Lost in Time

People don’t change over the years but the environment they live in does. When Ishobel Ross, a cook from the Isle of Skye, arrives in London in July 1916 it is amazing how much she gets up to in the city without a car! She is sightseeing – taking in the theatre, a trip to Aldershot, shopping at Selfridges, visits to St Pauls, Marble Arch, and tea at Fullers. The list goes on and I’m exhausted reading it. Finally on the 29th she writes “Got word today (from the Scottish Women’s Hospitals) to report at Victoria Station on Tuesday morning.”

Got word? How? Obviously not by SMS or mobile call but I’m left pondering the alternative. Did the SWH ring Ishobel at her hotel? Send a telegram? From my research into the Twenties in Sydney it is amazing to someone from the 21st century how often they got mail in the early part of the last century: twice in the metropolitan area and for a time a delivery on Saturday which beggars belief. Telegrams too seem to arrive very quickly, including the dreaded ones from the War Office – “We regret to inform you…”

Did the SWH send a boy running through the streets of London with a message? Who knows? There is, of course no way of knowing now. As they say “you had to be there.”  And taking that line of thought I can imagine a 22nd century historian possibly stumbling over emails, letters, the odd diary, containing such lines as: “Met this great guy last night. Too good to be true so I googled him.”

Google may be around for another 100 years. Or it may be lost in time in the way of “got word” and “shanks pony” – a term my Mine Manager/diarist great-great grandfather Richard Pope frequently used in the 1880s. “Took ‘shanks pony’ into Silverton from Broken Hill.” A special breed of horse you are wondering? No, it means to walk. So there you are, you were way off course just as I maybe off course when I speculate on Ishobel’s “got word”.

The past is another country. They definitely do things differently there.

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4 thoughts on “Lost in Time

  1. I’ve written a story (for middle grades, set in remote Central Australia in the early 1990s. Someone who read it asked why the heroine hadn’t used her mobile to call for help. In the early 1990s the school where I was teaching in remote Central Aust didn’t even have regular telephones, let alonne mobiles! BTW they still don’t have mobiles there – too remote!

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    • I know, it’s frustrating sometimes isn’t it? Some people will nitpick no matter what you do. I studied a book called Transatlantic English to get the usage right for an Englishman and an American in my book Crossing Paths. Still got pulled up by someone saying I was using ring instead of call. That differentiation wasn’t even in the Transatlantic English book! Obviously I now know “ring” someone must be mainly Australian and English and call is American. But gosh…talk about being very narrowminded to concentrate on such an issue with a book about loss of memory and healing and love.

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