I would like to contribute a groan as I extract myself from the joys of historical fiction, returning to the throes of good science and technology and women’s rights. And blinding, unbridled consumerism. I re-enter the 21st Century stage right.
Yeah, this was the latest writing task on the cards. To place your ancestors – actual or imagined – at an important historical event. Ouch, I tell you. Ouch.
My family is not one of those clans where there’s a big helping of exotic blood in the mix. Nor are we chock full war heroes – not that I understand warfare or military rank enough to wax easily about it, anyway. For all intents and purposes, my folks most likely haven’t strayed from the Black Country in several hundred years. There’s Welsh in here somewhere. (You can’t see me, but I try to point to my blood, grow confused, and wave a hand over myself in a vague gesture towards my circulatory system.) But that’s not exotic. And there is every logical chance that they were just coal miners migrating from Montgomeryshire.
Also, I know nothing about Wales.
I’ve never been up on social history either, really. I studied it once, back before I realised I had to invest my visualisation skills if I hoped to understand any of it. I roll my eyes at the adorable sixteen-year-old version of me who studied those history notes so hard. Who thought – took for granted, really – that all that knowledge would have more longevity than a tattoo transfer sticker. So I couldn’t go back too far in time, Doctor.
I settled on the Wolverhampton area and picked a pretty neat event – a woman who was allowed to vote in a local election ballot before women’s suffrage was obtained, all because of a clerical error. I placed her on the same street as my family and drew up a chance encounter. Then I cracked my neck and knuckles, rolled back my shoulders, licked my lips and channelled the Black Country accent of days gone by. Didn’t even have to buy a new Wolves strip to get into character.
It was painful to write. It wasn’t a little piece but a full-on 2,000 word story by the end. However, it was weirdly grounding. I didn’t get to read it aloud because of how long it was. But I looked around at my classmates, knowing many are from further afield, and felt pride. The suburban town I live in now is a mongrel town, really. It stands in one county but draws commuters from Birmingham and the South and other parts of the country. I like the knowledge that I’m not just passing through; that I’m one of those playful, loud-laughing working class locals. I look at my long miner’s palms, holding pens instead of pickaxes, and carry myself on the small miner’s legs which used to carry my forefathers into mines. I admire the stories of my classmates, but admire my own equally.
It’s not Christmas yet. But I feel kind of Christmassy.
Here’s a link to the delightful blog, Lost Wolverhampton, where I obtained some of my research. If any of you are ever interested in the local history of Wolverhampton and the Black Country, it’s a great place to start.