I’ve recently been reading Spitalfields Life by A Gentle Author. The chap, for I believe the author to be a chap, has a blog by the same name, which is enchanting and engrossing. Spitalfields is an area of London close to and east of the City of London, the financial district, the original London as settled by the Romans. It has a very long and interesting history, as characterised by the people who now call the place home. Spitalfields Life is a social history, recording people and places of the area in charming and gentle prose, and it’s got me hooked.
The characters in the book are portrayed very much as part of the area. Even the ones who have no real family roots at least have community roots, in that they are a well established and well known part of the area. And this got me thinking about my own history. I often feel like I was adopted or orphaned, although I believe I am neither. When I was growing up, our house was a house of secrets. Goodness knows how my mum and dad got married, because all I can remember is their intense dislike of one another. I was born only 18 months into their marriage, so by the time I became aware, they would have been married only 5 or 6 years. I don’t even know how they met. My dad was evacuated from London to Devon during the war, but I don’t know anything about that, no one would talk about anything while I was growing up. My mum never seemed to be able to tell a straight story, one day it would be one thing, the next it would be something else, so I could never rely on her telling the truth. And some things she said were so blatant a lie that even a child would not believe it. So you see how I sometimes feel disconnected, disjointed and without history. When I left home I lived all over the UK, never settling in one place for very long, so I don’t have those community roots either.
I have such a stong interest in social history. Part of my degree was Oral History and my dissertation was on what the lives of women were like after the end of the war, when the men came home, wanting their jobs back, expecting the women to go back to the home, to their kitchens. I love to know about how people live their lives, what their everyday existence is like. I’m fascinated by history, not the type of Kings and Queens but the ordinary person and how they lived. I have on order a couple of new social history books relating to London in the 18th and 19th centuries. And it’s only struck me very recently, because sometimes these things have to be blindingly obvious for me to get them. Maybe I am so interested in history and how people live and lived, because I have next to no sense of my own past. I might as well be adopted. Or an orphan. Just a thought. I might blog more about this another time.