Georgia Hill
I was delighted to be asked to write a guest blog by Maria Grazia but struggled long and hard as to what its subject could be! Could I, perhaps, write about how Jane Austen inspired me? Well, if only I could write even a tiny bit like that genius! Or, what about how a crush on an actor (see Richard Armitage)  finally gave me my writing voice? Oh hang on, I’ve done that one!

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?

Lyme Regis
This is what I love about the British countryside, its rich and dense historical legacy. I can wander through the remains of a tenth century castle in a nearby town, shop in a half-timbered medieval building and even walk along the promenade in Lyme Regis on which Jane Austen herself dawdled.
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!!!


Jeannie Gisborne said...

I've a;ways been fascinated with history. I come from Massachusetts which is rich in history however, we moved when I was very young to California. So I missed out on being able to visit the historical places of my country's inception. California has it's own rich history as the place of the gold rush era and the Spanish Missions all up and down the coast I live very near to one of the stay over night missions of the 1800's and it still stands as a monument to the people who built them and who worshiped in them.

Maria Grazia said...

Well, Jeannie, as you know, I live in Italy and this means plenty of (very ancient) sites of historical and artistic interest. There is so much to see and visit! You may also have noticed I love anything English. Being a teacher of English (as a chosen and loved profession), I'm also very interested in travelling in the UK and visiting the places I've studied (and taught) about in all these years .This is why I love Georgia's post above.
Many thanks to her for being my guest and to you, Jeannie, for your contribution. Happy Easter Monday!

Trudy said...

I lived near Salem, Massachusetts for ten years and absolutely loved walking the crooked streets of my seaside town to see the old houses built in colonial times. That's about as ancient as it gets here - no castles! Loved being in Europe with signs of the various centuries everywhere. Georgia, I just started reading your book last night. :)