Sunday 29 June 2014

Next Week

Last week my daughter had major surgery. She was operated on in a specialist unit at the University College Hospital in London. There were four surgeons operating on her. It was a long process and the surgeons told us afterwards that it had been a particularly complicated procedure. Thankfully the operation was a success and I have nothing but praise for all the staff at the UCH.

I recently blogged about endometriosis. It's a very painful condition that sticks the bowel, uterus, bladder and other organs together. The only way to cure it is to have it removed surgically. That's why my daughter's operation was so complicated. She's got a lot of healing to do now so I have become Nurse Mum and I'm staying with her until she gets a bit stronger.

It would never have been a 'good time' for this to happen and this is not a good time. I should be jumping up and down about The Children's Book of Richard III but that's going to have to wait until next week...

Next week I'll post up the link for people to order a copy.

Next week I'll post up photographs of piles of books. I haven't yet seen a copy but my publisher tells me that they have arrived from the printers and that they are amazing.

Next week, hopefully, things will be a little easier for my daughter. Only then will I be able to jump up and down and I shall do it with gusto and I shall make all sorts of Richard III-type noises!

But this week I have a different job to do.

Friday 20 June 2014

You don't know what you don't know...

You don’t know what you don’t know until someone tells you and then you realise that for all those years you never knew that you didn't know. Let me explain...

The title proper of my Cemetery Project is Lives Behind the Stones. This was the original interest, before we started filling in the Heritage Lottery Fund application. As we wrote down our plans we realized that we needed first to catalogue the entire cemetery, set up a database with basic information about all the graves etc. We have just about done those things and so we’ve moved on to the most interesting part; finding out about the lives behind the stones.

Some of the deceased have family still living in the community and so, rather than researching files, folders and internet sites, I’ve been visiting, chatting and gathering their stories together. That was when I realized that I didn’t know what I didn’t know… but now I do and, yes, I am going to share.

Before the war there was a street in Leicester called Wharf Street. It was a busy shopping street full of character. One of the shops belonged to a man called Sam Jacobs, the grandfather of a friend who is also a member of my project team, so I went to speak to my friend's father to find out more about Sam Jacobs.

Sam Jacobs had a shop selling ladies fashion wear. We talked a bit about the shop and about Wharf Street and then my friend’s father became animated as he remembered that his father would get the clothes altered for the customers by two sisters who lived in London. These sisters also made dresses for his mother for special occasions. They must have been very good dressmakers, I thought. My friend’s father continued,

“I was the one who was sent down to London. I was only a lad. I had to take the dresses that needed altering and bring back all the work they’d done. Then when war broke out,” he said, “They came to Leicester to escape the bombs. They stayed here after the war was over and carried on working for my father. They were two sisters, little ladies, foreign, spoke Yiddish. Their names were…”

And then I stopped him because I knew what their names were and I was right. They were good. They were my Grandma and my Great Aunt. I talked about them here a few years ago, about their private dressmaking workshop and the way I used to ‘help’ by picking up pins but I never knew that they were doing business with someone from Leicester long before war broke out. I never knew why my family chose Leicester when they evacuated from London but now I do. They had business contacts here. It’s amazing what you find out when you’re least expecting it.

On the left is a photograph of my Grandma Bessie and on the right is a photograph of my Great Auntie Alice. These were the two sisters who worked for Sam Jacobs all those many many years ago.

Thursday 12 June 2014

Richard III and Fancy Headstones

A blog post of two halves:

Richard III

The other day I went along with Lynn, my publisher, to the printers, Soar Valley Press to do a final, final check of The Children’s Book of Richard III. I found myself discussing gutter marks and bleed lines. I’m learning so much! Here is a preparatory version of the complete outside cover; back, spine and front.

Everything was good with the proofs so now the printers are printing and binding while I sit back and sip tea… I wish! We have two launches to arrange; a media launch and a private launch. We have promotion to do; schools, retail outlets, anyone who will listen and I’m proposing to do school visits next term.

The school visits are going to be fascinating. The contents of the book are relevant to a number of areas of the curriculum, not only history, and we hope that this element proves to be an additional selling point. It’ll be strange standing up in front of children again, a bit like being a grandma. I can have lots of fun, drawing on skills that I honed when I was younger, and then I can hand them back at the end of the session.

Fancy Headstones

For those of you who are getting fed up of me rabbiting on about Richard III, I thought I’d tell you a bit more about the cemetery project. This week I’ve been working on an article about headstone embellishments. It was researched and written up by one of my team and I’m sorting out photos to illustrate it and preparing it for uploading onto the project website.

In modern Jewish cemeteries it’s customary to have plain headstones, usually with just a Star of David embellishment on them but in the early 1900s the designs in our cemetery were quite elaborate and very similar to the headstones in the non-Jewish part of the cemetery. A recurring theme among the earlier headstones is ivy adornments, ivy being a symbol of immortality. One of the most fascinating headstones has a cut down tree, representing a life cut short and probably a reference to the ‘tree of life’ mentioned in Genesis.

I seem to be learning something new every day at the moment. Steep learning curves are exciting but just a little tiring. Maybe I will sit back and sip tea after all.

Have you experienced any kind of learning curve recently?

Tuesday 3 June 2014

Exclusive Front Cover Reveal

These last few weeks have been a frenetic time of checking and rechecking final proofs for my Children’s Book of Richard III. I am relieved to say that, at just gone midnight last night the book finally went off to our local printing firm, Soar Valley Press. I’ve used them before and so I know that they are four friendly, accommodating, award-winning printers. They hope to get the books to us in three weeks’ time.

Here is an exclusive peep at the front cover:

I'm so pleased with Alice's illustrations and design work. She has turned my book into something very special. You can see more of her work on her website, Alice Povey Illustrations.

So far, Independent Publishing has not been as scary as I had expected. I mentioned in an earlier post about the disparity of heading styles. I've certainly learnt a lesson from that, but this last week has been full of insecurities over spellings, word usages, spacing on the pages; all those small things that can make such a big difference. For example, on one page I’d put battle field as two words even though I know that it’s one word. On another page I’d repeated a word three times in one sentence. It was easily corrected but what amazes me is that five people have proof read this and I’ve proof read it many, many times. I suppose there will still be the odd mistake hiding amongst all those words but if you buy a copy and find one of them, I don’t think I want to know about it… ok, ok, you can tell me but please be gentle!

If you want to order an advanced copy please contact Lynn Moore at The Reading Shop. Lynn Moore is not only my publisher; she is also the owner of one of the few Independent Children’s Bookshops left in the UK. 

Quite soon there will be launch parties to arrange and school visits to plan but before all that happens I have to get back to working on my Cemetery Research Project. I’ve fallen seriously behind schedule… but it’s been worth it.

For those who didn't catch the announcement, the High Court Judges have ruled that Richard III will be reinterred in Leicester Cathedral in Spring 2015.