Tuesday, May 18, 2010

A Proper Book

What did people expect I wonder? Some Xeroxed sheets cobbled together and clipped with a staple at the corner? It's a book alright - 220 pages; illustrations in black and white and colour,  acknowledgments, references and indexes; an ISBN number and a proper publisher. Let's be loud and proud about it.....

'Marton, the story of a Shropshire village', our book, is a reality and I think my co-conspirator and I can puff out our matronly chests with pride. Whoop, whoop. We did it!

Pick up our lovely book, caress its silky cover, admire the photograph of Marton lying in the verdant Rea Valley with Stapeley Common, Corndon and the Stiperstones beyond. Turn it over and read our enticing blurb. Surely you would want to find out more about our little Shropshire village. This is how we start to reel you in:
'To drive through Marton takes only a matter of moments. The Village’s main street, always an important thoroughfare, is now an efficient road which whisks the traveller on his way with barely a backward glance.
Stop a while though - take lunch in one of the Village’s Pubs and maybe stroll down one of the narrow lanes where the hedges in springtime are abloom with hawthorn and  honeysuckle. Head off across one of the many footpaths that cross rich pastureland and take you up onto the valley sides. Look back on Marton, nestled on a slight rise in the rich arable land of the Rea Valley and wonder, as the authors did, what secrets this village holds.
Scratch the surface and there are stories waiting to be told.

Within these pages Marton’s history unfolds. From its humble beginnings; a cluster of lakeside huts built on a patch of dry land amidst marshland the village becomes the 21st century community familiar today. 

Museums and archives have yielded their facts and figures but it is the reminiscences of older inhabitants – who have often recounted tales told to them by their own parents - that have brought Marton’s history to life. Their memories, the memories of ordinary folk, the farmer, the shop keeper and the farmer’s wife, people who worked the land and played their part in the community are our link with the past.
This is their story.'
For me it all began with a remark about a talk I'd not been to. An elderly retired chap from the village had spoken to the WI about his war-time exploits. He'd been a good and memorable speaker and the adventures of this once young ex tank driver were hairy to say the least. Everyone agreed they should have been recorded - except by then Ron had died and taken his reminiscences to the grave with him.  The seed was planted however; the village had numerous elderly residents, all with tales to tell - admittedly perhaps not as noteworthy as Ron's, but worthy of recording before they too were lost. A friend in the village shared my enthusiasm and we tentatively, with the aid of steam-driven recording equipment, set about putting memories on record. We found simply putting the cassette player on the table and pushing 'on' worked best. Folk on the whole forgot it was there and chattered away about this and that, largely without prompting. We learned about arcane agricultural practices, fairly primitive home medicine, cooking, rites and rituals and oh, so much more.  Doreen took on the job of transcribing the crackly tapes - a job which confused her word processing programme no end as the Shropshire tongue is a stranger to grammatical correctness and exact spelling. 

The project morphed into something more solid as we amassed more and more information. We borrowed and scanned pictures and documents and Doreen took up writing to strange men persuading them to reveal their secrets.

Doreen said we should have an exhibition. So we did. It was well received - but what next? It seemed a shame to stuff all the material we had gathered into a drawer never to be seen again. Then, because it was an easy answer when people asked 'What are you going to do with all this?' we replied casually 'Oh, put it into a book'. 

The long and the short of it is, that is what we did. Doreen wrote chapter upon chapter and I chipped in my three penn'orth here and there. I continued to amass pictures, maps and photographs and give them captions. I drew maps too, learning skills I didn't know I'd got. We got a price from a publisher - the excellent Herefordshire-based Logaston Press - applied for and were granted an Awards for All grant from the National Lottery.

Then one day recently - in fact on the day that I went glass blowing and Wilson (the most stupid dog in Trelystan) had his encounter with the evil fungus - 800 books arrived on the doorstep. The Glam. Ass., (bless 'im) was only moderately ruffled as they had not been expected. There was the small problem of the Big Lorry and Turning Round and the smaller problem of shifting a ton of books across a gravel path. Nothing if not resourceful, he laid down a temporary track of plywood sheets for the pallet moving thingy to run on and carry them to the garage. Well done that man. That's about a cubic metre of books incidently, and it has put paid to parking the car under cover for the foreseeable future.

At long last our book 'Marton, the story of a Shropshire village' is here.

Doreen and I got a book from the stack and opened it with a mixture of apprehension and excitement. Would it be alright? Would it be really, really alright? Would the story of Marton come out as envisaged, clear and coherent, with the right balance of pictures to text.

Well, it looks pretty good - Logaston have done an excellent job of putting our documents and files together. We're quite pleased and our sternest critics - family members - have given it the 'thumbs up' too.

Curious about what a ton of books look like? Be curious no longer:

And close up, shrink wrapped into packs of 16 they look neat and fresh and clean. I think we are both quite proud of our achievement. We really do have a 'real book'.
Of course it doesn't stop with a neat pile of books in the garage - the mighty task of marketing and exchanging them for money starts with a vengeance. The publicity machine has been cranked into action. We have our launch this Saturday, 22nd May in Marton Village Hall between 2 - 5pm. Do join us.


Pondside said...

Ooh - I wish I could! I think I'll have to have one of these - will be in touch with you or with SBS (my book/mag buddy) to arrange payment and shipping.

SmitoniusandSonata said...

congratulations! (and for getting a grant too)

May you shift many copies

elizabethm said...

I am assuming you will do mail order? How and how much? Can I have one when we go to Woollerton?

Diary Farmer said...

Well done both of you, not forgetting Penny (the artist). Doreen was wondering what she was going to do when it was finished, so now we're downsizing so that we can fit our 'stuff' into our new house. Perhaps after we've moved a sequel on the history of Forden will follow! I think the book looks fantastic

snailbeachshepherdess said...

Its like giving birth all over again - and the overwheming sense of motherly pride will see you well on the way to celebrations! We're coming on saturdy - posters up

hand-knitted muesli said...

Congratulations to you and Doreen. By the way do you post to Australia?

Frances said...

Wow, mountaineer. How great to have that delivery ... even if it arrived without advance alert.

I do hope that there will be a way to have access to this book even from across the pond.

If I cannot see Marton for myself immediately, I would love to get to know it via your book's pages, and increase my dream of seeing it "for real."


Twiglet said...

Oh well done - I will see if I can drag Wipso away from her sewing room on Saturday pm.

Chris Stovell said...

Congratulations - I look forwards to hearing further details.

Nikki-ann said...

Congratulations! :)

Churchstoke did a couple of similar books (though not in colour) a number of years back and they're pretty rare now (though I managed to get a copy of each as my Granddad grew up around Churchstoke).

Is Marton village shop selling them? Maybe you could get Chirbury shop to sell them too! I know our village shop sells the odd local book.

You'll have to let us know where they'll be on sale.

bayou said...

Huge congratulations!
This landscape picture goes straight into my heart.
I love SBS' comment - she knows how you feel.

Marianne said...

That is such an achievement. It's so important to capture lives well lived and not to let them vanish into obscurity. Well done.

Elizabethd said...

Huge congratulations!
It is so sad when the stories of a village die with their owners. Wonderful that you ahve helped to save so much for future generations to enjoy.
I hope the launch goes well.

Denise | Chez Danisse said...

Congratulations. What a fine accomplishment. Marton looks like a beautiful place. I'm sure compiling the data for this book is something you'll never forget. Bravo!

peggy gatto said...

Fabulous show!!!