About Me

My photo

Author, Avid Tweeter & Blogger, Lover of books, Teacher of Maths & Swimming, Mother, Speaks Spanish, Friend to many...

Monday, 8 February 2016

The Descent of Man by Charles Darwin

It seems apt to post my review of THE DESCENT OF MAN on this blog, since it was written in the time period that I am writing my books about. It is important to remember what people use to think, and how much they knew considering the fact they had nowhere near the access to resources we now have.

There is no denying that a lot of the material included in this book is scientific, and that his speculations are slanted by the "way of thinking" at that time. It would be incredible to bring Darwin to modern day to see if his theories stack up...

Either way, for a FREE read, I recommend this to anyone who wants to know how we arrived at many of are thoughts in the modern age. The theory of supremacy, racial equality, survival of the fitness, etc, are all discussed here. I am sure Darwin's thoughts sparked many a war, controversy, and the need to change the status quo. Many a suffragette must have read this and felt compelled to change the view that a woman has a smaller brain! There is no denying that on the whole men are superior is stature and strength, but, since this was written, woman have risen to the challenge and proved that we can just as feisty and determined, skillful and intellectual, and, unfortunately, as cold-blooded and ruthless as males are stereotyped to be!

Human beings are by are nature not the same. We are diverse and unique and capable of anything we set our minds to... like I always say, "if it had been down to me, we'd still be in caves!" I have never been a risk-taker when it came to the physical. However, I certainly do not lack courage or conviction when it comes to getting something done!

I wonder what you all, if you can brave it, think of this book?

All the best,
Vanessa

Charles Darwin
"Wow... This is a mammoth read! If you only read the first few chapters, you will be horrified by his use of language. Called disabled people "monstrosities" and "idiots" - I will use the term loosely now! But, this was the terminology used in that period of time, so I will try not to scream "racist", etc.

Most of this book is scientific in nature. Very matter of fact, according to the information he has available. The amount of research he used and quoted beggars belief when you consider this was a time without computers, etc. I am amazed at the information he could source and use.

The research used in relation to "savages" is extensive, and I wonder if we would ever refer to other races of mankind as "savages" because they do things differently.

In this age, we strive to find a meaning for life, have a quest for equality, and long for a better future. Perhaps, as Darwin points out, in our fight for these principles we lost control and therefore we now have an ageing and growing population, and struggle to make ends meet. War is something that has gone on from our basic beginnings, and it appears that it is something we can not prevent.

However, women have a huge role to play in the future of humanity. Thank goodness we are no longer killed as he noted from the chapters on infanticide!

I have to rate this book a 4 purely for the scale and depth of research. I do not have to agree with his conclusions and that it my given right. I wonder how he would have felt knowing that many of his scientific ideas led to genocide, and justification of mass slaughter. If only we were equipped with the benefit of hindsight!

I have to admit that I skipped some chapters on insects, etc, but I did read the bulk of it. If you want to try good luck! It'll take you a while... And you might roll your eyes at a lot of his speculation!"

Monday, 18 January 2016

Finished the Diary! #History

I finally finished writing up the hand written memoirs found by my Mother! It was written by Harriett Beanland, recounting her childhood years of 1874-76. They total over 17,000 words! That's an incredible amount of writing. The amazing thing is that this was one of a collection... the other memoirs now lost!

I have thoroughly enjoyed reading them, and am now writing the letters written by her father! I might be a while...

Progress can be a slow, but rewarding process sometimes.

Research!
I have decided that until I have written these all down, I will not continue to write. I have more research to be done and am a bit of a perfectionist!

Here is an interesting excerpt!

For anyone complaining about the state of education today, take note! I looked up her comment on Germany and she is correct. They were paving the way for educational reform at the time. Learn something new every day...

Enjoy,
Vanessa :)

"I think he was a good teacher, but for two defects. He had favourites and easily lost his temper with the dull schoolers of whom I was one. He used to shout & storm at us & often threw books at us or banged us on the head with them!
Discipline at the R.A. was I am afraid at a low ebb in those days. The noise form the different classes was often so great that Mr Bacon used to have to bang his cane on his desk to enforce silence, or he would come round to each class & thrash some of the most unruly boys, till something like order was obtained, but not for long however! Still it was better than that in the Infant school where order seemed to be utterly unknown.
Poor Mrs. Bacon couldn’t attend to her family & home & school at the same time, so the latter had to be neglected. In the afternoons when the girls in the Master’s School went for sewing, the teachers sat & gossiped or quarreled. Mine, Mary Ann Hume had a temper quite as virulent and overbearing as that of her beloved.
If the infants got too noisy and unmanageable she would get up from her chair at the sewing table (where she was not needed) rush between the desks in a passion caning & cuffing every child indiscriminately whether good or bad till she had reduced them to whimpering silence. There was no attempt to teach the unfortunate infants.
They were simply huddled to forms where they had to write (if they felt inclined) pot hooks & hangers on greasy little slates all the afternoon: utterly neglected. Some poor little mites fell asleep from sheer weariness, resting their little heads on the hard desks till they fell off the form with a bump followed by roars & tears. This frequently happened during the afternoon, yet none of the teachers present thought it their duty to look after the poor little things!
The dreary ill ventilated school room with its dirty yellow walls with a few dingy pictures too dirty & high up to tell what they were about, dirty windows & often filthy bare floor would be a strange sight to the modern kindergarten teacher!
All honour to Germany for leading the way and showing the world what infant teaching might to be like! And all Dishonour to careless money-grabbing, child-despising England – the richest country in the world in money, but nearly the poorest in educational facilities!"

Monday, 11 January 2016

Typing away I go...

I am currently copying a diary written by Harriet Beanland (1865 - 1922), over 100 years ago. Found by my parents - it's lucky to have survived! It is fascinating, but time-consuming.

Here is an excerpt! I love her description & the fact we get to meet a character her mother talks about in her letters.

She looks so stern in this photo for someone with such amazing descriptions!

I am hoping to put all these original letters in a book for publication once I am done! Might be a while...

Vanessa :)

I forget what month in 1875 our cousin Fred Saword arrived from London, but Mother one day told us that a cousin was coming to see us soon. We were greatly excited. We knew we had an Uncle Charles, Aunt Emma and lots of cousins in London, and we had two photos on the sitting room mantel piece showing a thin gentleman with whiskers, and a thin child with long thin legs on his knee; and the other showing a stout lady holding a baby on her lap; these we knew were Uncle Charles and Aunt Emma.

I pictured cousin Fred as a tall, rosy-cheeked boy and was greatly disappointed to find when he arrived that he was dark & pale and very little bigger than myself!

I remember we were called into the shop very early one morning (or else very late one night) for the door was closed and there was Mother welcoming our cousin, a pale solemn looking boy with a scotch cap, and black suit. It seemed so odd to hear him address Mother as “Aunt”. We shyly shook hands with him, he did not kiss us (as I thought he would) but was very quiet & civil, though his big dark eyes stared at us with some curiousity.

I unfortunately do not remember much about his stay with us except that he was a great tease & plagued us most of the time, though he was very quiet & civil to Mother and Uncle Emmett.
The person he most enjoyed teasing however was poor Mrs McKendry! They were hostile to each other from the first, and his pranks used to drive her to frenzy! Many were the complaints Mother had to listen to from one & all!

I forget whether he went to school, but I think he used to help in the shop. He used to chase Bessie Robinson and me if he saw us while on an errand. Once he chased us all over the castle ramps. If he happened to catch us, he pulled our hair unmercifully, tossed our hats into the road, and made himself agreeable in many other ways.

I don’t think anyone was sorry when he left, but in justice to the lad I think he was lonely and home-sick, he had no companion of his own age to associate with & no doubt hated the shop and mean dark little house we lived in, and at the same time was too young to appreciate the beauty and romantic history and associations of Gibraltar.


One night I was wakened out of sleep by Fred rushing in the say “Goodbye”, he was going back to England. I heard Mother (who was with him) say, “Don’t waken the other children,” as he scampered through the room gathering up his belongings. As he was going down-stairs I heard him exclaim, “Aunt! I haven’t got my nightshirt!” and rush upstairs again. Mother called out, “Make haste Fred, the cab is at the door!” He rummaged about the bedroom, grumbling loudly, and at last called out, “I’m coming!” I fell asleep & in the morning we were told that Fred had gone, he had gone on board the mail the night before. I don’t think we shed any tears!

Thursday, 19 November 2015

Exciting Times!

I have finished the first book in this collection! Woo hoo! (The first book covers the period of 1841-1866, mainly focused on London & Jamaica).

After sharing it with a friend from school (thank you, Emma) and my editor, Adam, it is clear I have some work to do, but overall they both loved it.

Emma read it in a day, and Adam wrote this...

"First of all – congratulations! This cannot have been at all easy to write – not only the research on your family history, but also all the other general historical points that you have included. The novel therefore works in at least three dimensions – a ‘true story’ of family history, a slice of history about Jamaica the US and UK, and finally a gripping love story.

Because of all these different aspects I found the novel highly interesting and readable, and I do think it’s a step up from your previous fictional pieces (hope you don’t mind me saying). I would definitely encourage you to explore publishing options as I think this will be an interesting read for a wide audience."

Obviously, I am over the moon and am working hard to finish the next book. But, realistically it might take a while.

I now have to look into getting an agent - am I brave enough?

I have been given letter written by Emma, and diaries from her son, Charles (my great grandfather). The process of transferring the text to computer is long and disheartening. I'll get there!

It is amazing how well written the diaries are... they were definitely educated! It ha made me rethink Emma's past a bit. She was one smart lady!

Her son, Charles, was an incredible man - I really hope to be able to tell his story one day too!

These sketches are in his diary... I always thought I got my artistic side from my mother - perhaps, I am wrong!

I just wrote some extracts from Harriett's diary (Bolton & Emma's first daughter), which made me chuckle. I'm glad they had trouble controlling children back then too!

"That same Sunday evening Mother took us to Church, not the King’s Chapel, but a strange church we had never gone to before. It was a large square building with a huge gallery on each side. There was a black pulpit very high up and a smaller one or reading desk underneath. The minister read the big Bible at the reading desk and prayed with his hands lifted up, and went up into the big round pulpit to preach. He wore a black gown, not a white surplice such as Mr Magee had. There were no stained windows as in King’s Chapel and no organ. The people sat down to sing and stood up when the Minister prayed. The singing was slow and spiritless I thought without any organ to accompany it.

John and I thought it was very funny and giggled most of the time. We sat in one of the side aisles under a gallery. On the front of the gallery opposite was a large clock. It ticked very loudly when the Minister was praying or preaching. The pew we were in was a very long one with no cushions. There were not many people in church. Artie stood up on the seat and stared at the people behind us. 

Mother pulled his frock and made him sit down. Ems went to sleep on her lap. Baby was at home in bed. John & I whispered and bittered so much that Mother looked quite annoyed, at last she signed to John to come & sit the other side of her. Then I tickled Artie and made him squeal out, s mother sternly whispered to me to go & sit at the end of the pew by myself! Even there I contrived to catch John’s eye & we would both splutter with suppressed laughter. Poor Mother! She must have been quite ashamed of our bad behaviour! I took a dislike to the ugly church and its old minister and hoped we should never go there anymore!

After the service the Minister came up to Mother and shook hands. He looked at us & I thought that Mother was apologising for our bad conduct in church.


When we came out she told me very sternly that she wouldn’t tolerate such misconduct in Church in the future and if I couldn’t make up my mind to behave better I should be locked up in the coal cup-board instead of going to church!"

A stern, but fair, mother I think. I definitely think this will help me picture Emma for the second book!

Enjoy & apologies for not sharing more!

All the best,
Vanessa

Wednesday, 24 June 2015

At editing stage!

I am currently editing my new novel. Woo hoo...

I have decided to break it up into several novels, since I am already at over 70,000 words and I have not even reached half-way in the story-line.


As I read, I love it more... what the future hold for this collection only time will tell!

Here is another excerpt for you to enjoy. 

Emma, my great, great, grandmother has just been employed as a governess and her future hangs in the balance.

"Emma clutched her tiny bag. Her only possessions until she managed to get some of her things forwarded. She noticed a nightgown and a few other essentials on top of a wooden chair in the corner of the room. A bible sat on a small chest of drawers, and a bed sparsely covered with a white sheet and beige blanket took up most of the room.

She made her way over to a tiny window that overlooked the back of the house and wiped it slightly with her hand to remove the condensation. A chill ran through her bones as she did. This was home now. It was time to make the most of it."


Saturday, 9 May 2015

May? Seriously?

How on earth did that happen?

I wrote my last blog post in December! Truth is, I am over 60,000 words into my novel but it is nowhere near completion.

Writing historical fiction is like running a marathon. I would have to train for years before I ever tried one. This book is doing the same to me.

One tiny step at a time.

The problem is not only time but also the thought process. Writing a scene is so hard to visualise and at times I take a week just to think about how I will approach it.

I think I'll stick to normal fiction after this...

Here is a snippet for anyone interested! Enjoy and let me know what you think.

Vanessa :)


"The sight of the iron steam tug waiting on the Thames left Bolton with mixed feelings. It was not much to look at, with a set of twin central funnels that churned out black smoke and large wheels at either side, but it would serve as a taxi to the next destination. As he boarded, with a small bag to carry his meagre possessions, he glanced back at the Woolwich docks and wondered when, if ever, he would return. As they set off, Bolton decided to join some of the crew and wave at a few children racing alongside the ship.

The journey to Gravesend did not take too long and soon they came up alongside a much bigger vessel and got ready to disembark. The HM Adventure was surely not as famous as the vessel that took James Cook to record the first European contact with the eastern coastline of Australia, but it certainly took its fair share of recruits over the Atlantic Ocean. With its iron cladding and central sails it resembled a tin bath from his youth. Not as glorious as the beautiful tall ships he longed to sail aboard.


It seemed to take days before the ship was ready to sail. When it did, progress was slow and steady. Bolton made his way below deck and tried to find his brother, Emmott, who was also on board. The smell was already worse than that emanating from the Thames and he dreaded the thought of been stuck on board for about a month. He knew vermin was bound to lie in wait ready to pounce at night-time. No doubt this would be a long trip. The main consolation was the fact he was heading for the West Indies. It was surely going to be more exciting than gloomy, grey England."

Friday, 26 December 2014

My new alias... V J Beanland

Seeing as 2015 is nearly upon us, I have decided to create a new (or old depending on how you look at it) alias for my writing.

For the last fours years, I have been writing under the name "Vanessa Wester" - which is my married name. I am currently writing a historical fiction novel, based on the lives of my great, great grandparents and thought it more apt to use my maiden name.

This will not only honour them, but will hopefully make my mum & dad very happy!

I am hoping to complete this novel in 2015, and am looking for representation. If this all fails, I will publish it myself!

So, to new beginnings...

Happy 2015 - may we all achieve our goals or at least strive for them.

All the best,
Vanessa