Month: March 2022

Tilbury Docks, the world on the move

Tilbury Docks, the world on the move

 

TILBURY DOCKS, The world on the move.

The world has always been on the move. The Romans, the Vikings and the Polynesians all set off for new lands across the seas. Humans throughout history travelled to explore new territory, wage war, colonize or establish trade routes for exotic goods. Only in recent times has sea travel been about pure pleasure.

In the 12th century, Christian soldiers set off on crusades to the Holy Land from Dartmouth in Devon. Did you realize that all the towns ending in ‘mouth’ have the river name as their prefix? So, Dartmouth is on the mouth (i.e. the opening to the sea) of the river Dart. Similarly, Plymouth is on mouth of the river Ply and Bournemouth on the mouth of the river Bourne. You get the drift. It’s fun discovering word origins.

Near ancient Dartmouth Castle on the west bank of the river Dart is a tidal inlet called Warfleet Creek. It makes for a peaceful site today for a Devon picnic but in 1147 and 1190 it was the spot for the gathering of hundreds of ships and thousands of keen crusaders eager to sail to and claim the Holy Land.

A Brave New Start from Tilbury Docks

Similarly, centuries later, the Tilbury Docks became the launching point for many British and Europeans to emigrate to places as far away as Australia. Many Australians are descended from such travelers to the colonies.

The Tilbury Docks replaced the original East and West India Docks that operated close to London. The coming of the railways and the increased size of ships prioritized deep water over closeness to the city because now the railway could bring people from inner London to the Thames estuary. Tilbury in Essex on the north shore of the Thames was an excellent site. Here, downstream from London Bridge, the river looped southwards through the river estuary marshlands. Here also there was land available and the convenient South end railway that linked the Tilbury Ferry.

Tilbury linked Britain to its Empire

At the dawn of the steam ship era in 1886, Tilbury was a progressive project to connect Britain to its Empire. But like any project, there were issues. The freemasons employed went on strike in 1889 citing hard work for little pay. Indeed, their pay seems incredible to a modern reader- just 6d or 5c an hour. Some concessions were made, and work continued but workers again went on strike in 1912.

The year 1912 is an interesting year as in April that year the unsinkable Titanic set forth on its maiden voyage across the Atlantic to New York. But the world’s most splendid liner never reached American shores but sunk beneath the waves of the icy Atlantic near Newfoundland taking the bulk of the passengers with it.

Also in 1912, my grandparents, Winifred and Walter, set sail for a brave new start on the SS Rangatira steam ship, a far less splendid craft. Despite the sinking of the ill-fated Titanic and family concern, they still travelled all the way from Tilbury Docks to Sydney Harbour. I fictionalized their meeting and romance aboard the Rangatira in my historical fiction novel, Whispers through Time.

British Migrate to Australia from Tilbury Docks

For many Australians Tilbury Docks were the point of embarkation to Australia for either themselves or their forebears. Before World War II, Ten Pound Poms as they were called at the time, came in their thousands on this assisted passage scheme to start a new life. Later after the war, Europeans came too, escaping war ravaged Europe, to work as skilled migrants on the Snowy Mountains Hydro Scheme.

The traffic was not just one way. Tilbury not only farewelled but welcomed people. The current multi-cultural population of Britain is due to these arrivals. Caribbean migrants in the late 1940’s, travelled on the SS Empire Windrush to start a new life, lured by the offer of work and housing. Other nationalities also arrived from the outposts of the British Empire such as Africa and India.

Tilbury Docks may not be as exotic a location as the Taj Mahal or as steeped in history as The Tower of London but the docks have established their place in history.

Tilbury Docks in films

Like other iconic seaports, Tilbury Docks have also established their place in film. Wikipedia informs me that John Wayne’s smuggling operation in the movie Branigan took place at Tilbury. Also, the boat chase scene in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade was filmed not in Venice as suggested in the plot but at Tilbury. The docks also feature in the Jude Law film, Alfie (2004), Batman Begins (2005) and as the arrival point for Paddington Bear in the 2014 film, Paddington.

Just another slice of history to add to my growing history blog. Thank you for reading.

Joni Scott is an Australian author with two published novels: Whispers through Time and The Last Hotel. Joni also co-hosts a women’s blog; https://whisperingencouragement.com/ and has her own website; https://joniscottauthor.com.

Check out these bookstores;

Berkelouw Online Bookstore, https://authoracademybookstore.com.au

Harry Hartog Bookseller

A Cure for CRPS

A Cure for CRPS

What is CRPS?

CRPS. What the hell is that? How often do we see an acronym, a sequence of letters that does not register recognition? Well, the answer to what the hell is CRPS? Is just that ‘hell.’ The words may you ‘burn in hell’ may as well define CRPS.

Dubbed ‘the most painful disease known to humankind’ and ‘the suicide disease’, CRPS or Complex Regional Pain Syndrome, is a neurological condition characterized by intense pain, burning, inflammation, swelling and loss of movement.

It is a disproportionate response by the sympathetic nervous system to an injury to an extremity, a foot or hand. Often the initial injury is minor, a sprained ankle, a broken toe or wrist. But for some reason in some unfortunate people, the body responds by establishing a pattern of self-harm that can spread through the body in time, rendering the individual a cripple incapacitated by pain 24/7.

It can happen out of the blue to young or old, healthy or not. Millions world-wide suffer this incurable disease. All doctors can offer is pain relief via CBD oil or ketamine infusions and ongoing physiotherapy. Why am I writing about this in my usual history blog? The answer is I write this not to elicit pity but to give hope to others. You may have CRPS or know someone with it.

Oh, no! I have CRPS.

CRPS chose to attack me in January 2020 after a routine surgery for a broken right wrist. Plunged into excruciating pain, I could not comprehend what was happening to me. I googled and googled trying to come to terms with my diagnosis. I cried for days as all sites confirmed the prognosis of ‘incurable’, ‘debilitating’.

Until I dared the universe by typing in ‘cure for CRPS’. Not expecting any response, just ‘n0 results’, I was cheered to see the words ‘CRPS Italy’ and another Complex Truths.org. detailing treatments at clinics in North Italy. I read on, thankful I am a biochemist and could understand the medical jargon.

It seemed despite the defeatism of all the other sites, that there was a chance, a good chance of recovery for this dreadful condition. 100% within a year of diagnosis and at best 70% for individuals who had suffered longer. Compared to the cost of long-term pain relief and physiotherapy, over many years, the treatment in a clinic over two weeks seemed reasonable. Plus, a trip to beautiful Italy alone would surely cheer the soul!

The crippling pain spread to my shoulder and neck, immobilizing my entire upper right side. I felt there was no time to lose. With the help of my son and an interpreter, I booked treatment for the infusions for March 3, 2020. This necessitated flights from Australia to Rome then a train trip to Genova.

OFF in search of a cure!

All seemed to be going well for me until Coronavirus erupted in North Italy just days before my flight. As the virus already threatened Asia through which I had to fly, I could not get a refund. I am so glad now because if I had not gone then in early 2020 during that small window of opportunity, then when would I have been able to? Australia and many countries closed their borders soon after and Covid 19 became a global pandemic.

Yes, I received my treatment, four Neridronate infusions over a fortnight in a beautiful clinic set high on the hill overlooking Genova harbour. Yes, I recovered 90% of my function so that today I am only limited by residual stiffness in my right side that could have been prevented if I had been able to access rehabilitation soon after the treatment.

LOCKDOWNS, 1, 2,3 and 4

But instead of a restorative holiday afterwards, my husband and I had to flee Italy. While I was in hospital, lockdowns 1, 2 3 and 4 closed Italy. There were no ristorantes or cafes open to enjoy the usual vibrancy of Italian life. Borders to the east and north had closed. Only the French Italian border was still open. We set off from Genova railway station escorted by local police. All tourists had to leave.

After reaching the border and finding San Remo deserted, we continued on to Nice, hoping to find a hotel and reschedule our flight home. Our pre-booked three-week holiday, post treatment, could no longer happen as all borders were closing making being a tourist untenable. Also, to our alarm, hotels were closing one by one, like a pack of dominoes. Unable to secure a flight on our visits to a barely-functioning Nice airport, we took refuge in hotel after hotel, unsure of our immediate future. We met similarly stranded people from all over the world. They all had interesting stories.

At that point, I knew I would write up my story about CRPS if I recovered so others would know of the ‘cure’. But one day at the airport we met a young ballet dancer, a mother with a teenage daughter and a very helpful young chef from Torquay, all trying to get flights home. Why not add the plight of these people into my book and write not a non-fictional true story but a blend of fiction and true life?

THE LAST HOTEL

That was the moment when The Last Hotel was born, my story of love and loss, of lockdown and family, my story of hope. While recovering at a snail’s pace, I tapped out my ideas onto my old battered iPad. I could only use my left hand so it was a one -handed slow process, particularly for capital letters and punctuation. Once we finally arrived home in Queensland, Australia, I continued the writing in lockdown finishing the book in five months.

As I could not edit the typing easily, I sent the book to Tellwell for a tidy up. The result is I believe the only novel with a CRPS affected character (Maggie). But there are many other more interesting characters to meet, stranded in my last hotel. An inspiring novel based on a true story. Be encouraged on my women’s blog site./https://whisperingencouragement.com/

Joni Scott is an Australian author with two published novels: Whispers through Time and The Last Hotel. Joni also co-hosts a women’s blog; https://whisperingencouragement.com/ and has her own website; https://joniscottauthor.com.

 

Down the Rabbit hole in search of Hampstead Heath

Down the Rabbit hole in search of Hampstead Heath

Down the Rabbit hole in search of the Heath.

Down the Rabbit Hole of Research

Historical research can be likened to falling down a rabbit hole-Alice in Wonderland style. What may seem a curious but straight forward exploration becomes before long a ‘curiouser and curiouser’ foray, to borrow from Alice’s words. You pop down for a moment in time but emerge hours later, whirling from your discoveries.

Charged with fascinating facts, the trajectory of your novel takes an unexpected detour which ultimately, on reflection, was a good outcome. I am now a firm believer that detours are not a nuisance but actually where you were meant to go anyway. Straight lines are after all just boring paths from point A to B, aren’t they? Life is what happens when you have other plans.

The Hardy Tree and Hampstead Heath

So that is how The Hardy Tree (see my first blog) entered my Whispers through Time novel. Family research led to the Parish Church of St Pancras which led to The Hardy Tree then to Thomas Hardy himself etc. Similarly, as the Reeseg family featured in the novel lived nearby in Hampstead, I learnt about beautiful Hampstead Heath and its long history as a common space for London’s people.

Hampstead Heath entered the pages of history way back in 986 A.D when the seemingly unprepared king, Ethelred the Unready, granted the people land at ‘Hemstede, ’then owned by Westminster Abbey. Even in the 19th century, Hampstead was on the outskirts of London, so back then it really would have been in the boondocks.

Hampstead Heath occupies 790 acres on a sandy ridge that connects Hampstead to Highgate. As the largest area of common space in London, it has through the centuries offered the freedom and beauty of nature to all and a venue for runners, walkers and kite flyers. The heath features over 25 ponds that fill as rain falls due to the clay underneath.

These ponds originated from damming a tributary of the River Fleet way back in 1777 with the purpose of supplementing the city’s water supply. In time some of these larger ponds functioned as ‘segregated by gender’ swimming pools and model boat sailing ponds.

The geography of this area makes it one of the higher parts of London. From Parliament Hill, visitors can survey the changing London skyline. Golder’s Hill Park on the western end occupies the site of an original grand house destroyed in World War II. Unlike the rest of the free to range heath, this area is fenced and closed at night. It features a duck pond, a deer sanctuary, butterfly garden and small zoo.

Hampstead Heath in Literature

In Whispers through Time, Gustave, my great uncle, runs and cycles through the greater heath with his younger sisters, Winifred and Francesca. Reuben, Francesca’s love interest also frequents the heath to bemoan his fate as a star-crossed lover, torn between love and duty to his family and religion.

I am certainly not the only writer to use this beautiful public park as a setting for parts of a novel. The Heath provides the opening backdrop for Wilkie Collins’ Victorian novel, Woman in White. Bram Stoker also partly set his gothic tale, Dracula (1897) on the Heath. The undead character, Lucy now a vampire abducts children from the Heath. This book is a must-read for not only its dark tale but its classic vampire characters and Gothic setting in a Transylvanian castle. Written as a series of letters and diary entries, it is a riveting read, despite the passing of time since its writing.

Another more modern novel, John le Carre’s, Smiley’s People, also uses the heath as the murder scene of General Vladimir.

To experience more of Hampstead Heath immerse yourself in the historical novel, Whispers through Time based on the real-life story of my maternal grandparents who emigrated from London to Sydney in 1912, just months after the Titanic sinking, (see previous blog on The Titanic)

yes, there are still some real bookstores in Australia;

https://authoracademybookstore.com.au,

Harry Hartog Bookseller ,

Berkelouw Online Bookstore

Whispers through Time-The Titanic

Whispers through Time-The Titanic

TITANIC, an unsinkable tragedy

Even after its sinking on an icy cold April night long ago in 1912, the Titanic has proved to be an unsinkable story of human tragedy.

Indeed, The RMS Titanic lives on as a cautionary tale of what can go wrong when ego and greed overpower responsibility and safety concerns. This tragic tale is endlessly fascinating despite the ship’s loss to the icy depths of the Atlantic over a century ago.

The ill-fated Titanic is the subject of many books such as the definitive A Night to Remember by Walter Lord (1956) and Titanic, An Illustrated History by Don Lynch (1992). The ship features in Stephen Weir’s book, History’s Worst Decisions and is even the inspiration for a children’s book called Polar, the Titanic Bear, about the actual teddy bear of a little boy who survived the sinking.

Speaking of which, there is one last book I just have to mention that is also a fascinating read. Shadow of the Titanic follows the lives of the survivors of that terrible night. Interestingly, most of them had sad lives and many died young and even quite soon after the event. The little boy who owned the teddy bear died in a family car crash within a year and is just one example of the long shadow that the Titanic cast over people’s lives. Some folks never recovered from family losses while others bore survivor’s guilt that prevented their happiness.

The Titanic tragedy keeps giving

Yes, the Titanic story is one that keeps on giving. There is so much to fascinate, so many lessons about human nature to appreciate.

As a long-time enthusiast of all things Victorian, the story interested me long before the blockbuster 1997 Titanic film produced by James Cameron. I had already watched the earlier film starring Barbara Stanwick and seen and read films and books where the Titanic had sailed in, including my own, creating a setting for many tragic storylines. I confess to Titanic jigsaws and scale models as well.

But all the tragedy could have been averted if someone like Bruce Ismay, Captain Smith or the ship builder, Thomas Andrew had read another book by a little-known author named Morgan Robertson. In 1898, he wrote a novel about a transatlantic liner loaded with the rich and famous that hit an iceberg near Newfoundland at similar co-ordinates to the 1912 liner. The ship, eerily called the Titan had very similar specifications to the actual Titanic.

If only someone had read this book, aptly titled Futility.

What caused the Titanic tragedy?

It is telling of human nature that we are drawn to details of tragedies. Perhaps it is because there is so much to take away and reflect on. The factors that caused the real-life Titanic tragedy are themselves endlessly fascinating. In this instance there were a myriad of fateful errors both human and natural.

Titanic was steaming ahead in a fateful race with Time itself. Captain Edward Smith confidently ordered her throttled into full steam so she could arrive in New York ahead of schedule. He along with Bruce Ismay, director of White Star Line wanted to showcase her capabilities as the biggest ship ever to sail the seas. It was Smith’s last commission at sea so this would be a fitting end to his career. A timely six day crossing of the Atlantic was important for both men. But thousands of others would have preferred to just arrive.

The Titanic had everything but lifeboats

Neither man seemed concerned by reported ice warnings in the ocean ahead, nor overly mindful of his responsibility to the cargo of 2240passengers, despite the paucity of lifeboats. The Titanic had everything anyone could want on board a ship except lifeboats. Even at two thirds capacity of its possible number of passengers there were only enough for 1178 people, leaving 1023 others stranded. That is only too if the lifeboats were fully loaded which was definitely not the case. Many that could take 65 people, left with less than twenty aboard. Some of these fortunate were extremely wealthy and influential women along with children and even first-class men.  Most second and third-class passengers went down with the ship.

If it were not for the speed, the inattention to ice, the lowered bulkheads, the limited lifeboats, the missing binoculars on the watch deck, the steel, the pop rivets, the last-minute attempt to swerve around the iceberg…. So may ‘ifs, so many factors that coalesced to cause tragedy.

Then apart from the ship’s construction, the speed and human factors there was the bad luck that the only nearby ship, the Californian turned off its telegram service and retired all staff to bed, even after sighting a flare rocket. ‘We thought it was a just a party,’ the captain claimed in defense.  Words that went down in history like those of Captain Smith. ‘I cannot imagine any condition which would cause a ship to founder. Modern shipbuilding has gone beyond that.’

Titanic lives on in literature

There is so much more I could write about this Titanic subject. Many have. Instead, I chose some human-interest snippets to include in two chapters of my historical fiction novel, Whispers through Time. This book is based on my grandparent’s journey from London to Australia on a steamer ship, the Rangatira in June 1912, just months after the sinking of the ill-fated liner.

The tragedy was recent news. It is a wonder they still travelled into the ice infested waters of the southern oceans. But they did and even retraced the journey two years later through U boat infested waters to return to England as grandfather was called into military service. He was still part of the British Army, having served already in the Boer Wars when he was just sixteen. Their story continues on in the sequel released this year, Time, Heal my Heart.

Follow my history blogs on https://joniscottauthor.com

Joni Scott is an Australian author with two published novels: Whispers through Time and The Last Hotel. Joni also co-hosts a women’s blog; https://whisperingencouragement.com/ and has her own website; https://joniscottauthor.com.

Australian readers check out Author Academy Bookstore, https://authoracademybookstore.com.au

 

 

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