Do you believe in serendipity and synchronicity? The strange forces at play when various unrelated events appear to coincide with each other? As 2013 drew to a close, I had my own piece of inexplicable synchronicity.
In my last post, when I reflected back on two years of writing a blog, I told how it came about that my severely dyslexic son is now in a school for dyslexic children. This hasn’t just been a change for him but also for me as it’s meant the end to my career and working life in London. His wonderful school is in the wrong direction to London and there are absolutely no means by which I can do the school run both ends of the day whilst working in London. So, I’ve had to give up my London-based career of 30 years, and once he settled in his new school last term, I was about to start looking around for a new one.
Just as I was about to start making my plans, into my email inbox flew an unsolicited email from a commissioning editor from Amberley Publishing – a mainstream publisher of local and specialist history book. The editor had read my blog and wanted to talk to me about commissioning me to write a history book! Much toing and froing of emails went backwards and forwards between us until finally, just before Christmas, they agreed to commission not just one, but three history books from me. I now appear to have a new career as a fledgling author of local history books. A strange coincidence that just when, for the first time in my adult life, I had time on my hands to write and needed a new career, Amberley Publishing were looking for new authors and stumbled across my blog. Coincidence or synchronicity?
So now, I’m officially researching for my books and will be writing each of them in the coming months and years. If you have read my blog over the last two years, you will know that I am an obsessive collector of old vintage postcards – particularly those depicting our country’s rich past – moments in time captured by our ancestors through their camera lenses. It will be no surprise to you, therefore, that each of my books is based around vintage postcards on a particular theme or subject.
Here are the titles and release dates for each of my books.
Bishop’s Stortford Through Time
(publication date: late 2014)
This book continues Amberley Publishing’s Through Time series of fully illustrated books which traces towns and villages of Britain by comparing vintage postcards to modern-day photographs. My book will tell the story of this Hertfordshire market town through postcards dating from the first half of the twentieth century, compared to modern day photographs of the same locations. Bishop’s Stortford has a rich heritage and rural past before urban regeneration took place and transformed it into the large sprawling town it now is, with a growing population of just under 40,000. I hope to capture some of its past in my book and show the town as it once was in its Edwardian and pre-First World War heyday.
Bishop’s Stortford – The Old Boar’s Head
Bishop’s Stortford – Cricket Field Lane
Bishop’s Stortford – The River Stort
Sudbury, Lavenham and Long Melford Through Time
(publication date: Summer 2015)
Continuing Amberley Publishing’s Through Time series of illustrated books about Britain’s towns and villages, this book will trace these three beautiful medieval Suffolk wool towns through Edwardian, pre-First World War and inter-war postcards. It is ironic that the continuing existence of many of Suffolk’s outstanding medieval buildings bear testimony to the collapse of the wool trade in the area. This collapse led to rural poverty, which, in turn, meant that many medieval Suffolk buildings were left in tact and were not “enhanced” or replaced by the enterprising Victorians. Many Edwardian postcards of these three towns show these medieval buildings – which were once homes and trading-places of fabulously wealthy merchants – but in the Edwardian period reduced to unsanitary and poverty-stricken living quarters. Modern photographs will show how these buildings have been restored in modern times to their former medieval glory.
Lavenham, The Guildhall of Corpus Christi
Long Melford, The Green
Sudbury, Thomas Gainsborough’s birthplace
Postcards from the Front: Britain 1914-1919
(publication date: Summer 2016)
During the Great War (and in the years immediately afterwards), soldiers, sailors and nurses regularly sent home postcards to their loved ones. With the censors removing anything which could give away the sender’s location or military strategy, most soldiers posted simple messages sending their love to all at home. In amongst the hundreds of thousands (if not, millions) of postcards sent home from the Front, some postcards have short messages giving fuller testimony to experiences of war. This book recounts the stories of a few of Britain’s men and women who served in the Great War through their postcards home. This book was entirely inspired by my post Postcards from the Front – from you loving son. I am so happy that I have been given the opportunity to turn this one post into a full book and so can retell the stories of some of the men and women who gave their today for our tomorrow.
Postcards from the Front: Christmas Day in the trenches 1916
The flag we are willing to sacrifice our lives for in order that they may continue to float over free peoples. What I tale I will have to tell you all later of a Xmas day in the trenches. Fred
The future of my blog?
Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to persuade Amberley Publishing to commission a Through Time book on Great Dunmow as the population of the town isn’t big enough. A shame in one respect because I have so many previously unpublished postcards of the town, but good in another respect because it means I can keep blogging my stories about Great Dunmow – which, for contractual reasons, I wouldn’t have been able to do, if I was writing a book about the town. So my blog will continue… when I have time to write posts.
I would also like to find a publisher for a book retelling some of my stories about Tudor Essex. For example: the witches of Tudor Essex; the assize judge who condemned many Essex people to death; and the (not so) invisible women of Tudor Essex. If any publisher or e-publisher would like to commission me to write a book on Tudor Lives of Essex, I would love to hear from you. In the meantime, I hope to continue to write stories about the Tudor Lives of Essex folk on my blog.
A plea for help…
If you can help me in any way with vintage postcards of subjects for any of my books, please do get in touch with me at thenarrator[at]essexvoicespast.com. Or, if you can help me with access to any areas – schools, churches, stately homes – so that I can take modern-day photographs of the towns and villages I am writing about, please do contact me.
There is one final part of strange coincidences to this story. Amberely Publishing are based in the small Cotswold town of Stroud – the very town where I grew up and spent my formative teenage years. A town I once knew and loved well. I hope to be spending some happy hours revisiting my childhood roots when I visit “my” publishers.
© Essex Voices Past 2014