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I’ve always thought that the year should begin in spring…

And I found out this week that it did start then in Tudor Times. Lady Day, which is the 25th of March or just after the spring solstice, was the start of the new year until 1752 when it moved to the more familiar January the first.

It’s amazing the things that you come across when you’re researching and how much time can vanish while you’re checking facts and, in my case, reading memoirs and autobiographies from the period because I really, really hate the sort of historical books where the characters react in modern ways, especially if they leap into bed without thinking of contraception or the likelihood of dying in childbirth. Or being declared a witch and burned. Or lots and lots of things that meant that a woman’s power and role was very different to what it is today.

So, at the moment I’m trying to get into the head of what it was like to be a young woman living on the South Coast during World War Two. I thought that Covid would give me an insight, and in a way it has, but there’s so much that makes me grateful for my twenty-first century life. For one thing, no one’s fire-bombing our local hospital, but it was lovely to read that local residents (including people from my home) formed a bucket chain to get it put out quickly.

Reading about how the local regiment had to politely ask the town clerk if they could come and borrow their duplicating machine (forerunner to photocopiers) because they’d left all their equipment in France at Dunkirk hit me too. But my absolute favourite was the resolutely teetotal and non-smoking Salvation Army taking up a collection to buy cigarettes and beer for the troops that were being evacuated from Dunkirk. And two local fishing boats taking the inshore lifeboat in tow and pulling it across the channel because it couldn’t keep up with the other boats but they’d need it when they got there because it was so shallow that it could get in close to shore and get the troops off the beaches.

And the men on board the Abel Tasman, who died when it was hit by a mine as it came back into what should have been a safe harbour. And the fisherman who towed the mine round to where it could be safely disposed of. There’s so much I didn’t know about the town where I’ve lived for almost forty years that it’s left me seeing everything in a new light and totally admiring the men and women of the Home Front.

Most of all, as I start my personal new year with the start of spring on Wednesday I feel so grateful for everything I have and so annoyed with myself for getting cross about stupid things like no lettuce. I’ve sown cress instead, and felt that little link to my fictional heroines who are being inspired by the real ones. By today’s standards they weren’t liberated, but they were amazing and anything but powerless and it strikes me that we could learn from them now.

So, today’s picture is of a still sea which once had enemy miles in it. Once, they even managed to set it on fire, but that’s another story for another day…


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