It hasn’t really been a week for getting much writing done as most of it was spent in the wonderful city of Edinburgh where I combined a day of intensive research with another couple of days of equally intensive sight-seeing. So what if those pesky pandas were taken off show? Everything else came up trumps including, remarkably the weather.
Of course the one day I had to spend in the National Library of Scotland (lunch-break spent with last week’s blog guest Jane – her book is out now, don’t ya know) was never going to be enough. I had also hoped to spend some time in the City Library finding out more about Victorian Edinburgh but somehow that just didn’t happen. Still, I did get a lot out of my trip and it made me realise there’s more than one purpose (or outcome) to research.
In the end most of my time was spent studying the letters of D.O. Hill, and although this began as an exercise in establishing facts (who did he write to, when and about what) I realise by the end that since I am after all writing fiction, it wasn’t so much about getting to the truth as finding inspiration, in particular ideas for the kinds of things going on in his life in the years that general histories of photography have ignored. And then there were insights into his family life, the part played by sisters, cousins and aunts, and the warm relations he maintained with his late wife’s family, in some ways as close to him as his own. So in the end I did learn a lot about Edinburgh in the 1840s and 50s since these primary sources brought home the reality of the extended Victorian family and other aspects of life more vividly than any text book.
For instance, who would have thought that travellers routinely walked from Queensferry to Dunfermline? But when I checked the distance it is actually 7 miles. Perfectly walkable. But who would do it now?
Meanwhile – I may not have mentioned here that I recently had a suprise win in the Southville Writers Flash Fiction contest (my entry’s here) and last night was delighted to accept my prize of a copy of Jo Reed’s Tyranny of the Blood and vouchers for a certain online bookstore. Now it’s time to get my head down. As for the book I spotted in the NLS book shop and was too mean to buy. I feel a spot of self-indulgence coming on.