Distracted By The 1921 Census

Hi everyone.

I’ve never run a marathon and I never will but I think I’m right in saying that the hardest mile is not the last one but the one before that. You’re pretty much at the end of your physical and mental resources but the finishing line still doesn’t seem near enough for you to get that necessary rush of adrenaline to take you across the finishing line.

Well, I feel as if I have been running that penultimate mile with My Dear Elsie, the book I’m writing which incorporates letters sent to my grandmother by her close friend Ethel North, for over twelve months now. It was January 2021 when I last blogged to say that the book was finished (or so I thought!) and had been sent to my first three readers who’d kindly agreed to provide some initial feedback.

As I said at the end of that post, I had every intention of getting the book out by the end of 2021, especially as I was (and still am) keen for its publication to coincide with the 100th anniversary of the discovery of Tutankhamun’s tomb by Howard Carter and Lord Carnarvon (Lady Burghclere’s brother) in 2022.

Unfortunately that didn’t happen and it’s been for a combination of reasons. Firstly, I had more problems with the copyright issue on reprinting Ethel’s letters. There is copyright on old letters in just the same way as there is on any “creative” work and although I thought I was covered by a specific exemption in the Copyright and Patents Act, it turned out I probably wasn’t. It felt too risky to publish the letters without the permission of the “residual legatees” of Ethel’s will and it took over six months to get that sorted out during which time I didn’t really work on the book at all.

When I did finally get back to it, I spent a further two months going over all the feedback that my three readers had provided. Although it was generally positive, there were quite a number of things which they had brought to my attention in the manuscript and which I wanted to work through.

Then, just as I’d finished that and was ready to go to the final, final stages of editing, I had an accident and ended up in hospital with three fractures and a bleed on the brain. I’d only just recovered before I had major problems with house renovations, followed by a horrendous nosebleed just before Christmas which landed me in hospital again.

So things have not quite gone according to plan although I’m hoping that at some point I will look back on these recent challenges in my life and realise that they all happened for a reason. Only time will tell!

Anyway, I’m now working on the book again but my problem at the moment (more excuses!) is that new material has presented itself in the last few weeks which I felt I really wanted to include but may of course be just another way of procrastinating.

I watched the Downton Abbey movie when it came to terrestrial TV in January and that threw up some interesting information about the role of lady’s maids and also the marriage of Princess Mary which I wanted to research and add in. Then I realised that the 1921 census was finally available online and it was an exciting moment to find the entry for Ethel and Lady Burghclere, so more research and additions to the text followed.

Of course, it’s true of most projects that it’s often really difficult to know when to stop and “let go” of something but it’s probably also true that feeling as though you have run out of steam is a major factor, not to mention the concerns about the time and cost involved in self-publishing. However, I promise that I’m going to make one last supreme effort to keep my eyes fixed on the finishing line, picture the medal around my neck and give one last big push to get over the line.

Keep cheering for me!