A Quiet Passion

MostlyFilm

Terence Davies’ biographical film about Emily Dickinson, starring Sex and The City’s Cynthia Nixon as the reclusive American poet, was released on DVD earlier this month. SarahSlade sees how the truth has been slanted.

I first found Emily Dickinson thanks to my English teacher, a very proper Southern Baptist from Alabama, who thought Cleopatra was no better than she should be and that we should be studying Dickinson’s poetry instead of Hardy’s. She was half right.

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I’m rebalancing and refocusing right now. The MA had to go by the wayside (too expensive – thanks Govey!), and I’m casting around to find something intellectually stimulating that will drag me away from my iPad for a while.

That means I’ve minimised the Facebook action to the stuff I do for The Bloomsburys, MostlyFilm updates, plus the odd general update for family overseas. You’ll have more luck finding me on Twitter or Instagram.

Bowyer Place in 1841

I’m slowly getting back into this research lark. Today I decided to dip back into the census for 1841 to take a look at Bowyer Place, where the Oldroyds and Buchanans lived, to see if I could get an idea of what sort of street it was. Who were the inhabitants? What did they do for money?

A little background to Camberwell. According to Old and New London: Volume 6, Camberwell was  mentioned in the Domesday book as a large village with its own church, populated mainly by lower class cottagers and farmers. The manor attached to Camberwell was passed around various minor royals and the Buckingham family until the Duke of Buckingham was beheaded in 1521. It was bought by Edmund Bowyer in 1583. There may have been a spa or well somewhere about, since St Giles, patron of the parish church, was also patron saint of cripples and mendicants. John Evelyn talks about Sir Edmund Bowyer’s “melancholie seate” in 1657. Bowyer House was pulled down to make way for the railway in 1861, but in 1841 it was  still in use, possibly as a home for the Camberwell Literary and Scientific Institution or as a school for young ladies.

Old and New London stats that Bowyer Lane was the “abode of questionable characters of all sorts”, and a family living in Bowyer Lane around 1836 were exhibiting the body of an executed horse thief for a shilling a head. Lovely.

Bowyer Place, on the other hand, appears to be a new development in 1841. I can’t find any reference to it on Cary’s New Plan of London (1837) or on a map of the parish of St Giles dating from around 1834-ish that I have knocking about.

It was built a few hundred yards south of the rather elegant Addington Square on what appears to be Southampton Street in Cary’s map. There are eleven houses in the row, from what I can tell from the census. Unfortunately the 1841 census just lists each household, with no house numbers or whether the dwelling was an apartment or a separate house. Whatever buildings were there in 1841 aren’t there any more, so I’m going to assume that they would have been townhouses rather like the slightly shabby ones in Walworth Road, only with no shops on the ground floor.

Question marks indicate that I couldn’t read the census-taker’s handwriting.

The households in Bowyer Place were:

The Parkes family

John (?) Parks (55), either a publisher and professor of music, along with his wife, Mary, adult daughter Emma, a teacher called Ellen Bentham (?) and a teenage maid, Charlotte Lawson (?)

The Cox family

Robert Cox (30), a builder,  his wife Elizabeth, and small son Robert, and Mary Ray (?) another teenage maid.

The Ball family

Hosiah (?) Ball (40) a professor of languages, his wife Maryann, and children Thomas and Louisa. There is also an Elizabeth Ball (30) and a two-year-old child called Henry Goodwin. The census indicates that Elizabeth is the mother (hmm). The servant is Elizabeth Tooley (30).

The Belliston (?) family

George Belliston (47) works as an upholsterer. His wife, Harriet, is 12 years younger than him. They have seven children; the youngest is seven months and the oldest (Sarah) is 16.

The Elliots

Sophia Elliot (60) is of independent means and has a 25-year-old daughter, Maria. Also resident are Edward Appleyard (60) and Mary Hurrell (20). These last two appear to be servants.

The Buchanans

Aha! Rellies! James Buchanan (70) is of independent means, though that could mean he’s retired. His son William Buchanan (30) is a nurseryman. Ellen (5) and Arthur (3) could be James’ grandchildren. It looks like their mother is no longer alive, but censuses aren’t too good on that sort of detail. Eliza Mayer (25) is the household servant.

The Fishers

Good name for a preacher, which is what Henry (38) does for a living. If he is a Methodist, then he would have been living in the middle of his parish with his wife, Ann (39) and daughters, Selina (12) and Mary (4). There are no resident servants.

The Oldroyds

More rellies! Henry Oldroyd (55) is a nurseryman, like young William. His wife Anna (40) is James Buchanan’s daughter. His son, Henry (20) is also a nurseryman. William Lord (30) is a mariner and Elizabeth Burgess (20) is the household servant.

 The Wests

Stephen West (50) does something with furniture, but I can’t for the life of me work out what. His wife Hannah (35) has eight children; the youngest of which, Henry (20) seems to have been born when she was 15, but she may be his stepmother. I’m not sure if they have a maid. There is a young man called Edward also living her, but I can’t figure out his profession.

The Laum (?) family

Cornelius (40) is an appraiser. Doesn’t say of what. His wife Sarah (35) has  six children between the ages of 15 months and 14 years. They have no servants, but the eldest child, Emily probably has to help run the house.

The Barnes family

Edward (38) is a bricklayer. His wife Elizabeth is 35 and they have seven children between the ages of five months and 16 years.

So, the Oldroyds are living in a newish development with the middling sort. Nobody is utterly poverty-stricken, but with so many mouths to feed, life must be a struggle for the West, Laum and Barnes families. Yet we also have some more middle-class residents. Mrs Elliot and her daughter living in relative space and comfort. In the middle of that the Oldroyds and Buchanans; inlaws living a few doors apart, suggesting a close-knit family, possibly in and out of each others’ homes all day and night.

 

 

P-p-p-procrastination…

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Other thing I’m doing: an online photography course. This is from b/w week…

My epic history of Chartism in Camberwell has had to take a back seat for a while. I discovered that the OU had put their prices up, and I didn’t have enough money to pay for the course. No matter. It just gives me a little bit more procrastination time.

I’ve got another procrastination aid too: I heard a Purcell guitar melody on Radio 3 a few weeks ago and thought: “I used to play stuff like that.” A quick fossick on the Internet and I found a fairly up to date arrangement for a few quid. Finding (and remembering how to tune)  a nylon-string guitar was another matter, and then there was the tiny issue of me remembering how classical guitar fingering goes.

So, following Viv Albertine’s advice of not going three days without practising and taking things slowly, I’ve worked out the fingering for the first page (there are four). It still sounds bloody horrible, but noticeably better than when I first picked up the guitar, so I’ll persevere. It’s nice to have a project.

I’ve also been learning how to lindy hop at the Ivy House. Apparently we all passed our beginner course with flying colours and now we’re on to stage 2, in which we learn how to do the pulling and pushing stuff.

Just don’t ask me about the cardigan I started knitting last September…

So here it is…

Yep, it takes Christmas and a post-Archers lull to get me to update the blog. Marvellous.

Family news: everybody’s fine. Charlie’s first school report (they do termly ones at Deptford Green) showed straight As for everything except Science (“I went to a arts-focused primary school!”) Art (A B for behaviour?! Who doesn’t muck around in Art? Art’s all about mucking around) and French (“The teacher’s rude, mum”). She has settled down really well and has a little gang of geeky friends to hang out with. She is also a Student Leader and has to check everybody’s homework and uniform. I think the class elected her because she’s nice and they assumed that she wouldn’t be too hard on them. Unfortunately they weren’t to know even the smallest smidgen of power activates the Hard Bastard gene, and she is quite remorseless in sticking to the rules and handing out detentions to wrongdoers.

Our Gap Year guest, Chanelle, made it safely back to New Zealand and starts uni in March. We’re slowly repossessing the spare room, finding the odd discarded garment and wondering what to do with the broken suitcase in the cupboard. But it was fun having her around and Charlie loved having a big sister figure to bicker with.

Courtney pine
Courtney Pine at the Hideaway: our Christmas treat

Christmas was low-key but lovely. This is the first year in forever where I didn’t have to work on Christmas Eve and the first in few years where I wasn’t stressed to the max by work (last year I was frantically rewriting knowledge check questions for Santander’s HR team until midday, signing off a course on project management for LRT and doing final delivery on an intranet training course for a TOP SEKRIT CLIENT). In fact, it was so laid back that Martin and I managed to fit in a visit to our favourite jazz venue to see the legendary Courtney Pine. It was still a school night so we had to leave just as he really got going but still…it was magical.

 

Been a bit busy…

… honest.

So, I had my last day. Decided not to have a leaving do because…I’m not very good at leaving dos, and there is a possibility that I might (one day) be back as an associate.

There were a couple of days left to that last week, so I spent them developing an idea for interactive textbooks (still technically in development, but…hmmm). Then on the following Monday I started a three-month contract working with a virtual team for an e-learning agency. Its a bit odd, this working at home lark. It took a couple of attempts to rearrange my work area (in the back living room) and it still isn’t quite right. But after two months I’ve worked out a daily routine and all I’ve got to do now is build a little more time in for exercise and fitness.

Pepe We all did a house swap in Cornwall for Easter, looking after the lovely Pepe for Lone, who looked after the guinea pigs, cats and goldfish in Nunhead. Our usual approach to Cornwall is to load up with the wet weather gear and plenty of reading matter for rainy days but the climate decided to pull a fast one on us and give us more than two warm sunny days in a row! We actually got out for plenty of walks (minus Pepe, who is feeling his age a bit and just about manages a toddle around Loe Bar before getting homesick).

Our trips included a walk around the Lizard Peninsula, which was busy but absolutely gorgeous. We did our usual thing of getting lost on the way back, but I really didn’t fancy chancing my dodgy hip on the cliff path again. But it was fun and we ate pasties and took photos and muttered at the prices charged by the National Trust cafe.

Funnily enough, I was expecting to see more UKIP posters, like the last time we were in Cornwall, but they weren’t much in evidence. One estate we drove through had a street-full of Labour posters, but there were fields of Conservative posters and a couple of LibDems. Think Cornwall feels abandoned by all the main political parties. There were a lot of Independent councillors and a few Kernow-style nationalists. Still, it was good to get away from London for a few days.

When we got back, it was back to work in the study and a visit from my baby cousin Chanelle. She needed to get some shopping out of her system after a month in the middle of nowhere.

Charlie also got into her first choice school: Deptford Green. It’s a modern comprehensive with fantastic facilities, nice teachers and umm…improving…exam results. I think she’ll flourish there and the school will give her plenty of options. She’s pretty clever but she’s also got a real head for business that I’m not sure would be encouraged at a more academic school.

Hey diddley dee…

Remember I told you about that job where I worked on a tiny team, doing lots of projects? Well, as of 25 February, I will be working there no more. I won’t go into the messy detail, but after a lot of soul-searching, I decided that the time had come for me to cut loose and try contracting/freelancing again.

I’ve set up the portfolio and my LinkedIn profile is up to date. I’ve registered with some agencies and I’ve got a couple of applications in progress. On top of that, a contact has an idea about iBooks which could prove very interesting indeed.

Thinkstock ref 515071361
Arsing about with Thinkstock again. I hate these backwards writing pics.

I suspect that a number of factors will make work slow to begin with, but I’m fairly confident that my skills and experience will net me a set of interesting, intriguing jobs in the future. I’ll have to be more careful about budgeting and get my admin organised, but I think the payoff will be worth it: more time with Martin and Charlie, and maybe even a chance at finishing my MA .

In other news, Charlie sprained her knee while we were  rearranging her bedroom a couple of days ago. It meant a trip to A&E in an ambulance, but by the time the doctor got around to seeing us (two hours…not bad, considering) the swelling had gone down and she could almost walk normally. She’s still got a swollen knee but she’s not in much pain.

And…I am now a committee member of Nunhead WI. We had our inaugural meeting last night. We expected around 20 people to turn up, but to our surprise nearly 80 women squeezed into the upstairs room at the Old Nun’s Head. I was very cold-ridden and trying not to die but we were all bowled over by the wealth of talent and enthusiasm of all the new members. We’ve got a political lobbyist turned artist, several fundraisers, teachers, civil servants, researchers and marketeers, not to mention lawyers, project managers and crafters. Our next meeting is Monday 16 March and I have no idea what’s going to happen, but it’ll be fun finding out.

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