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Suffragette at Blists Hill

One of the highlights of this year’s RNA Conference was definitely the historical author’s event at Blists Hill, the reconstructed Victorian town at Ironbridge, the birthplace of the industrial revolution. As you can see, I went as a suffragette (what else?).

There was a great atmosphere, being there in company with so many talented historical novelists and meeting the visitors coming through on their way to experience times gone by. In a brief lull in proceedings, I took myself off to visit my favourite cottage, the squatter’s cottage.

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It’s so hard to remember, even in times of recession, the reality of life for the majority of people at a time that – in terms of human evolution – is only a breath away. The squatter’s cottage, at the edges of existence outside the Workhouse, in an age before the Welfare State, is a poignant reminder of just how little our forebears had. Ten people lived in this cottage. The beds crammed together, with more than one child to each. The single change of clothes hung up. The tiny kitchen and living area. No room (let alone light) to study for the chance to escape such poverty. No privacy. No running water and the outside toilet at the bottom of the garden next to the pig stye. And always just a broken leg or a lung infection away from losing any kind of income, and the shame of the Workhouse where families were split up and might never see each other again. And yet the cottage is warm and homely, as I’m sure it would have been, crammed to bursting with the family making the most of what they had. It was also the world that shocked the recruiters of soldiers for WW1 at the appalling state of health of so many of the inhabitants of one the richest nations in the world.

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The pig style and privy

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The bedroom

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The kitchen

I’ve been here several times before, but this time I found myself part of the exhibits. Well, I was a bit hard to miss with my extravagant hat and my ‘votes for women’ sash. The policeman on his bike was a bit uncertain meeting an unscheduled suffragette, and despite the heat peddled off rather fast, and possibly hanging on to his hat. But next to the pig stye of the squatter’s cottage I had a lively discussion on universal suffrage with a 21st century gentleman entering into the spirit of the thing. It wasn’t exactly an argument, as we both, in the end, agreed. Because, of course, all that window smashing was not where the the suffragettes began, but with the long, peaceful struggle, in the face of appalling brutality, for universal suffrage to give a voice to both men and women –  and eventually even to the inhabitants of the squatter’s cottage.

I shall be wearing my hat again – and with pride!

 

If you would like to learn more about the squatter’s cottage (which was inhabited until the 1970s), there is an excellent blog post here. And if you would like to know more about Blists Hill Victorian Town the website is here.

 

 

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The pantry – with a spot of poaching?

 

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A window into a lost world.

 STOP PRESS! The Kindle edition of ‘We That Are Left’ is currently only £1.99 – you can find the link HERE or click on the cover below.

 Buy Me

 

 

 

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So much has been written about The Great War, but it has only been recently that the full of the women who kept the country going at home, and worked to save lives both on the battlefields and behind enemy lines, has been rediscovered.

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If you are in Conwy on June 18th, I shall be at Hinton’s of Conwy from 7 – 9 talking about the women and civilians caught up in WW1, and the inspiration behind We That are Left. Entrance is free, and there will be refreshments, including cake inspired by the recipes of the time.

Places are limited, so please contact Jenny at ‘Hinton’s of Conwy’  Tel: 01492 582212  Email: jenny@hintsonsofconwy.co.uk

It will be great to see you!

 

 

And just because there are some things an author can never quite see enough of – here’s We That Are Left in its recent promotion, at number 4 in the Amazon Kindle store. I might just mention that, too … (still pinching myself)

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Thank you!

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Thank you to everyone who downloaded, posted on Facebook and tweeted and retweeted – and took We That are Left not only into the top 10 best sellers on the Amazon Kindle charts, but to the dizzy heights of number #4. Not to mention being #2 in Sagas, Family Sagas and Historical Romance.

One very proud, and slightly bemused, author here.

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WTAL 2 in Sagas

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thank you to my brilliant publishers Honno Press, shouting encouragement from the Hay Festival whenever there was a spot of Internet reception. And thank you to the lovely supportive Novelistas of Novelistas Ink, and especially Louise Marley, who was cheering me on all day, and told me I’d make it to the top 100, then the top 10, and like in the true Oscar speech this is turning out to be, I didn’t believe a word of it! I’m honoured to be up there with real (not just for a day!) best selling Novelista Trisha Ashley.

I have a feeling the next Novelistas meeting is going to involve cake.

The WW1 poppy seed cake from We That are Left seems to be the order of the day!


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Old wellies never die – they become growers of garlic!

Today I’m blogging on the Novelistas Blog about how I’ve loved seeing the gardens in this year’s Chelsea Flower Show commemorating the First World War. You can read the post HERE, and you can find my favourite garden, the Potter’s Garden HERE.

As I learnt in my research, many grand gardens were abandoned during the war, as the men left. But many new gardens were created to grow much-needed food, by women, schoolchildren and conscientious objectors, along with men too old or too young, or otherwise unable, to fight on the battlefields.  As WW1 dragged on, and shortages increased, many discussions appeared in the newspapers of the time, like this one from 1916, expressing a very modern outrage at NIMBYism (Not in My Back Yard), but with a chilling twist, that brings home the reality of daily life for its first readers: ‘We are living in the 20th century in the time of the greatest war ever known …‘ You can read the original HERE.

 

Derby telegraph allotments 1916

Derby Telegraph December 1916 Image © THE BRITISH LIBRARY BOARD. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED Image reproduced with kind permission of The British Newspaper Archive (www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk)

 

By 1918, the arguments had settled down into a dealing with the practicalities. Here,  in 1918, home grown food supplies are discussed alongside home rule for Ireland and the exchange of prisoners. You can read the original HERE

 

Liverpool Echo allotments 1918

Liverpool Echo May 1918 Image © THE BRITISH LIBRARY BOARD. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED Image reproduced with kind permission of The British Newspaper Archive (www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk)

Also in May 1918, the newspapers announced that Britain was almost self-sufficient in bread – alongside a report of a recruiting rally for the Women’s Land Army in Exeter – the delicate creatures of the pre-war world (excluding the Suffragettes, of course, who didn’t count as real women at all) have clearly gone forever! You can read the original HERE.

Land army 1918 Western Times

Western Times May 1918 Image © THE BRITISH LIBRARY BOARD. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED Image reproduced with kind permission of The British Newspaper Archive (www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk)

Where I get my delicious veg box each summer – this must have been a familiar sight in WW1, wherever you lived.

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Penrhyn Castle, with a view across Anglesey

It’s exactly a year since my three months as a full time writer, thanks to my wonderful bursary from Literature Wales, when I worked to complete We That Are Left, and learnt some invaluable lessons.

 

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Today I’m blogging on the Novelistas’ blog about my experience, and the unexpected lessons.

It was a life-changing time, and one for which I will always be grateful and will never forget!

You can read my post on the Novelistas Blog here

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In The Spotlight Guest Blog Author Juliet Greenwood….

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My interview with the lovely Roy Noble for ‘The Roy Noble Show’ on BBC Radio Wales is being aired on Mother’s Day, Sunday March 30th, between 10.30 am and 12.00 pm.

I’d only been interviewed on radio once before, so I was very nervous sitting in my little room in the BBC studios in Bangor, waiting for the voices from Cardiff to begin. But everyone was great, and Roy Noble put me instantly at my ease, so I have a feeling I chatted away like anything.

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I shall be talking about my research for ‘We That are Left’, including the brave women of WW1 who kept life going at home, and also worked on the front line, driving ambulances and picking up the dead and the dying between battles. Along with the inspiration of my own mother’s terrifying journey on the day WW2 broke out, when, as a teenager, she had to make her way on her own across France in a desperate bid to get home, including being stalked by a German submarine as her ferry crossed the Channel …..

You can find the programme by clicking on this link: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b03zq8yy

This is the WW1 poppy seed cake that I made for the staff of the BBC . Since I was in Bangor and it was vanishing fast by the time I left, I’m afraid I don’t think any of it quite made it down to the Cardiff studios! The recipe is the one I’ve posted earlier, and is also included amongst the recipes in the book.

 

WTAL at BBC Radio Wales

And this is me and my mum in more peaceful times, in our cottage in the hills in Snowdonia when I was a baby (my dad’s the one taking the photo, you can just see his shadow)Juliet and her mum at home in Snowdonia

Happy Mother’s Day!

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