Tag Archives: research

Sail Boats and other such things…

I just overheard an interesting snippet from a morning TV programme,
“A research team has found that a 20 minute walk every day can add years to your life,”
Leaving aside the fact that most people know this anyway or at least, suspect it, it was good to hear. Confirmation that something one enjoys is good for one, is always welcome.
I have to ask though, was this research programme set up just to establish this fact or was it part of a larger programme and this gem just one of many conclusions reached? I should not mock. Where would we be without research?
In caves, I daresay.

After all, where would we be if Abi Eshu had not continued with his research after inventing the wheel, discovering the clay tablet and even an alternative coinage to the Turnip? Abi Eshu was too clever to sit back and do nothing. With some poetic licence, I invite you to imagine this scene…

It is somewhere in Ancient Mesopotamia in **3500BC or thereabouts.
Abi Eshu is polishing the wheels of his cart. These new wheels are made of iron and gleam beneath the orange sun. It is evening and he is putting the cart to bed.
He removes the day’s takings and records them on the clay tablets by the door, 4 turnips, 5 bags of potatoes, 1 pig. It has been a good day’s trading.

“Abi Eshu, are you coming in to bed?” his mother calls, “It grows late and the sun goes down,”
“Soon mother,” replies Abi, “First I must go to the barn,”
Abi Eshu crawls into the hayloft and pulls out his latest project. A pile of reeds and a small piece of cloth, lie before him.

He begins to weave the reeds together. They are many and his fingers grow numb but he works long into the night.
The next morning his worried mother comes into the barn and climbs the ladder to find him sleeping in the loft. She shakes him awake.
“Abi Eshu, look at you sleeping in your clothes on the floor of the hayloft. You will come to no good.”
Abi blinks and grabs at the object next to him.
“What is that?” Abi’s mother is wide eyed at the object her son is holding up with pride.
“This, mother, is a boat.”
“Yes Abi, I can see that but but it is so small and no use to anyone. You have stayed here all night to make – that?”
By this time, Abi Eshu’s father has come into the barn and he too casts doubt upon the tiny boat that Abi Eshu seems so pleased with.
“I do not intend to sail in it,” Abi assures them, “But when I was walking by the river the other day, I saw three fishermen each in a boat. The first boat was sitting in the middle of the river, the second boat was by the edge and the third, wedged on the bank. I asked the men where they were going in their boats and they told me they were going to row them to a place many day’s ride from here but every time they put the boats in the water, the wind lashed around their heads and the boats spun round in the water.
As I stood there, I felt the strong wind blowing my cloak. My hair was in my eyes and I could scarce keep upright. I thought, I must think of a way to help these men get their boats to sail up the river and not spin round and round.”

Abi Eshu’s parents look at one another. They are used to their son’s wild imaginings but this sounds very interesting.
They wait as Abi Eshu climbs down the ladder and strides across the parched ground to the river.

Following him, they sit on a nearby rock and watch.
Abi Eshu finds a long stick. He takes his piece of cloth and secures it to the stick which he wedges into the woven reeds.
“Why has that boat been given a curtain?” laughs his mother but Abi does not reply.
He arranges the cloth so that it forms a triangle from the tip of the stick and clings to the side of the tiny boat.
Three fisherman who have also been watching, move closer.
Abi Eshu holds a finger up to test the wind. He kneels by the river’s edge and drops the little craft into the water, adjusting the little piece of cloth until it feels right to leave it. The tiny boat bobs around in the water for a moment until a breeze catches it. Abi waits. Abi’s parents wait. The three fishermen wait, open mouthed. The little boat begins to move. It moves so fast with the wind driving behind the piece of cloth, that Abi has to run after it.

“It works!” he cries, exultant, holding up the little craft as his audience puff up to meet him.
“A wonderous thing,” they all say.
‘Will you make me such a craft that I can sail in?” asks the first fisherman. Abi Eshu nods with enthusiasm. He knows he can.
“You will need a bigger cloth,” his mother points out.
“It will need to be strong, look how the wind has tugged at that small boat,” points out one of the fishermen.
“It will be both large and strong,” Abi Eshu assures them.
“I have the very cloth!” exclaims his mother, clapping her hands together, “It is not silk, nor flimsy cotton – it is the tough sacking I weave to carry the flour in.”
Abi Eshu grins,
“That would be perfect mother and I will make sails for all the boats so that on windy days we can use the wind to take us where we want to go.”
‘And on still days?” his father asks with a grin,
Abi Eshu shrugs,
“On still days we paddle but there are very few still days on the river.”
From that day on the fishermen’s boats speed along with their sails flapping in the wind and the tradesmen carry their goods far and wide.
Even so, on still days it is good just to paddle up and down the stream and admire the countryside.

**Poetic license has been taken with this tale as sail boats were invented in around 5000BC, most probably by Abi Eshu’s Ancestor.

“The ancient Mesopotamians were a highly inventive people responsible for many innovations. These included the seeder plow, writing, irrigation and sanitation techniques, Other notable innovations included: “Pythagorean theorem,” the concept of zero, glass, and the arch, column, and dome. Around 3500 BC, they invented the wheel and they were among the first to harness the wind as an energy source by using the sail.”

On an entirely different note – being duty bound to provide a giggle or two this month, I should say that some research into a better way of pulling on your wellies when sitting in the driver’s seat would be a good idea.

This morning, arriving at the woods, I parked the car and swiveled in my seat to discard my shoes and pull on my Wellingtons.
How was I to know my left leg had pressed against the automatic switch, which causes the seat to rise and move forward? Next I knew, I was being shunted towards the steering wheel while the back of the seat, slowly but inexorably, bent forward. Imagining myself folded up and pinioned against the wheel in a most undignified manner, I came to my senses in the nick of time and moved my leg. The seat stopped its threatened progress and though I was now bent double, I was able to reverse the motion.
Extricating myself from the embarrassing fiasco, I let the dogs out and hoped no one had seen…
You didn’t did you?

The woods

Charlie and Flossie in the woods

Happy New year!


Filed under Tidbits - the written word

Pandora’s Box


“Research is a waste of time – get on with the writing” ?

I spotted the headline on the cover of ‘Writer’s Forum’.

If you are like me, you will have read that line and bristled at the idea that all that precious research you have clocked up, might be classed as a waste of time.

I read the article and of course, Jenny Colgan was not saying that all research is useless, rather, her argument was that we are all in danger of getting bogged down in the research at the expense of the writing at times.

Never has this been more true than this week.

In a bid to bring you a post about the great (or great, great) grandmother of mine who was governess to the first or possibly the last white Raja of Sarawak, I was determined to track down some family history to verify it.

Few things ignite a child’s imagination as much as hearing that your great grandmother was once governess to the children of the Third White Raja of Sarawak.

Just hearing those words conjures up an era of glittering Rajas and turbans and flowing dresses. (I am thinking “The King and I” with Deborah Kerr here).

Deborah Kerr and Yul Brynner

The King and I

Such a tantalizing snippet of information is sure to re-awaken interest when that child has cause to remember it in later life as I have done.

Yet, establishing exactly when my great grandmother took up this position proved to be more difficult than first thought. My family, being much depleted, do not remember the entire story though my mother can furnish me with a few facts (she remembers her grandmother receiving letters from the Raja’s children, well into her old age) and my sister tells me she used to have some of those letters but that my father threw them away when clearing the garage out where she had stored them all those years ago.

Do any others exist?

Without any letters, I turned to the family tree and searched for names and dates that might match. I trawled through passenger lists and censuses to pinpoint the whereabouts of the great, great grandmother whom I know to have been born in Jamaica and her daughter, known to have received the letters from the three daughters of the third White Raja. Their story is intriguing and even without hearing about my own relative’s part in it, I am persuaded to delve deeper.

I think that family archives might throw up more information but to date I have uncovered some other gems of totally unconnected literary worth that need following up – where will it all end?

My week has been spent in research as well as in dealing with the ongoing support arrangements for my nephew who has Asperger’s Syndrome. Between writing emails about care teams, support teams, solicitors and trust funds, I have been writing emails about missing relatives, misspelt records and ploughing through criminal registers (well, you never know).

Have I written anything? No.

Have I had ideas for writing something?

Oh plenty.

What have I done with those ideas?

Why, I have researched them!

So, today, I am putting all research on hold and am writing.

I am reminded of my second daughter when she was just a toddler, who used to spend an inordinate amount of time planning what she was going to do. She would get all her dolls out and arrange them on the floor in a line. She would talk about this as she did it. After a time, she would tell me what she was going to do next, get the teddies out, arrange her tea set on the coffee table, she was going to make some pretend cakes in a minute; she would spend the entire morning planning the things she was going to do once everything was set up.

I would watch it all with a smile, knowing what would come next. Before she had begun to play the game, she would survey everything with a satisfied sigh before curling up on the sofa and falling asleep.



Preparation done - and to sleep



I fear I have reached that stage. One more piece of research and I will just curl up in a chair and sleep, under the false impression that my work is done.

No one can deny that a certain amount of research is necessary when trying to validate facts but sometimes, wouldn’t it be fun just to make it all up? Oh, but hey, that’s what we writers of fiction do anyway isn’t it?

It is doubtful that my relative would have actually dressed in the splendid costumes that Deborah Kerr wore in ‘The King and I’. Indeed, the Third White Raja reigned from 1917 – 1946 and it is his three daughters who appear to have kept up a correspondence with her.

As facts and figures continue to baffle me, perhaps I will throw caution to the wind and write the story inspired by the facts I do know, using artistic license to fill in the gaps.

But hang on a minute – wasn’t Oscar Wilde, along with other actors and literary figures of the time, a regular visitor to the Raja’s London home? Is it not, therefore, conceivable that my ancestor has taken tea with the great man? How did she travel to Sarawak? Was she already in Jamaica or did she travel from Scotland – the place that the family returned to in the late 1980s? Questions demand answers and though I could write this piece and clothe it with imagined facts, I am again drawn to what actually happened.

Goodness, I will just have to research further – I am opening a Pandora’s box to be sure!


Filed under Living Between the Lines