Thursday, February 15, 2018

Promise I'll stop now!

I know I'm spending too much time reading about the Blitz relative to the amount of space it's going to occupy in A Tapestry of Fire, but all the first-person narratives I've found are fascinating, as are the historical overviews that put them in context. How do I know I've been reading too much about the Blitz? Not only do I now have a very black sense of humor, but the other day I was reading a novel set in London in 1940 and as the date of December 29 approached I started talking to the characters, telling them, "For God's sake, stay away from St. Paul's and the financial district tonight!"

Okay, time to pull back and get to work on the sagging middle of the outline again. But first I do want to gloat a bit about the wonderful book I've acquired. It's big, it's heavy, you need a good light and a magnifying glass to make out anything... and it's well worth the trouble. It's a reprint of pre-war large-scale Ordnance Survey maps that were hand-colored to show bomb damage on a scale from Minor Blast Damage (yellow) to Total Destruction (black), and it shows the damage to individual buildings. If I set up at a table with good lighting and a magnifier, I can read an account of the bombing and fires in the Elephant and Castle area on the night of May 10-11 and, as particular landmarks or streets are mentioned, find them on this map with an estimate of the degree of damage.

I like maps.

Monday, February 12, 2018

Business as usual, Mr. Hitler

But first, an announcement: I've been invited to join the bloggers at Mad Genius Club, a blog for writers and especially for indie writers. I'll be posting every other Thursday afternoon. So in future you'll be spared posts about writing techniques; this blog will be reserved for frivolity (and, of course, book announcements) My most recent post is Context and Misdirection, and it's about the song "The Great Silkie of Sule Skerry." If you're wondering what the heck that has to do with writing technique, click over and take a look.

Now, about London and Blitz spirit:

Yes, I'm still reading about the Blitz, even though I've really got all the information I need for A Tapestry of Fire. It's a gripping subject. Also, I like first-hand accounts, and there are tons of memoirs available.

I've also come across more distanced views of that period. There are several "debunking" books that claim Londoners weren't as perky as media and contemporary accounts imply. To read some of these books, you'd think that Londoners were about to experience a nervous breakdown en masse during the Blitz.

Poppycock.

In the first place, nobody ever claimed that every single resident of London greeted the bombing with a stiff upper lip and British cheer. Of course there were people who were terrified, miserable, couldn't function due to sleep deprivation, and if you go looking for examples you will find them.

In the second place, the people who lived through the Blitz were somewhat self-selected for iron nerves; those who couldn't take it, and had the option of going somewhere else, skedaddled.

And finally, the most impressive thing about the Blitz is that London still functioned. People sheltered in subway stations or in backyard Anderson shelters or under the stairs, and in the morning they rubbed their eyes and went to work. Plumbers and electricians and carpenters were there for life's little emergencies as well as repairing Blitz damage. Grocers and butchers and dairymen kept people fed. Journalists and secretaries and business owners and shopgirls went to work. Even politicians went to work, which may or may not be a good thing.

And many shopowners whose premises had suffered bomb damage put up cheeky signs and... went to work.

You have to admire the people who adorned their semi-wrecked shops with signs like these:

PLEASE ENTER THROUGH THE DOOR
HITLER CAME THROUGH THE WINDOWS

BUSINESS AS USUAL, MR. HITLER

TRY OUR HIGH EXPLOSIVE HAIRCUTS
THEY’RE A KNOCKOUT

MORE OPEN THAN USUAL

BLACKED OUT EVENINGS? TAKE HOME SOME BOOKS

NO WINDOWS BUT PLENTY OF SPIRIT

SORRY WE’VE GOT NO FRONT DOOR
DON’T KNOCK JUST COME STRAIGHT IN

BOMBED? YES!
BUT YOU SHOULD SEE WHAT THE RAF HAS DONE TO OUR BRANCH IN BERLIN

OUR WINDOW HAS GONE
BUT WE NEVER DID LIKE WINDOW-DRESSING ANYWAY

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