strange_complex: (Me Art Deco)
Firstly, thanks to everyone for their comments on my last post. 'Cathartic' would be an understatement.

But secondly, because not everything is about doom and gloom, I have some lovely pictures to share. They are from two publications of the 1930s, and both were found in the family archive last weekend, where they'd obviously been preserved by my step-grandmother.

The first ones come from a page of the Daily Mirror, published on Monday September 17th 1934. It's the women's page (page 23), which she had torn out and kept, though we're not quite sure why. Anyway, it's an absolutely brilliant snapshot of feminine life in the 1930s. You've got recipes, fashion reports, household tips and (best of all) an article about Meg Lemonier, a 'charming little French actress' who is also a male impersonator. I've scanned it in four over-lapping parts, so that every article can be read in its entirety on at least one of the scans.

Daily Mirror, 1934 )

The other side of the page is sporting news, but apart from a few pictures of very 1930s-looking rugby-players, it's nothing like so exciting. Teams win and teams lose in every era, and unless you're invested in their fortunes, it's pretty dull to read about.

Meanwhile, my second find was a souvenir programme printed to commemorate the centenary of the City of Birmingham being awarded a royal charter in 1938. The official content is again kind of dull - there's a great deal of stuff about centenary committees and awards, and a bit of stuff about decorations, floodlights and pageants put on to mark the occasion. Best of all by far, though, are the period adverts, which take up about 50% of the booklet. Click on each one to go to the gallery, and then again for the full-size version.

Vintage ads ahoy! )

Click here to view this entry with minimal formatting.

strange_complex: (Lee as M.R. James)
This is a rather odd review to be writing, because the subject of this book is my step-great-great-grandfather, and its author is my mother. But, then again, I did finish reading it two nights ago, and I am blogging all my leisure reading again this year. So I guess I kind of have to, really!

Of course, the book itself, now that it has finally emerged into the world, is only the culmination of a project which I've been intimately aware of for many years. Origins )

My own reading experience )

A man of his time )

Naturally, I'm bound to conclude by saying that this book was brilliant, and that everyone should rush out and buy a copy. ;-) But I really did get a lot out of it, and not solely because it concerned a (step-)ancestor, or allowed me to get closer to the subject my mother has been working on for so many years. West's life gives us a genuine window into the world of a typical Victorian medic - and in this book I think my mother has done a great job of helping us to see through it. I'm deeply, fiercely proud of her achievement.

Meanwhile, in a brilliant stroke of timing, this seems like the perfect opportunity to plug once more the serialisation of West's last diary which I am undertaking to celebrate the publication of this book over at [livejournal.com profile] jamesfraserwest. The first entry will in fact appear on Friday, since West for some reason did not start writing in his 1883 diary until January 11th (more details here). I know a lot of you have friended the diary already - but if you kind of meant to take a look last time I mentioned it and never quite got round to it, or thought you'd wait until it started up properly, now is the time to get over there and hit that add button! It's very much worth reading, and since it runs out in April when West enters his final illness, it really is a case of add now or miss out. Hope to see you there! :-)

strange_complex: (Cicero history)
Right. It is time for me to introduce you all to a Great Project. It's the culmination of something which I have been working on since the summer, and which my mother has been working on for over five years now.

See, in 1991, my step-grandmother died, and left to my mother an archive of family documents. Amongst them was the last diary of her grandfather - James Fitzjames Fraser West, a Victorian surgeon who worked at Queen's Hospital, Birmingham from 1854-83, and had an extensive private practice of his own. We quickly realised the incredible interest of both diary and archive, and, around the year 2000, my mother started work on a full-scale biography of West. In September of this year, that biography was published, under the title A Victorian Surgeon. A Biography of James Fitzjames Fraser West 1833-83, Birmingham Surgeon.

The diary itself is published in full as an appendix at the end of the biography. But, as a regular reader of [livejournal.com profile] pepysdiary, I knew that it had far greater potential than that. And so I have set up [livejournal.com profile] jamesfraserwest - West's own home in cyberspace, where his final diary will be serialised, complete with pictures and annotations for the people and places mentioned in it, starting from January 2008.

And this is where you come in.

I firmly believe that this diary will be of enormous interest to huge numbers of people. Those who like reading [livejournal.com profile] pepysdiary, for a start. Those who enjoy Victorian history, medical history, or simply like reading other people's journals, to boot. And there are special treats in store, too, for those who like travel writing, since West undertook a month-long excursion around France and Italy with his wife during March and April 1883, visiting historical sites, churches and local hospitals as he did so. (That's my personal favourite bit, and I had a lot of fun helping Mum make sense of West's visits to archaeological sites in Rome and Pompeii while we were transcribing the diary). Just check out the 'taster entries' I have put on the journal's profile page if you want a sense of why this is great reading material.

But, unlike Samuel Pepys, only four months' worth of West's final diary survive. So people really need to know about it now if they're going to get in on the action before it's all over. The boon which I crave from you, then, is this - help me spread the word.

Friend the diary yourself. If you already read [livejournal.com profile] pepysdiary (and if you don't, you should!), I guarantee you will love it. And of course you'll also be ensuring that it gets on a lot of friendsfriends pages in the process! ;-)

Tell your friends. And tell them to tell their friends. Don't hold back - let's get a snowball rolling here. Basically, it would be hard for anyone who is already into blogs and blogging not to enjoy this. So tell them - and point them either here or directly at [livejournal.com profile] jamesfraserwest if you want to tell them why.

And let me know if you think there are any communities besides [livejournal.com profile] history, [livejournal.com profile] 19th_century and [livejournal.com profile] medical_geeks where I could be plugging this.

For any or all of the above, my heartiest thanks and gratitude. I'm really excited about this project, and I think you'll see why when you take a look at what we've put online so far. Help me give it the kick off the ground it deserves, and I'll look forward to sharing the diary entries with you when they start in January!

Back in Belfast

Wednesday, 13 July 2005 20:41
strange_complex: (All roads lead to Rome)
I flew back from Brum in the early afternoon today, and chatted to a very nice couple on the plane who'd just been to Australia for a year.

I must say I'm glad I did decide to stay a few extra days in B'ham and avoid the Twelfth, though. There were some nasty riots in north Belfast, which are brought closer to home by the fact that I know the girlfriend of the BBC journalist mentioned in the article as having been injured in the riot. He has a shrapnel wound from a pipe bomb in his lower back, but is home now and recovering well, thank the gods.

Aftermath in south Belfast )

I've spent the last couple of days mainly relaxing and enjoying the sunshine and the company of my parents, and also getting a few gentle bits and bobs done. I've booked my flights for my interview at Reading, and will fly back to Birmingham next Wednesday, to travel on down to Reading the next morning for the interview. I've also been reading some Geography books: specifically stuff about Central Place Systems, zones of influence, catchment areas and so on. This sort of stuff has quite often been applied in historical and anthropological contexts, and I'm using it to help me back up some of the stuff I'm saying in my book about the relationship between Roman cities and their hinterlands with a bit more authority. Then, I can show how suburbs fit into that picture.

I've also been helping Mum to decipher a few difficult-to-read words in a very interesting diary she has. It's from 1883, and is the last diary of a Birmingham doctor called James Fitzjames Fraser West, who died in mid-April of that year. He was the grandfather of my mother's step-mother, so I suppose that makes him my step-great-great-grandfather, or something. Anyway, the diary and various other photographs and documents relating to him were kept by the family, and passed to my mother when her step-mother died. She is now writing a biography of him, mainly in his capacity as a typical and well-documented example of a Birmingham medic of the period.

More about JFFW )

For example, he had to treat a patient for a ricked back which he'd caused by lifting up his bedstead with his wife still in it: "too much conjugal affection!", he comments. Another time, while in Italy, he agreed to sing a song during an evening of billiards and music. An Italian captain accompanied him, but he comments that although the captain tried to keep to his tune, "he was very far from it all the time." Meanwhile, in St. Peter's, he measured the size of the columns by having his wife walk around one of them, and noted that it took her 80 seconds to do so.

Deciphering the diary )

Tomorrow, I start work on preparing for my Reading interview: spurred on, of course, by the promise that if I can get enough done by Friday night, I get to spend the entire weekend reading Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince!

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