Friendships made to last…

Bletchley Park have released an online version of the “Codebreakers’ Wall” which is live on their website at Bletchley Park website.

2012-12-06-20-34-28It is possible to read more about the author through this website, as she took part in the Bletchley Park Oral History Project in March 2014. It is a fascinating account of her work as part of the team of Royal Signals Corp Auxilliary Territorial Service personnel in the ‘Y Station’, based in the Isle of Man.

She had fond memories of her time in the Isle of Man and recounts the kindness of the Manx peoples in Douglas to the girls in her unit, who were based in the Palace Camp.  She also recalls several of her friends who were from the British Colonies, such as the girls from Barbados who were serving alongside her. She room-shared with one, Joanna Kish, and she and other girls very generously shared out their parcels from Barbados containing luxury items not obtainable in England at that time –  including sweets and tins of rum!  These friendships lasted years too, well after the war had finished.

This was also where the author met her husband, Patrick, when he was there for officer training with the Essex Regiment.

It is a fascinating and open account of how life was for these young people during the war.




A link to the past

At its peak, the British Empire was the largest formal empire that the world had ever known. As such, its power and influence stretched all over the globe; shaping it in all manner of ways. This site is dedicated to analysing the history of the British Empire: The triumphs, the humiliations, the good that it brought and the bad that it inflicted. For better or worse the British Empire had a massive impact on the history of the world. It is for this reason that this site tries to bring to life the peoples, cultures, adventures and forces that made the Empire such a powerful institution. It is neither an apology for, nor a nostalgic reminiscence of the institution that so dominated the world for over two centuries. Rather, it analyses and describes the vast institution that so influenced the shape of the world that we see today. Whether the British Empire is regarded as a positive force or a negative force in world history is in many ways rather irrelevant, the fact is that it was a transformative force and we should seek to try and understand it in its many and varied forms across the centuries of its existence and throughout its wide expanse.

This fascinating website, run by Stephen Luscombe, and from which I have quoted the introduction holds some fascinating links to the past. The website is interested in hearing from anyone who has memoirs, articles and submissions connected with the British Empire

Creativity and our daily lives…

Alike is a short film by Madrid-based Daniel Martinez Lara and Rafa Cano Mendez and is a reflection on how creativity is affected by the hassles of our daily lives…  Well worth taking the 7 minutes to sit and watch it!  Certainly brought a smile to my lips!


#Alikeshortfilm #creativity

Fascinating feedback from readers

One of the unexpected delights of being involved in publishing a book is the positively fascinating feedback from the readers. While some of it was expected from supportive friends and family; from unexpected quarters and from around the world came some great letters and emails about readers’ own experiences and reflections vividly recalled after reading the book. It is from these gems that I briefly draw upon…

A spot of family history research prompted this feedback from one reader in the USA… After Googling her father’s name, the reader emailed to say she had spotted a reference about him in An Unexpected Journey . Her father had been in Keren, Eritrea in the early 1950s when the author and her husband were there. After reading the book, she emailed to say how the author’s detailed descriptions of the country of Eritrea at this particular time in its political history had evoked the memories from her early childhood in Keren and stories that her parents had related to her.  She thanked the author for writing this wonderful memoir.

The author and I met up with a lovely couple in the summer of 2016. They had known the author and her husband briefly in Dodoma, Tanganyika in 1955 and wanted to meet up again to express their appreciation for the support they received from the author and her husband at a difficult time in the posting. They had thoroughly enjoyed the book and the many stories within it which they remembered vividly; such as the Indian lawyer’s little dog, snatched by a leopard within a few feet of the family sitting outside, taken to the top of the street light and, amid all the clamour, finally dropped to ground – very shaken. By all accounts, it was most fortunate to survive its traumatic experience!  After all these years, it was wonderful for the author to catch up with them again, and to have the joy of sharing their mutual memories.

A reader wrote about how the book took her back to her early married days in Kenya, being posted up country, and wondering what the Public Works Department issue of randomly assorted furniture would be like each time. She felt that the author was so good at recording all that she saw, making it such an interesting read.  Co-incidentally, they were also posted to the Turks & Caicos Islands, albeit a little earlier than the author, in the early 1970s. There were a lot of problems on the islands when they were there which she notes from the book, did not sound any better when the author and her husband were posted there in 1979-81.

The book had been a break-through for one reader, after years of feeling guilty about how much she hated being posted to the Turks & Caicos Islands with her husband! After she had read just how depressing the author had found it too at times, she felt her reactions to it were not after all unjustified… Another letter came from someone who was sent the book as a gift, and had found the descriptions of life on these islands very close to their own experiences – positive and negative!

Comparative experiences in other countries have been fascinating, and one couple remarked on the very different picture of East Africa given by the author to that which was often described to them by people who had ‘moved west’. They remarked:  ‘Usually East African territories were given a great write up and [thus emphasised] how backward West Africa was.’ She goes on to recall one visitor to their West African posting who expressed amazement that they had no running water, no electricity and appeared to have no knowledge of kerosene refrigerators! A situation the author knew only too well from her various postings in Eritrea and Tanganyika.

#Dodoma #Tanganyika #Tanzania # 1950 #1950eritrea #Kereneritrea # #keren #eritrea #eastafrica #westafrica #kenya #colonial #colonialwomen #britishcolonies #leopardattack #readerfeedback #bookreaders #bookfeedback #turksandcaicosislands #turksandcaicos


Lines drawn in sands of old…

The fascinating Horatio Clare book, A Single Swallowfollows his experiences travelling with and staying amongst indigenous peoples as he travels through the African continent on the trail of the migrating swallows.  His friendships, trials and triumphs make good reading, as do the descriptions of his mixed local accommodation and various modes of travel. Through his perceptive writing, he shows he has a particular empathy with those he meets and their circumstances – from his fellow travellers to border officials and local transport drivers. He neither judges nor seeks to compare his world to theirs, just enjoys living in the moment amongst those from whom he can learn. A rare and fascinating book in all these respects.

Having grown up in many countries, amongst many different peoples and cultures, I have always felt it a privilege to do so, with a sincere respect of the people and their customs and traditions; this comes through strongly also in Horatio Clare’s book.

His intriguing account of the ‘bandit laws of imperial cartography’ in his second chapter, on Namibia, where he describes how the country came to have such an unusual shape when common sense and the topography (rivers, ocean and mountain) should have dictated otherwise, culminates in the following conclusion: ‘The upshot is that Namibia looks like a child’s attempt to make a paper rectangle, a distracted child, which did not bother to tear off the last strip jutting off the top right corner: Caprivi.’

The author’s own experience of one such instance of the strange plotting of official cartographers at times of political change is noted in An Unexpected Journey in the tenth chapter on the formation of pre-independence Botswana boundaries in the 1950s. ‘We left on the train for Mafeking in the Transvaal which is located close to the South African border with Botswana. Only a few years earlier South Africa had also been a British Colony so the administrative headquarters of the British Bechuanaland Protectorate was therefore still located in Mafeking… The whole area was within a heavily wired enclave, with the Union Jack flying and an armed sentry on the gate. As someone explained to us, it was a bit of old England in a foreign field!



Digital archive Beyond the Bungalow covers British, French and German colonial homes

This digital archive covers British, French and German colonial homes in sub-Saharan Africa as well as other former colonies worldwide.

Dr Britta Schilling, Assistant Professor, Department of History & Art History, Universiteit Utrecht writes: “Since I am not able to travel and interview as many people in as many different areas of the world as I would like, I am hoping that this website will provide a forum for people with relevant experiences to upload their photographs and share some of their stories. I realise that a website might at first not seem to be the ideal medium for this age group. However I am hoping that it will be a chance for several generations – parents, children, grandchildren – to come together and talk about memories of colonialism through the memory of colonial homes. If people have trouble uploading items they can always just email or write to me direct.”

Dr Schilling goes on to say: “I would be delighted if you would consider contributing to the project’s latest incarnation and spreading the word to others who may be interested. It could be an interesting way of getting to know even more people with similar family experiences, but would also be a very important contribution to a unique archive for future researchers.”

Dr Dr. Britta Schilling | Assistant Professor | Department of History and Art History | Universiteit Utrecht |
Drift 6, 3512 BS Utrecht | Room 0.17 | | the Bungalow


#Beyond_the_bungalow #sub-Saharan #German colonies #French colonies #British colonies #colonial homes

Community spaces – what I found in Kiribati

Wonderful islands and their people, it was a privilege to grow up amongst them. The University of Cambridge Anthropological Museum is featuring Kirabati weaving and armour in April.

Journey into the heart of humankind

Excerpt from the book “Families of the World: East Asia, Southeast Asia, and the Pacific”

9 am  – “Ritang, take the baby,” says Grandmother. She goes to sit in front of her old rotting house and starts weaving pandanu leaves. Her own house badly needs repairs, but the leaves she weaves this morning are for the maneaba, the village’s large meeting house, where all decisions are made, in the presence of the elders.

10 am – Bakea goes to the maneaba with her neighbour, both women pulling their piece of leaf work for the roof repairs. A week from now, the whole population of Tabiteuea South, the neighbouring island, will visit in their canoes, and Tab North is getting ready for the great event.

In the village of Utiroa, the whole community answers the call to take care of the community house. This is the group’s central space, where…

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