Tag Archives: Arts

New Year Message from James

Hi all!

First of all, I would like to wish you all – regulars, visitors, friends and family – a very happy new year.

You’ve probably noticed that there has been a marked decrease in the frequency of blog posts recently. I remember quite well they days, years ago when I started this blog, that I often posted two or three articles in a day. Isn’t it interesting how times change! If somebody would like to invent 28 hour days and eight day weeks, please feel free! I’ve been very busy recently, visiting family, working on my next book, and not to mention the ‘day job‘ and trying to relax every now and then. Please rest assured that I do hope to try and post more often, as time and commitments permit.

So what does 2013 hold for me? Well, in a few months Sarah and I will be saying goodbye to Chichester and moving to Portsmouth. A month before that move is due to take place I will be handing in my next book, ‘Portsmouth’s World War One Heroes’. The writing process for this book has been patchy to say the least – I managed to write 35,000 words in a month, then about 5,000 in three months! It just goes to show how inspiration can come and go. Perhaps I’ve been doing too much military history in the past few years – the research and writing process is very rigid, particularly when you also have a day job. Not only that, but any non-fiction writer will tell you, the financial rewards just aren’t there. Not that I want to make millions from it, but when you sit back and realise how many thousands of hours you put into something, and what you get in return, it just doesn’t cover the costs sometimes, sadly.

I have been thinking about trying my hand at writing fiction again – I used to write a lot of short stories at school and college, which seemed to get good marks. But I’ve been reading and writing so much non-fiction research recently, I’m finding it hard to think creatively, in terms of dreaming up ideas. With history, the facts are there, you find them, and write them up. With fiction, it’s all out in the world around you, and you write it via your imagination. Not only that, but I’ve spent so long recently working, researching, writing and chasing deadlines, that my brain just isn’t thinking creatively. All good fiction writers seem to relax and watch the world go by and let the inspiration flow, rather than force the issue. Think of Dickens and his midnight walks around London, or JK Rowling writing Harry Potter in Edinburgh Cafe’s. I think more hillwalking, camping and fishing might be in order!

My brother is much more of a fiction fan, and has been pushing a lot of good fiction my way recently – Catch 22, Norwegian Wood, All Quiet on the Western Front, Birdsong… and I remain an eternal fan of Bernard Cornwell, in particular the Sharpe novels. I find reading Dickens a real chore, but the stories themselves are marvellous.

So, who knows what I will be writing come 2014?!

Elsewhere around the world, 2013 began as every year seems to begin and end, with Ms Fernandez-Kirchner talking the same old drivel down in Buenos Aires… more of which very soon…

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1,000 posts

Well, apparently this is my thousandth post on my blog! How the hell did that happen?

I’ve been making a few calculations. If, for example, I’ve written a couple of hundred words in each of my posts, say, 250 – then thats around a quarter of a million words written on Daly History since July 2009. And a thousand posts divided by three years works out at just under one post a day. One wonders where I’ve found the time for it all, in amongst writing my first book, a day job, a home life and by no means least a partner!

I would like to thank you all for your support over the past three years. My brother Scott for suggesting that I start a blog in the first place. Honestly, it started out as something to do and a way of expressing myself, never in my wildest dreams did I imagine I would end up winning awards and getting a book published off the back of it. My publishers for taking a chance on me that I hope has paid dividends, and also the various other publishers who very kindly let me review their wares. Also the various friends I have made here over the years, and other social media historians who have helped to create what is a thriving online community for military and other kinds of history.

A few years ago, nobody would have imagined the amount of history that would be created online. Even now, some of the more sniffy ‘professionals’ might doubt the importance of social media. But I’m sure the past three years here have shown that it is THE way forward when it comes to breaking down barriers in history, heritage and all other kinds of allied fields. Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, Flickr, and indeed WordPress are just as valuable tools as the humble pen and paper. bJust like the internet has broken down doors for music artists, it’s done the same for historians, and it’s time that people woke up to it. Just as nowadays somebody can record an album in their bedroom, and put it online, a budding historian can circumvent all of the chicanery, and get their work noticed. Why beaver away on writing dusty journal articles that maybe four people will read? Blogging is accessible, it’s dynamic, and it is – I’m sure – here to stay.

Heres to the next thousand!

 

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The Sinking of the Laconia: the verdict

Well now we’ve finally seen the two-part Drama ‘The Sinking of the Laconia‘. If you haven’t already seen it, you can catch it on BBC iplayer here.

My impressions? I found it very gripping and very moving. I don’t mind admitting that I was choked in a few places. Historically, it seems to have captured the essence of the story and with no major embellishments or historical licence. From what I can tell, the writers used real events quite well, albeit changing some names and circumstances slightly. Perhaps there was a little too much time given to romance and flirting, but hey that’s just TV I guess. I’m not althogether sure that the character of Hilda Smith existed, perhaps someone can enlighten me.

I have a feeling that the actions of the American B-24 Liberator crew may come in for criticism now. The drama’s portrayal of them was as hapless, inexperienced trigger-happy young men. I have to say that from what I know, their actions were irresponsible and sadly added to the loss of life and suffering from the sinking. But on the other hand, they were by no means the only men in wartime to make a bad call in a difficult situation. It would be nice to think that it was simply a mistake.

Overall I’m glad that such a heart-rendering story of humanity amongst war has finally got the recognition that it deserved. For too long the Laconia has been virtually forgotten in the annals of history, quite why is hard to explain. Hopefully that will change now.

Thank you to everyone who has visited here in the past few days, visits to my blog have gone through the roof. My record for daily visits was smashed by three times the old record, and today’s total will be even more too.

Finally, to anyone who was on the Laconia, or has a family story connected with it, please keep in touch, I will try and write about the story from time to time here. I’ve really enjoyed all of your contributions. There is also a Laconia group on Facebook that is a great way to keep in touch and exchange news and stories. Let’s make sure that the story of the Laconia is remembered.

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The Sinking of the Laconia – Links, previews and interviews

In readiness for the Docu-dramaThe Sinking of the Laconia, due to hit our screens later this week, here are a few interesting links I have found about the programme, the ship and the incident.

BBC webpage
Wikipedia entry
Internet Movie Database
Guardian interview with writer Alan Bleasdale
Suite101 page
BBC press pack with interviews and more
Interviews with the main characters
Werner Hartenstein (U-Boat Captain)
U-Boat.net page

Hopefully on Tuesday or Wednesday I will give you some insight into my personal connection with the Laconia, by sharing my Great-Uncle Tommy’s story.

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possible portrait of George Stebbing located

It’s early days, but it is possible that a portrait of George Stebbing has surfaced. For those of you not in the know, I spent a couple of years immersed in George doing my undergraduate dissertation on him. Stebbing was a nautical instrument maker in Portsmouth in the early to mid Nineteenth Century, and in a typically Georgian/Victorian way he had connections with all kinds of important characters – Captain Matthew Flinders, Reverend James Inman ad Rear Admiral Sir Home Riggs Popham. He also played a central role in Portsmouth life, forming the Literary and Philosophical Society and being a senior member of local freemasonry. His son sailed on HMS Beagle with Charles Darwin.

Previously we had no idea what Stebbing looked like. There is reference in the Lit and Phil records to a self-portrait that George Exhibited in the early 1930’s, but there whereabouts of this have remained a mystery despite my continued digging. It’s tantalising to think that this might not only be a portrait of Stebbing, but also one by his own hand. Having a picture of him would really complete the ‘Stebbing Story’, as its so much easier to portray or visualise someone if you know what they looked like.

I have very few details other than that, but keep an eye out for more information as I get it.

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