Tuesday, August 8, 2017

The Call by Edith Ayrton Zangwill

Hi Dear Folk,

I just finished reading The Call, by Edith Ayrton Zangwill, first published in 1924.  One could say it was almost a biography of her step mother Hertha Ayrton.  Set in the Edwardian period, just before WWI and during the War.  Ursula Winfield the heroine of our story lives an upper class life in Kensington, living with her step father Colonel Hibert and mother  She has her own laboratory in the attic where she carries out experiments and writes her papers. She also becomes involved in the women's suffrage movement, for women to get the vote in the UK.

Ursula has studied a little under Professor Smee and he opens up an opportunity for her to be the first women to read a paper at an all male scientific institution.  Professor Vernon Smee lives a middle class life in a suburb of London with his wife Charlotte. He is in his forties and is smitten with Ursula and they have science in common.  Ursula is totally unaware of this, and just enjoys his company as a friend.

This period of time before the first world war was when women were asserting their rights. The right to equal opportunity of a job in a men's world, and the right to vote.  Her mother would just like to see her marry well.  Her mother married Andrew Winfield, and was told he was a little different which he turned out to be, going out to Australia and just making his fortune as he died, this certainly changed her circumstances in life and she marries Colonel Hibert, because a women needs to be married and a girl needs a father.  This family works well together, because she understands both her husband and her daughter, even if she would like her daughter to socialize more, instead of shutting herself away in the attic.

At the Henley Regatta Ursula's mother introduces her to Tony Balestier.

Yes, he was handsome, there was no doubt about it, although, perhaps, he hardly justified her mother's description of him as an Adonis.  Still, his fair, crisp hair, his blue eyes, his well-cut features were pleasant to look upon, while his figure was altogether admirable.  She notices that Professor Smee, who was standing near by, had suddenly grown short.  Why Mr. Balestier must be quite six foot two or three, although his excellent proportions kept one from realizing it.

Ursula's family go away for the summer up to their hunting lodge in Scotland, Ursula has stayed at home on her own to finish her experiments.  It had been her habit to take an early morning walk by the Serpentine and feed the ducks, where she runs into Tony Balestier.

Mr. Balestier was standing in front of her.  He was wearing grey flannels and a straw hat - evidently he considered London in August could be put on a country footing - and he looked very cool and big and altogether pleasant to the eye. And Ursula did feel pleased, although she was rather surprised at herself for doing so.  

Ursula's companion glanced at her with interest.  How mistaken he had been about Miss Winfield!  He had thought her to coldly clever for any human weakness, and here he found her feeding ducks and sympathizing with ragamuffins.

This relationship progresses to a quiet engagement understanding between them, much to her parents joy.  Tony must go off to a secretarial posting in India.  During his time away, Ursula becomes more involved in the suffrage movement.  Many of their letters cross in the mail or are late so she does not truly understand Tony's thinking on the suffrage movement and he hers.

She attends a meeting at the Albert Hall.

More interesting than the vehicles were the actual people all around her.  the great majority were naturally women- women of curiously diversified strata.  There was a large element in so-called artistic attire, rather untidy, rather attractive - at least Ursula found them so, although she could not help remembering the well-known quip, "Oh Liberty, what crimes are committed in they name."  There was another numerous and distinct contingent, probably ladies from Suburbia, the mamma's stout and unintellectual looking, the daughters slight and equally unintellectual looking, but all alike wearing the then fashionable large hat and long coat, the latter usually of a deplorable cut..... Another distinct class was present with which Ursula was less familiar, poorer women with sensible worn faces and toil-coarsened hands.  She guessed them rightly to be the wives of working men, probably mothers of large families.  There were also a sprinkling of working girls, more noisy and even smarter than the young ladies from Suburbia-perhaps hailing from East end factories.  

The Albert Hall was full except there were some empty seats held by 'Life Holders' and they would not release their seats for the suffrage movement, although they would for many other gathering at the hall.

It's interesting that I found this book The Call and it is under Women's Suffrage Literature, and you can learn a lot of history of what women did and how they went about getting the vote.  From lecture tours, passive resistance, imprisonment and hunger strikes.  Also just the down to earth life of traveling around the country giving lectures on the cause and staying at different peoples homes.  On one of these occasions Ursula is housed with Mrs. Todd and her daughters.  Mrs. Todd turns out to be the sister of Charlotte Smee.

"But it ain't the friendship being bad for 'Im that I'm thinking about!"  Her voice shook.  "It's my sister, my little Charlotte - for she'll allies be that to me.  When she was 'ere she spent 'alf 'er time crying - crying because o' you.  You've taken away all the 'happiness of 'er life - an' that weren't over much." .....

Menfolk is born silly, but that's why we women 'as got to stand up for each other.  Ain't that what suffrage mostly means?"

"Yes, that is what suffrage mostly means," Ursula agreed slowly.

All of this is a total revelation to Ursula, who had no understanding of the situation she had put herself in and that she was the cause of such unhappiness.

1914 comes and WWI Tony is enlisted and all the worry that comes with that.  For several years he has a behind the lines posting, which he finds out has been wangled for him, by a relative. When he finds out he immediately revolts against this and gets himself transferred to the front.

Ursula has been working on a device to extinguish liquid fire, a terrible weapon of war used in the trenches.  She thinks it will be greeted with welcome arms when she presents her invention, only to find out that it is not.  This similarly happened to Hertha Ayrton, who invented a design to sweep poison gases from the trenches which was originally dismissed by the War Office.

True Moloch had gripped them nearly all into his service either at home or abroad.

Moloch is a pagan god mentioned in the Bible who the Israelites offered up their children to in the fire.

I will not go any further or spoil the ending.  This book is rich in detail and feelings of the period.


Wednesday, August 2, 2017

A Town Like Alice

Hi Dear Folk,

The thunder is rolling around, It rained fiercely but is now gently raining, and I'm happy because I do not need to go out and water the garden, and it is deliciously cooler again.

I have been immersing myself in A Town Like Alice, I found the full 1980 series on YouTube, it is one of my most favorite stories.  So after watching that I had to go and read the book.  It seems appropriate to read it in the heat of summer, because so much of the story is based in warmer climates, Malaya and the Gulf Coast, Queensland.

The series has a lot of verbiage right out of the book and follows it quite closely with a few minor changes.  The book fills you in on more mundane story line, but still very interesting.  In the series Joe Harmon was played by Bryan Brown, he is tall and dark haired, where as in the book Joe Harmon is described as five foot ten and stocky, with blond hair, clear skin and very blue eyes, which would be a fair description of my father when young.  So all through reading the book it was easy to visualize my father,  who was a very down to earth man and good to have around in a bad situation.  Jean Paget was played by Helen Morse and I think she fits the description.

Jean and Joe meet in Malaya during WWII when it was under Japanese rule.  Joe is an Australian prisoner of war driving the trucks transporting metal rails used to build the infamous railway lines they built during their occupation, with one prisoner of war dying for every sleeper laid.  Jean is with a group of English women and children being walked all over Malaya, because the Japanese do not know what to do with them.  Eating very little and getting no medical attention.  Joe thinks that Jean is married as she always has a baby with her and Jean thinks that he was executed by the Japanese for stealing the commandants black chickens, to give them a square meal.  Six years later 1948, both find out that the later is incorrect, so they both go looking for each other, and that's the very basics of the story.

Joe is a ringer in the Gulf Coast managing a thousand square miles cattle station, but it is very remote, not the place for a women, straight from England.  Willstown the nearest town has nothing to it, just the usual hotel and bar, few businesses of necessity.  The description in the book, of the house that he lives in on Midhurst homestead, is actually so much nicer than was depicted in the series, more like the house depicted in Road from Coorain if you ever watched that, which I cannot find on YouTube and wish I could.

The homestead was a fairly large building that stood high off the ground on posts, so that you climbed eight feet up a flight of steps to reach the veranda and the one floor of the house.

Since the book was written in 1950 by Neville Shute, some expressions I do not think would be politically correct now, or may not even be used anymore, obviously such as Jap and Abo, but other terms are "Too right," "Crook place," and one which Joe says frequently is "Oh my word." And other such Australian terms.

Last week I visited my friend Candyce, her MIL was from Australia, and we went through her photo album, which came into their possession after her FIL died.  He was in the American Army Air force as it was called in WWII, stationed in Australia and that is where they met.  So it has been a WWII Australian era immersion over the past couple of weeks.

Today I got a blood test, as I was bit by a tick and unfortunately in this day and age you can catch all sorts of nasty things from tick bites.  I asked for two tests one to show if I have recently been exposed to Lyme disease and the other to show if I've ever been in contact with it.  There is a lot of controversial thought as to how one should treat past exposure.  Current exposure is treated with a one month course of antibiotics, but past exposure is not treated.

A pot of tea on the patio with my book.

We haven't been away on vacation this year, so last Saturday treated ourselves to a South American meal.  The restaurant here Tierra Columbiana was recommended by a friend.  It is in an area of Philly that one would not want to be in after dark.  But the restaurant is very nice.

Rob had a Columbian meal.  Rob had a sunny up fried egg on his meal, which rather reminded me of the outback Australian breakfast of eggs and steak.

Bob had Cuban.

I had Dominican Republic.

I wore my Indian jewelry, which seemed appropriate with such a meal, if jewelry actually goes with a meal.

We treated The Boy to dinner and he treated us to Mango Marguerites, which he said were the best he had tasted.  Portions are good so we all had left overs to take home.  Yummy!


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