name was Matthews; she was the youngest of four children, William Alan, Audrey, Rene Beryl Lois and Phyllis Monica.

Beryl, Alan, Audrey, Monica

William Alan, always known as Alan was the eldest son of my grandfather William Reginald, always known as Reg, who in turn was the eldest son of William Henry Matthews. William Henry was always known as Billy and he was the son of yet another William Matthews, who was the son of the original William, son of Solomon Matthews.

Four Williams, photo taken about 1919

William Alan Matthews, 1918-2001

William Reginald Matthews, 1887-1962

William Henry Matthews, 1861-1933

William Matthews, 1838-1920

Four Williams, photo taken about 1892

William Reginald aged about five, William Henry aged about thirty-one and William aged about fifty-four.

William Matthews, 1813-1896

When the oldest William  was born in 1813 to Solomon Matthews and Mary Davies, Napoleon still ruled France, Prince George was regent in Britain for his father, King George III, the Tsar of Russia was Alexander I and James Madison was President of the United States. Germany and Italy had yet to be unified, slavery to be abolished and steam engines to be invented.

William Reginald sat on old William’s knee, and I sat on Reginald’s knee when I was a child – I feel as if I have touched the past.

Family photo

Matthews family, William and fanny

Another photo from the family album, this time of my great-grandparents, William Henry – always known as Billy, and Fanny, née Seale. Billy’s father was also William, and his mother was also Fanny, Fanny Court. Fanny Searle’s mother was yet another Fanny, such a popular name, and despite so many little babies being given Victorian names, I’m sure none are now being called Fanny!

Back to the photo, and William Henry was born in 1861 and lived to be eighty-two, Fanny was born in 1862 and died in 1922, at the age of sixty-three! After she died, Billy married again, a woman called Annie

Behind them are their four sons, Percy, Wilfred and Stanley, known as Tom, and on the far right my grandfather William Reginald,always called Reg. I’m not sure when the photo was taken, but Reg looks to be in his early twenties so I would guess in the 1910’s.

LITTLEHAMPTON 25 APRIL 2015 (23)Where you can find William and Fanny now.

 

Lyminster, home ground

This beautiful tiny church is in the small Sussex village of Lyminster. I’m sure people must have lived in this lovely area not far from the sea, but it’s known for a fact that Alfred the Great bequeathed the village of Lullyngminster to his nephew, Osfred. Nearly 170 years later it is mentioned in Domesday, but the site of the church dates back to the time of Osfred. The actual church today is very old, nearly a thousand years old, its walls dating from about the 1040’s and its supposedly the burial-place of St Cuthflæd. It is a Grade I listed building, so it is extremely important in terms of our heritage, as well as being no doubt extremely important to the parishioners.

The peaceful old graveyard contains many memorials to people from long ago, including my great-great-great-great-grandfather, my great-great-grandfather, and my great-grandfather. They were all named William, and the tradition continued to my uncle who was also a William; there it ended as he had daughters not sons, but my own sons’ middle name is William.

Four Williams, photo taken about 1892

My grandfather aged about six, and the three other Williams

I don’t know if other members of the family were also buried there, certainly a great-great uncle was; so may of the gravestones were so encrusted with lichen that I couldn’t read who lay beneath. I wandered around in the sunshine, thinking what a beautiful and peaceful place it was.

LITTLEHAMPTON 25 APRIL 2015 (26)

 

 

Back to Littlehampton

My grandpa’s family lived in Littlehampton for most of the nineteenth and twentieth century, and there is the wife of the one remaining of his nephews. I visited many, many years ago, with my family, and then again two years ago on my own; I wandered about and found the house where my grandpa was recorded as having lived in the censuses. Of course house numbers change, but the road is the same road, and I could understand having visited how close my great-grandfather was to his work in the timber yards along the seafront.

LITTLEHAMPTON APRIL 25 2015 (4)Grandpa didn’t live here in this pretty little cottage, but he lived not far away and he would have known this place when he was growing up here.

Littlehampton, like Weston-super-Mare where I live now, was a fishing village from earliest times, and like Weston there is evidence of prehistoric peoples living along the coast here, harvesting the sea, and finding safe shelter on the higher ground.  Like Weston, there was Roman activity in the area, and once the Romans left, no doubt the native peoples lived as they had done before, fishing, farming, trading. With the fashion for sea-bathing, Weston began to attract tourists in the late eighteenth century, but it wasn’t until the railway arrived in 1841 that the village began to expand and become the focus of increasing tourism. Unlike Littlehampton, Weston never had the potential to develop as a port although traders from earliest times came up the river Axe by our little village of Uphill. The Axe is nothing like the River Arun at Littlehampton. Littlehampton became a centre for fishing and boat and ship-building, and being on the south coast was very near continental Europe to trade with.

Littlehampton maybe a much quieter place now, but it is still charming, and a pleasant place to visit on a sunny day.

Find out more about Littlehampton here:

http://www.mylittlehampton.co.uk/history.html