|Richard Armitage was Georgia's muse|
So what could I write? While thinking about it I did pen a short piece on one of my favourite flowers – the snowdrop – but that just didn’t seem right somehow for Maria’s site. It didn’t help that her request to guest blog came right in the middle of a very busy term (my paying job is as a teacher) plus we had an inspection – something that always strikes fear into the hearts of a UK teacher!
January turned to February, February leaked into March and still not a word had been written. My admiration for professional writers grew – those people who, when asked to provide a thousand words on a given subject do, often with wit and verve. Not to mention having a deadline to meet. When I’m given a deadline, my reaction is for a shutter to close down on the creative part of my brain (I have one occasionally!). It’s just as well I’m not a journalist or copywriter.
Then I went away for a weekend in Devon and inspiration finally struck. Hurray!
I’m lucky to live in one of the most beautiful parts of the UK (I think) and am even luckier to have a tiny bolthole by the sea in Devon.
Once the Friday rush of packing up the car, getting two frisky spaniels into their harnesses (no mean feat in itself) and fighting through the Friday evening traffic is over, we arrive in a peaceful Devon village. On the way, we’d passed an ancient Roman fort, travelled along a Roman road, passed close to the Regency splendour of Bath, over the hard fought Welsh/English border, spotted Glastonbury Tor on the horizon and drove over a key English Civil War battlefield. All in the space of a two and a half hour drive! Such is the multi-layered density of history in the UK.
I love history. My father left his legacy of World War 1 books and his passion for that period. When older, I studied history for my degree, although it was nineteenth century political history and not terribly enthralling, if I’m honest. It did however introduce me to Elizabeth Gaskell and that led me to a whole other passion twenty years later!
Teaching history to young children reignited my interest in the more human aspects of the subject. I mean, just how did the Tudor housewife get rid of household waste? And, what was the relationship really like between the British tribes and their Roman invaders?
History seems very close – and literary - in some places. In Jane Austen’s cottage in Chawton Hampshire, you can see the tiny table on which she wrote. In Sussex you can visit Rudyard Kipling’s study in his house, Batemans. And on Haworth Moors in Yorkshire you can follow where the wild Bronte sisters strode. These can be tourist hot spots and ones to which I’ve paid due homage but the Beer Quarry caves in Devon are equally atmospheric and visited by fewer people. Here you can put your finger onto an eighteenth century quarryman’s marks – and wonder what sort of man Anthony Northcott was! I once rented an early Victorian house, which had the initials EWB etched into a window – in perfect copperplate handwriting. There’s something visceral about tracing over another’s written marks – like placing your fingertip into history. And of course, the writer in me can’t help wonder who EWB was, why he or she was living in that house and what sort of life they led.
It’s the same with my little Devon cottage. I have a photograph of it being built in 1885, the workers complete with top hats and handlebar moustaches. Those hands laid the bricks which surround me as I write this. And good solid Victorian builders they were too; they built history to last.
I’ve travelled a lot but rarely felt the same connectedness to history that I do in the UK. I’m sure it’s because I know more about British history but perhaps it’s also to do with the humble nature of some of the history I’ve described – a working man’s inscription in a quarry, or an unknown inhabitant scratching initials on a windowpane!
Georgia Hill x
Georgia Hill is the author of ‘Pursued by Love’ and ‘In a Class of His Own’ both available from http://www.escapewithabook.com She is a teacher and writer and lives in Herefordshire, England.
On 7th, 8th and 9th April Georgia Hill's In a Class of His Own is available on Kindle Store for free!!!