Most of my research consists of ploughing through handwritten copies of the Mass Observation Diaries in the British Library. Fascinating though this is and the source of wonderful snippets of information, such as war rumours....there's gas what kills you and leaves you standing upright in the street...not everyone has easy to read handwriting. I also consult books and watch endless newsreels to soak up atmosphere, language, clothing, etc.
|The Blitz Cafe, Hebden Bridge.|
But in addition I love being able to view artefacts. Imagine my delight therefore when I discovered a tea room this summer totally devoted to the 1940s : The 19Fourteas Room in Havant,on the mainland above Hayling Island, near Portsmouth. The tea room is set in a beautiful 16th century cottage, with low beams and a wonderful open fireplace. There is an upper floor and out in the garden they are constructing an original Anderson shelter which has been donated.
The entire building is crammed full of original items from the 1940s many of which have been donated by people,who then come to have tea and view their items. It was absolute paradise for me. Just sitting their having tea and staring at hundreds and hundreds of beautiful and fascinating objects felt like I was doing the best research possible.
Of course I told the owner and the staff about The Emergency Zoo and my current book set in the Blitz. They were very interested and have said they might see if local schools would like me to come down and give a talk about my writing. I donated a copy of the Zoo and a poster and they were delighted.
|Owner JacquiUnal with Kerry Lewis|
With such a great place to experience total immersion in the war era, research couldn't be more fun!