Ooh, there’s a nice shiny fact…
I always loved history at school, but not the big Kings and Queens and battles sort of history. (Although the Kings and Queens of England are a seriously bloodthirsty lot, especially, if like I do, you live in the Wessex area of England. I mean, what sort of loving brother rides in the opposite direction when his dear big brother the King is shot in a very suspicious hunting accident? The allegedly loving brother rides to secure the treasury, and hence the power, while giving orders for his critically injured brother to be taken to a monastery that isn’t the nearest one. Oddly enough, his brother didn’t live and his killer fled the country on a conveniently available fishing boat. But, of course, it was a coincidence. No one would have dreamed of saying anything else unless they wanted to have an accident too.)
Anyway, the current batch of research is based around World War Two, and specifically what was called the phoney war when we were at war but nothing much was happening. The Battle of Britain came all too soon afterwards, but not until the Powers that be, who were every bit as sensible then as they are now, had ordered people to be evacuated from London down to Poole, where they were conveniently under the flight path for the first raids.
This fascinates me because when we were renovating our house we found a letter under one of the floorboards from the Government warning the householder that ‘in the case of invasion’ my home would be amongst the many hundreds that would be abandoned to the Germans and the householders were not to try to leave because they’d clog the roads up for the retreating soldiers. Meanwhile, my beloved beach area down at Sandbanks was effectively sealed off and you had to have a pass to come and go even though you lived there…
My lovely first next door neighbour was born and bred in that house and lived there till her death and she told me stories of war time that sparked my imagination. One of them was of how her Aunty drove a Woman’s Royal Voluntary Service canteen van, during the bombing raids, to provide food for the men who were manning the guns that were based in our lovely park and for those who’d been bombed out.
I thought that was an incredibly brave thing to do, but Audrey just shrugged and said it was what people did back then. Just as the flying boat pilots who kept the air link between the UK and the US open were civilians and unarmed. Sometimes, when I go down to Salterns Point or look out over Whitecliffe to where the boats landed and took off, I spend a few minutes thinking about the boat girls who took passengers to and fro, again, sometimes under enemy fire, and the women who did jobs they’d never dreamed of doing.
So, there are the heroines of my next mini series of books. There’s one about Lavinia, the ghost of Lavender House that will round off the series, and two about Esther and her boss, the Professor. It’s.a very different world and yet parts of it will seem familiar to anyone who lived under the Covid restrictions.
Yes, I’m working on the last Amy for now, which will be published in April, with two new ones provisionally for September and December, and more filtering in my mind, but I think you’re going to like Esther too.
So here's a picture of a flying boat landing in Poole Harbour, courtesy of Poole Museum. Imagine this being the link between the UK and the US. Churchill and Roosevelt would have flown on one like this... and Lavinia the ghost of Lavender House fell in love with a gallant pilot. I really do feel it's time she got a happy ending, don't you?