The Unintended Consequences of Research

Dad with his previous lockdown project, SS Corona


One of the wonderful things about writing is that you can unravel quirky facts, or read around a subject and call it research.

I’ve been researching World War Two for my current WIP and have asked questions of both my Dad (who’s 91) and my ex-father-in-law (who’s 92). Both have provided me with fascinating details of the time, most of which will never hit the final page. The irony is neither will ever end up reading my books. My dad does not like or approve of my lifestyle and when I first came out to him over twenty years ago cut me out of his life and his will. It’s been a long slog back to normalcy, with the help of advocacy of both my late stepmother and my brother, and now we have a good relationship, although there are number of taboo subjects that we avoid.

In my research on the land army, I decided to conflate an incident I read about and a memory from my Dad that he has related on a number of occasions. I asked him to write out everything he could remember about it, which he did and I asked some follow up questions, part of which will make it into the manuscript.

When we spoke about the incident, Dad said how much he had enjoyed thinking back over it and recalling the details (he has an excellent memory) that we decided to do an experiment.

We speak every night. Before the pandemic he was off doing things, but like everybody else in the lockdowns, his interests and activities have been severely curtailed. He found the first lockdown a lot easier to deal with, maybe because it was as we were about to hit spring, it was a novelty and because it was warmer, he could potter in his garage and created a model ship from scrap wood he had lying around. Inevitably, we called it the SS Corona.

This time though, he has found it a lot harder, both physically and mentally, as a number of his acquaintances have caught Covid 19, it was cold and wet and he has missed meeting up with people. He seemed to be slipping into despondency and started to repeat what he had said, not because he didn’t know it was a repetition, but because he wanted to keep me on the phone and have a connection. I put my hand up that I am not the world’s most patient person (as my daughter will testify), and even with poetry readings twice a week with him, there are only so many times I can hear what he’s eaten during the day and be polite and enthusiastic.

So, given how much he enjoyed thinking about and relating his war story I have started to ask him about facets of his life, from his childhood, during the war, in the RAF etc. He thinks about it during the day and writes notes, then relates the stories in the evenings. As he now has something to think about and something different to talk about, he has been more cheerful and I’ve listened with genuine interest. In short, our connection has been strengthened, and all because I asked him about his experiences in the name of research. Who knew asking simple questions could lead to a deeper bond and understanding? Irrespective, I’m grateful.

Are there places research has taken you that you didn’t expect?

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