Clean feet, interviews and 100 years of the vote.

Clean feet, interviews and 100 years of the vote.

I have different kinds of love for each type of writing I do. Developing a novel is like parenting: you’re bringing something into being that wouldn’t otherwise exist, but there are moments of deep embarrassment and fear it’s going to turn out wrong. Whereas, feature writing offers the steady contentment of happy marriage.

One of the most rewarding parts of it is interviewing people. I’m always nervous beforehand, would always give the job to someone else if I could, but I always come away satisfied, feeling I understand a little more about life.

Today, I interviewed Rosemarie, someone who knows Bournemouth’s homeless better than most people.

She told me of a boy she’d first known when he was sixteen and had left home to get away from an abusive stepfather. He’d ended up a heroin addict, forced into male prostitution to feed his habit, get a shower and a bed for the night. Now twenty-five, he is “going rapidly downhill”, too weak to solicit anyone. “If he’d had access to shelter, he could be living a normal life now,” she said.

But she’s doing something about it. Every Monday night, she turns up to St Peter’s Church with the Sally Army to washes the feet of rough sleepers. This keeps infection at bay, helps people feel more presentable, and gives them a chance to open up.

Different subject, a feature I’ve written on British women’s fight for the vote has just been published in the new 2018 London Guide from BRITAIN magazine.

Whenever there’s an upcoming election, the conversation among my friends is pretty much the same: because of the “first past the post system”, Bournemouth East and West will probably return Conservative MPs; votes for any of the parties are highly unlikely to affect the results; however, we know other women fought tooth and nail for our rights, so we must make a choice and hope we’ve not helped usher in disaster.

Finally,  I understand, people didn’t fight so my candidate won the election, but so that my needs and opinions are considered equal to any man’s by the country’s decision makers. I need to continue voting to maintain that situation.

 

 

 

 

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Beatrix Potter: sheep-farming scientist and author.

Beatrix Potter: sheep-farming scientist and author.

My article on Beatrix Potter’s Lake District is published today in Britain Magazine.

Controlled by her mother, constricted by Victorian expectations of women, she worried she’d never find anything useful to do.

But she was allowed to draw and paint. In doing so, she saw differences in closely related fungi others didn’t find until the 1940s. Eventually, she produced a scientific paper for the respected Linnean society, speculating about the germination of fungal spores. As a woman amateur, she was easily dismissed, but years later proved right.

With the proceeds of her books, she bought Hilltop Farm in the Lake District. Her energies turned to farming and conservation, and she became a passionate champion of the early National Trust. At 47, she married her solicitor, William Heelis. With his help she bought up farms vulnerable to ruin or development. When she died in 1943, she left the NT over 4,000 acres of land and 14 farms, still working and tenanted today.  No one knows what the Lake District would look like without her.