Monday, May 24, 2010

English Surprise

I got a great surprise in the mail today from England! I received a newspaper clipping on Evelyn's wedding from 1885. It has so many details that I was lacking, so I am adding it to the book today. I also found another lead in the story, too!

Now, if I could only get that lucky for the latter part of her life...1938 is still a mysterious time for Evelyn and me.

It's still raining here, so I felt like I should have some English tea and cookies! Jolly good. LOL

Thursday, May 20, 2010


One of the follow-ups I did yesterday was to a local history center where Evelyn got married. I didn't have time to visit their office, but they checked the local paper yesterday and found details on the wedding!!!

Carol is mailing me a copy. That is too awesome and I can't wait to see it!

P.S. It still looks like England here in NC with the overcast sky and off and on again wonder I can't kick me tea habit. LOL

A Recent Discovery

While in England some archivists gave me leads to follow, which I did yesterday. I was doing some follow-up research on Evelyn and stumbled upon a treasure. When I was at the London Metropolitan Archives I had to apply for a History Card aka library card to access their resources, which includes old newspapers.

It was very useful and we yielded some good results. However, you couldn't save anything and had to print. I assumed the card was only good while I was at the library in London. Much to my happy surprise--it works from the comfort of my home here in the states!!

I spent most of yesterday perusing all the topics that I didn't have time to look up while in London. I was able to save all the items we located while in London, plus a whole bunch more! That alone is worth the trip. It also includes access to the London Times, which I was paying about $8 per day to access.

Sadly, I have to put the new toy down today and focus on my next True West column (which I like doing anyway) and getting some new Cary photos.

Ah, the balancing act...


Monday, May 17, 2010

Thoughts after England

I've had time to reflect on my journey to England and my quest to find out more about Evelyn. I guess the big question is: Was it worth it? Hmm. The answer is yes. While I did not find what I had hoped to, I have come away with a much better understanding of what living in England is like.

The highlight of the trip was of course, meeting Evelyn's great granddaughter, Elizabeth. There is nothing more special to an author than meeting a direct descendant of someone you have been researching and learning about. It's as close to meeting Evelyn as I will ever come--totally moving.

Could I have written the book without going to England? Yes. However, I know The Secret Lives of Evelyn will be much better because of my experience. To be able to see the house where Evelyn lived, her neighborhood, the climate, the lifestyle, and so much more, will add to the book immensely!

When I was at the airport and heading home, I had a real sense of sadness and was very emotional.

Now I must take all that I learned and discovered and get my butt in gear and finish the book! I promise to update this blog more often with my progress.

Right now, I have this book and my Cary book, so things are going to be crazy for a while. I also have my True West column due next week. Ah, to be back...

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Our Departure, May 15, 2010

We awoke around 6:00 and got ready. We left the Weird around 7:00 a.m. and no one was awake, so we stole away in the early hours. We arrived at the airport early, as Peter advised, and make our way to security. This should not surprise you, but I had an issue at Heathrow. LOL.

I had two carry-on items, which contained the usual stuff, computer, phone, paper, books, and souvenirs of cookies, tea, and other food stuffs. I know y’all are surprised by that. And before you wonder, yes, I got them at the grocery store. :). I was somewhat worried that the food might be an issue, but that was not my problem. First, I left my UK cell phone in my pant’s pocket which set off the alarm when I walked through security. I was patted down by an extremely friendly Indian woman. I told her I should charge her for what she did to me! LOL

Next were my carry-on bags. I expected my cookies to get me in trouble, but it was my other bag, which contained my laptop, US cell phone, MP3 player, books, papers, and other non-threatening items. After about five minutes security asked me to identify my bag. I did and he asked me to list all its contents. I proceeded to do so and I thought I recalled well, until Tanya advised me that I listed the contents from my other bag! Oops. I called the security agent over and told him and I had to go over all the items in the bag in question. They called over a second person who questioned me. Finally, they took my bag and asked me to open it. Honestly, why didn’t they just do that in the first place? Well, they were satisfied nothing was threatening and we were allowed to pass. We headed in, had some real porridge and tea, and then shopped. We bought BLT sandwiches in case we didn't have dinner on the plane. Turns out we had ravioli, salad, bread, cheese and crackers, and dessert for lunch and then a Chicago deep dish pizza with cookies and grapes for a snack, so we ended up bringing the BLTs all the way from England!

We arrived at RDU a little early. Cleared the fitst customs area where I told them I had my BLT because they asked about produce. Hey, I was honest and told them. The first customs man said no problem. I got my luggage, but the next customs man said I either needed to eat my BLT on the spot or go to the Agriculture exam area and toss the BLT. Fine, I'll toss the damn thing. Not so easy! I had to wait 40 mins to have all my luggage scanned and pawed through--all for a stupid BLT. Grr.

Tomorrow I will post my overall thoughts and take-aways.

Last Day for Research and the Rental Car, May 14, 2010

Neither of us wanted to face the owner in the morning (he makes breakfast) so we hurried off and had tea in town. We then headed to Lewisham which is where Evelyn grew up. The Lewisham Library yielded some great finds for me, but still nothing with a “wow” factor. We had lunch at a nice little pub in town and I had an onion pasty with a ½ pint cider—I had research to do!

We left the library and headed to the parking lot for our rental car and as we approached, my heart sank. Someone hit the corner of the car!! Not too severe, but it’s a rental. And no, I only took the third-party insurance, which only kicks in if they catch the third party. I did phone the response unit that monitors the lot. They said the camera was not facing my car at the time, but the rental company can investigate further, however, I may be responsible. On the bright side, my AmEx card is platinum and is supposed to take care of that. I was advised this may take months to clear up—ugh.

Next stop was Evelyn’s husband hometown newspaper for more clues. He was raised in Richmond, Surrey and the Guardian took over the Richmond and Twickenahm Times. The leafed through their original volumes, but alas, did not find anything. They year of 1885 is the one I really needed, but they could not find that one. Darn. I was able to help a fellow colleague, Fred Nolan, which some research and found a very big thing for him. So, I did have some satisfaction from that.

Tanya and I headed towards the Weir now dubbed the Weird, and made our way to Hampton Court, which was Henry’s VIII’s palace. We arrived around 6:00 so it was closed, but a very nice security guard let us in to wander the gardens and take tons of photos. This palace was a large as a small town and very impressive and I am sorry we did not get to tour it.

After that we headed to Walton and found a neat little Thai restaurant for dinner. We dined in true European fashion by eating around 8:30. The food was delicious.

We got to bed around midnight and had to be up around 6:00 a.m. for our flight, so again no post.

London Metropolitan Archives, London, and the Lock Out, May 13, 2010

Today we opted for traditional porridge (oatmeal) for breakfast. It was not the porridge I was used to from the UK and was basic oatmeal like we have in the U.S. Traditional UK porridge is like a sweet, creamy pudding and not spackle.

We drove to the Walton train station and headed for the London Metropolitan Archives in central London. Tanya helped me research there and she found some information I was looking for! I too, had some success. We ventured out for lunch and found a hip little cafe and had soup, sandwiches, and tea. We left the archives around 6:30 p.m.

I finally caught up with another friend, Peter, who was my cameraman in the Lost Worlds show I did on Deadwood. We met him at a neat little area called Smithfield, which was THE meat market from the 1800s and it appears it still does a similar business. Peter picked us up and drove us to a hip area called Convent Garden which used to be the fruit and veg market. Today it is a trendy mecca of restaurants and pubs crawling with people.

He took us to, of all places, a cute little French restaurant. Although I hadn't seen Peter for almost three years since our shoot, it was like it was yesterday. We reminisced, laughed, and had a great time. It was too late to catch the train so he drove us all the way to Walton on Thames. We picked up our car at the train station and made our way back to the Weir around 1:10 a.m.

As we pulled into a very dark parking lot we knew we were in trouble. No one had mentioned the procedure for coming in after the pub closed. We tried knocking, yelling, and then honked the horn. We tried calling, but we only had the pub number. We laid on the horn for a good forty minutes and no one seemed to notice. It was supposed to be the coldest night yet with a frost and we did not want to sleep in the car!

My husband recommended we call the police, which I did. Just as I did, the owner stepped onto the balcony. Now, I am not making this up and Tanya is my witness, but this man was in his BVDs and a t-shirt. That’s it! He says to us, “You know you’re laying on the horn.” I wanted to say, “No shit Sherlock, I’m freezing my a$$ off and you locked us out.” Instead, Tanya says in a very sweet voice (even though she’s pissed and I don't mean drunk) “We’re locked out.” He replied, “Go around the back and take the outdoor stairs.” Grr. How did we know? We truly believe he thought we were drunk, but were not. Finally at 2 a.m. we were back in our room so posting for that night.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

The British Library and North London

Today I drove myself to the British Library in Colindale, which is north of London. They house the largest newspaper collection in England (I believe). Spent an hour getting there, an hour back, and four hours of paging through 1880s papers (yes, the were the real things), and only found one tidbit that is somewhat helpful. Sigh...

My cousin ventured to London on the trains to the Victoria and Albert Museum and Harrods. The V&A was supposed to have a document for me, but they did not--another strike out.

My driving skills are improving, but are not perfect. I knew this when I tried to go up a one-way street and the coppers in their car started waving frantically (they were also smiling and laughing). I think my car must be marked as a renter from America! Speaking of coppers...I have been told the person getting ready to give me a ticket yesterday was not a copper, but a parking attendant. Oops.

Tomorrow is another day and I am still hopeful that I will leave England knowing more about Evelyn. At the bare minimum I have met her great granddaughter, which is a treasure in itself. Have not been able to connect with my English friend Tom due to his work schedule. Hoping it works out...Peter is another friend (my cameraman from Lost Worlds) I am hoping to get up with, but he's in Germany until tonight.

We heard they are canceling flights again due to the volcano...

We're heading to London again tomorrow for research and I am going to the London Metropolitan Archives. Wish me luck!!!

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Lewes and Brighton

This morning we headed for Lewes and Brighton for research and a visit with a friend. We took "sticky" and managed to not see smoke, but there was a distinct odor, probably the clutch about to fall off!

Safely arrived in Lewes, but could not find a place to park for a while. We finally found one along a small residential street, parked and left. We headed to what we thought was the records office. We asked two people along the way, but no one could really help us. Finally, as if the Lord knew needed help, a priest appeared. We asked him and he kindly helped. He asked us where we parked and if we paid the meter. Uh, what meter? He drove us to our car to pay the meter and when we arrived (less than 10 mins.) a copper was writing us a ticket! Yikes. The priest raced from him car and said we were from America and to forgive us, which the copper did. Whew. He then asked me to follow him with our car and we went near the church. He gave me a day pass and then drove us to the archives.

I had no luck with my research, but I now know there is nothing I have missed there. We drove to Brighton, which was a lovely, but rundown seaside resort. The beach is all rocks and the sand on the cliffs is clay. Met my writer friend, David Rowland and he gave us a guided tour around--including Rudyard Kipling's house. He treated us to tea and cakes at the marina and we departed.

I am sitting in the pub, having a pint at the Weir Hotel and catching you up!


P.S. I was able to trade "Sticky" for an automatic today and life is good and Tanya is happy!

London and the Dreaded Rental Car

Arrived in London late because of a flight delay, which caused us to reach Elizabeth (Evelyn's great granddaughter) very late. She served us a lovely late lunch of three salmon dishes and we enjoyed gin and tonics! After, we looked through albums and I found new photos for the book. She is a real treasure and I am glad to now call her my friend.

The RENTAL car...reserved an automatic, but they gave it away so I was forced to take a stick and drive on the wrong side of the road!!! We weren't even two mins out of the rental office and the car was smoking and had a bad odor. Tanya was so scared she said, "I really think we should turn back." Not having a lick of sense and a strong determination I was determined to persevere. By the time we got to the hotel we had to call the roadside mechanic. No serious damage, but he was concerned.

My friend Tom, poor soul, waited for me for two hours at the hotel. I felt really bad. We had some dinner and too short of a visit.


Our journey to Paris via London was 1.5 hours longer because of the volcano. We finally landed in Charles de Gaulle on Saturday. We stayed in a lovely hotel in the opera district. We met my cousin Tanya's friend, Delphine who chauffeured us around Paris. We went up the Eiffel Tower, drove down the Champs Elysses to the L'Arc de Triomphe. Saw Notre Dame Cathedral. Had lunch at an outdoor cafe near the Eiffel Tower. We dined with Delphine's family, including her 80 year-old father, Regis, who was a sweetheart! Sunday we saw the Louvre and shopped. For dinner we bought French bread ham and cheese sandwiches, cherry pastries, and walked back to the hotel Had a French white wine with dinner in the hotel lounge.

Left for London on Monday noon.

Saturday, May 8, 2010


Our journey to Paris via London was 1.5 hours longer because of the volcano. We finally landed in Charles de Gaulle on Saturday. We stayed in a lovely hotel in the opera district. We met my cousin Tanya's friend, Delphine who chauffered us around Paris. We went up the Eiffel Tower, drove down the Champs Elysses to the L'Arc de Triomphe. Saw Notre Dame Cathedral. We dined with Delphine's family, including her 80 year-old father, Regis, who was a sweetheart! Sunday we saw the Louvre and shopped. For dinner we bought French bread ham and cheese sandwiches, cherry pastries, and walked back to the hotel and had a French white wine with dinner in the hotel lounge.

Left for London on Monday noon.

Friday, May 7, 2010

125 Years and 22 Days

It was exactly 125 years and 22 days ago that Evelyn and her husband set sail for America. My cousin and I will be boarding a plane for England tonight. We are filming as well so we can make a documentary about my quest. Turns out Paris is not just for fun after all--there is some theatre research to be done.

I can't say if my journey, which will be about seven hours in a plane, or her journey, which was 10 days at sea is better.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Preparing for Europe

It's a total countdown now. Two days from today I will be heading to the airport to visit Paris and England. Paris is just for fun, but England is where I begin my quest to find more about Evelyn's family and her life.

I will attempt to blog and add photos each day of my journey, so keep coming back!