The topic for one of my writing groups next time is ‘The Story of My Life’. Well, I’ve had a rather ordinary and conventional life, parents, sister, school, degree, work, marriage, kids, freedom – moving from Cambridge to Weston-super-Mare to Manchester, to Oldham, to Weston-super-Mare, so far so very good. However it’s not very interesting to write about, although I suppose I could pick out various incidents or times which stand out, things I did, places I went, experiences I had but I must say it doesn’t engage me – although it would be a challenge to write something in a different and original way. I’ve struggled for years trying to think of a way to write something autobiographical in a different and original way, I can’t think how I could do it in less than 1000 words for my fellow group-members!
I’ve been puzzling over this because recently my offerings to the group have been somewhat feeble and very old hat. I want to get to grips with my writing again and try and stretch myself. I had an idea of writing the story of someone else’s life, but in the first person, and I thought about the great-grandma after whom I was named. She was born Lois Penney, the seventh of ten children, but became Lois Walford later in life. Her father Charles, was a basket maker, maybe fairly humble work at first although baskets in the 1850’s were very much like the plastic of today – in terms of storage and carrying items. Some were small and domestic, some large and used commercially or industrially. In the end, Walford’s baskets were made in factories in the Midlands – but that was after Lois had left home. Her mother Martha née Quanby died when Lois was about fifteen; her father remarried twenty or so years later and had two more children.
Lois Penney left home and somehow met a handsome and extremely rich man, who must have been the love of her life. They had five children, but tragically he died suddenly and unexpectedly when the youngest child was only three years old. It was particularly tragic because they had never married. He came from a very strict, observant Jewish family, and met Lois when his mother was a widow and he never broke away from his her completely. After his death his mother and brothers did support Lois and the children to an extent financially, but she must have felt very alone and daunted by the struggle. It was only after the death of his mother, that Lois took his surname and became Mrs Walford.
I mentioned that I’ve had a rather ordinary and conventional life, and Lois Penney Walford appeared to have had a similar life. She was extremely strict and particular with archetypal Victorian values and great emphasis on manners, courtesy and behaving correctly. However, in fact her life was very different from what it seemed from the outside, she was extremely unconventional, having five children without being married to their father. Her life in fact was secretly extraordinary and unconventional. If I write the story of Lois’s life from her point of view, I think I will imagine a diary she wrote on the morning of her daughter Ida’s marriage – Ida was my grandmother. Maybe I will write it as a letter to Ida, telling her daughter the true story of her own life. I think that would interest me more than writing about me! But could I do it in 1000 words? Wait and see!