What inspired my recent interest in the history of aviation?
I have written about the moment that my debut novel ‘Riduna’ was conceived, but for those of you who were not reading my posts back then, here’s a quick recap.
“I was standing on the Butes looking out over Alderney Harbour and Braye Beach towards Fort Albert, thinking about my father’s stories about my great grandmother Harriet Jane, who was born on the island in the late nineteenth century. We had been on several family holidays on the island of Alderney in the Channel Islands when I was young, but it was only on this holiday, when all the family had reunited on the island and I was in my late 30’s, that my dad began to talk of Harriet. As I tried to imagine her life back then and could see red coated soldiers marching along the bay from the fort towards the harbour, the seed of Riduna was planted in my mind.”
Returning to my opening question, I had a similar moment of inspiration although the setting for this could not have been more different.
I was visiting the Woolston area of Southampton with my parents one weekend; a trip down memory lane for both of them since they grew up in the area and for me it also evoked happy times visiting my grandmother who lived in Newtown Road.
We walked down to where the floating bridge used to leave the shores of Woolston for Southampton over the River Itchen, now under the shadow of the new bridge. Here we read the tastefully embossed plaque which commemorates the birth of the Spitfire. Next we ambled further north along the river’s edge to try to locate the site of Supermarine. Eventually we found the slipway in front of a higgledy piggledy assortment of buildings and from old photographs we had seen, we knew that that this was the place.
While I stood there my imagination was running overdrive thinking of the momentous events in history conceived on this very spot from ‘Supermarine
to Spitfire,’ for which we have RJ Mitchell among others to thank. Then I began to think of the effect on the local businesses, the local economy, the banter in the public houses and the lives of everyday people. My desire for a new journey of research had been granted.
This blog will be the last in my series related to the history of aviation but as soon as my new novel is published I will return; covering topics which will include:
Solent Sky – The Southampton museum in the history of local aviation
The Shuttleworth Collection – The archives, the museum itself
Aviation in the Channel Islands
Sea planes and flying boats
Sea plane development
Book reviews I used for my research
To name but a few directly to related to flight, but my reseach also took to many other places where I met an interesting variety of enthusiastic people!