Tag Archives: researching for a novel

“Where there’s life there’s hope, and need of vittles.” ~ JR Tolkein

Download from quotefancy.com for wallpaper

I love this quote. It is almost a Pooh~ism!

As a writer I am always stirred by the generosity of spirit of people I meet in terms of giving time, effort and finances to support those in need. I also find stories of resilience and fortitude of folks heartwarming ~ how people are brought to rock bottom by their circumstances, often through no fault or action of their own, find the courage to rise up once more.

I particularly love the work of Emmaus, with so many wonderful stories of how the organisation has changed people’s lives by providing a purpose, work and community life and the chance to give something back.

This is what Micheal wrote:

“”Without Emmaus, I don’t think I would be around right now and it has given me a lifeline to a better future. I was first homeless at the age of seven with my mother and continued to be homeless on-and-off for nearly 20 years before finding Emmaus.”

To read Micheal’s full story please click on this link. Micheal’s Story

Unfortunately the virus has stalled a great deal of the usual work of Emmaus ~ their workshops, shops and delivery to name three areas, but the organisation has continued to support those in great need throughout. Emmaus is a UK wide organisation. There is almost certainly one near where you live. https://emmaus.org.uk/

It is people like Michael’s who inspired me to write Dot’s story in MISSING Past and Present. 

~ not only to write about the tragedy of circumstances that led to Dot’s homelessness, but also the network of support for her, once she was mentally at a point when she could accept help, because to do this and to ask takes a great deal of courage.

That is so apparent in the current crisis. People like to be independent and do not wish to be reliant on others, but once the step is taken it is such a relief to know that support is close by; overwhelming even.

Even closer to home I am sure you have noticed that there’s so much community spirit. It is certainly the case around here but I’m sure there are similar stories in the rest of the UK and even around the world, inspired by the needs provoked by Covid 19.

Locally there’s KSS, Kinghorn Support Squad, which if you read quickly looks like KISS ~ a lovely name. This support group was set up by our Provost about three years ago for those casual volunteers who did not want to join a group on a regular basis, but were happy to help out whenever they could. Examples of this was setting up and dismantling the furniture for the village show and also as Marshalls for the Black Rock Race.

Through this crisis this group have been stalwarts, available for food and medication drops and delivering letters and postcards explaining where folks can ask for help or arrange deliveries if they need it. In fact many, many more have volunteered to be part of KSS to become paet of the steering group, street coordinators and on hand to sort out local Foodbank drops if necessary. It is often the street coordinators who keep in touch with people locally and sort out any needs as they arise; a network ensuring that no person is missed or forgotten.

The church and the Lunch Club for the elderly have also been involved, as they always have, in ensuring everyone is safe and has someone to talk to and to help them.

In our neighbouring town of Burntisland BEAT has been established and their remit is quite wide, including  dog walking, providing toys for children in need and also food drops, organised through a central hub rather than the satellite approach of Kinghorn.

Each  way has been developed with the needs of the local communities in mind and show a resilience and caring attitude which prevails, whatever the circumstances.

The Kirkcaldy Foodbank continues with its support and although in the first few weeks the need grew exponentially and the provisions sourced from local supermarkets on a regular basis was scarce, they have continued to be the back bone in ensuring that no person locally goes hungry or lacks essential toiletries. In fact there has been a huge drive to give the Foodbank extra support through this time, both in terms of food and donations of money.

It is easy to become overwhelmed by the need, like a vast almost impenetrable chasm, but Michael and Dot’s stories are uplifting and ensure that we are left with an overriding sense of HOPE.



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Filed under Events, Fife, MISSING Past and Present, Planning a novel, Research, Writing a novel

Winchester Hampshire Regiment Museum ~ Many thanks

In Ancasta, one of Harriet’s sons worked in a bicycle shop before WW1. I knew there was a bicycle shop in Woolston having discovered a wonderful book of collected memories, of people in Woolston and the surrounding area, in Southampton Library about ten years ago. It just goes to show how a snippet of information gleaned many years before can pop into your  head when planning a new novel.

Well,Tom, that’s the name of this young man, led me a merry dance and I’ll explain why:

I had found a list of the Hampshire Regiments on the internet and was pleased to discover the  9th (Cyclist) Battalion. Perfect, I thought, and I began to scribe ideas for possible chapters. My immediate thought was that he could be a messenger on the Front, until I found to my horror that men fought on bicycles during the Great War much like charging on horseback. I was beginning to feel out of my depth here and so the best way forward was to seek an expert, so I turned to the Regiment Museum in Winchester.

Firstly I spoke to a helpful lady, the assistant curator Rachel Holmes, who kindly photocopied the most detailed account they had of the Battalion’s movements. I had already discovered a limited amount on the internet. (I quickly learnt never rely on the internet for research, unless you can find at least two sites to back up your findings, and even then it’s best to find hard evidence) I soon realised that my man never set foot in France at all, or even in Europe for that matter. It took a while before he was even posted, but in the end he went much further afield than that. I won’t spoil the story by telling you the details, but he travelled to a much more exotic part of the world, and being a timid sort of a chap, it was quite a harrowing experience.

Anyway, once I had drafted my couple of chapters I telephoned Rachel again, and thanked her for her help, asking if she would mind reading my chapters through and giving me feedback. It was at this point that she introduced me to Lt Colonel Colin Bulleid, the curator of the museum, who read the part of my manuscript, picking me up on valuable points like, ‘Tom would not have been able to carry a full pack on his back whilst cycling,’ the correct usage of the terms ‘unit’, ‘section’ and ‘battalion’, suggestions that I refer to the censored details of letters…..

There was one point though, which would have changed the whole direction of several chapters of the story, so I gave him a call and asked him what he thought. His reply was,

‘You know Diana, I had to let you know what I thought about it, but since you probably now know as much if not more about the 9th Regiment than anyone else, then I’d take a lot of my comments with a pinch of salt if I were you.’

I laughed and thanked him again, claiming poetic licence. After all, when all is said and done,

Ancasta ~ Guide me Swiftly Home is fiction.

However real the characters are to me now!

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Filed under Ancasta, Historical Fiction, Proof Reading, Research, Writing a novel