Monday 1 July 2013

Now we are two by Mary Hoffman

Photo by Anssi Koskinen from Turku, Finland

It is now exactly two years since the History Girls began, on 1st July 2011! In that time we've had over half a million hits, almost twice as many from the US as from the UK, where most of us live. Hello to our 74 Followers in Russia and 52 in the Netherlands.

The most hits ever (over 12,000) have been for Leslie Wilson's post on Maria von Maltzen on 23rd July last year. There have been nearly 750 posts. History Girls have come and gone. We've even had some History Boys as guests, starting with Kevin Crossley-Holland; our guest for July (29th) will be Tudor historian John Guy.

High spots have included Hilary Mantel on the publication day of Bring up the Bodies last year and posts from Tracy Chevalier and Ian Mortimer. We are proud to cover both fiction and non-fiction.

We had to disable Anonymous Comments, since they were getting to be a real pain for Admins to monitor and remove. We hope this hasn't proved a problem for those wanting to comment.

We joined Twitter, as @history_girls and have reached 2,000 Followers. And we have a Facebook page.

So a very good couple of years and we are still going strong! As a birthday game, as many of us as possible are going to play Time Machine.

Here's how in works. Ian Mortimer has writte two very successful non-fiction titles called The Time-Traveller's Guide to the Middle Ages and the TTG to Elizabethan England, of which there has been a television version recently.

So you need to enter the special History Girls Time Machine, twiddle a few dials to make it look scientific and take yourself back to whatever time and place you prefer. Tell us why and what your sensations are - good and bad.

I'm going to start us off by setting the dial to Florence, Italy in 1503. I have spent a lot of time there already, researching my novel David, about Michelangelo's statue, so it will be interesting to see how the reality measures up.

Here goes.

I think I should have specified a month. It's cold and rainy and I was hoping to get away from the UK's miserable attempt at summer! The first thing I notice is the noise: hoofbeats, harness, the clanking of swords, market traders calling out their wares and - since I must have arrived at midday - the sound of bells from hundreds of church campaniles.

Photo by sailko

The next thing I notice is the smells. Not the heavenly perfumes of Santa Maria Novella's Farmacia but sweat, ordure, bad breath and rotting vegetation. Perhaps it is just as well I am not here in the summer, when it would be worse.

I recognise myself to be near the Duomo of Santa Maria dei Fiori, which was as much a landmark then as it is now. If I climb Giotto's elegant Campanile the view below will be much the same as it is today. But I have vertigo, so I think instead I will walk behind the cluster of chapels under Brunelleschi's mighty Cupola and visit the Operai del Duomo.

My clothes are attracting a great deal of interest or maybe it's my short red hair? I'm hoping to see if Michelangelo will let me into his improvised workshop to see the David but he is such a bear, even at 28, that I don't fancy my chances ....

Oh wait - we seem to have had a power cut. Back to the present. Now it's someone else's turn to step into the machine.

Katherine Langrish 

My turn, I think, Mary!  And I'm on a Viking merchant ship, a knarr, and of course it's midsummer with its long days and short nights, the middle of 'Sun-month'.  There's a beautiful blue sky and a light wind: perfect sailing weather. We're tacking up a Danish fjord, with a cargo of greasy, strong-smelling fleeces rolled in the open hold. The square brown sail towers over me, and I can hear the chuckle and truckle of the water running along the sides of the ship and under the bottom boards.

We're getting too close to shore on the port side. The captain, Thorstein, a thick-set man of perhaps thirty-five, calls to his crew to change the tack. The sail takes on a life of its own, flapping, billowing.  "Haul!"  The yard comes around, the man on the braces hauls down and fastens the sheet to the tack stick, and we've changed direction and are heading back across the fjord on the new tack.

Except for the man at the steering oar, the crew settle down to play dice on the afterdeck. Sailing is easy in such pleasant weather: they have nothing much to do until it's time for the next tack. I trail my arm over the side and look down. Close under the boat, the surface of the water is dark,with clusters of white bubbles.  Further away it is shining pewter picked out with silver glitter and little scribbling ripples. Some of the men look up from their dice as a black cormorant dashes past, low above the water.

They don't seem to find my presence strange - maybe they think I'm the captain's wife or sister? Maybe even Captain Thorstein thinks so?  At any rate, he sits down with his back against the side and stretches out his legs. He has straw coloured hair and beard, and one eye missing, but he smiles at me.  "So," he says shyly, "you wanted to hear tales about trolls?"

Caroline Lawrence

I am in a long corridor with frescoed panels: vegetable designs of lotus and papyrus on backgrounds of jade green, bulls-blood red and butter yellow. The black marble floor is smooth and cool under my bare feet. It is hot. But the heat is dry and makes my nostrils prickle. When I inhale, I catch the whiff of an exotic scent – sweet and cloying – that I smelled once in Cairo. I can hear the distant throbbing of cicadas and a strange rhythmic jangling of some kind of cymbal.

Now I hear voices. I don’t understand the language and yet it seems familiar. Greek? Yes, Greek! But not the Classical Greek I learned at U.C. Berkeley. This is a guttural Greek, her words slurred by an exotic accent and his words blurred by tipsiness. I move away from the rhythmic jangling towards the sound of their voices. My bare feet are brown and small. I am wearing an unbleached linen shift and nothing else. I can feel my straight black hair brushing my brown shoulders. I am so slim! Slim and light. My skin is fresh. This time machine has transported me into the body of a ten-year-old slave-girl! What will they think of next?

I am guessing it is early afternoon, the hottest time of the day. But the design of this palace catches a faint breeze that lifts my straight black hair and cools the moist back of my neck.

blue lotus from Egypt

Now I can see the arguing couple. They are standing by a splashing indoor fountain near a dining couch. She is wearing a linen shift like mine, but her body is fully developed. She must be forty years old. She has olive skin and a strong nose. Her dark eyes are bold with kohl and greenish-blue shadow. Her hair is glossy and black like mine. But even as I watch, she removes it. A wig! Underneath her frizzy dark hair is shot with silver. She starts to unpin it and it blooms over her shoulders.

The man in the unbelted red tunic steps forward. He buries his right hand in the hair at the back of her head and pulls her forward into a kiss.

She is small. Not much taller than I. He is almost six foot and good-looking apart from a small pot belly. Grey in his hair, too. And it’s thinning. Obviously Roman. I can smell the sour scent of wine, more vinegar than vintage. And that elusive scent again. Now I know! It’s blue lotus. A heavy cloying scent not unlike vanilla or patchouli. But they don’t have either of those here.

For I know now. I am in Alexandria, Egypt about thirty years before the birth of Christ. I am in the presence of Cleopatra and her lover Mark Anthony.

Now they are locked in a passionate embrace, their argument forgotten. I am only the slave-girl, invisible to them. Should I stay or should I make a discreet exit? You decide!


Kate Lord Brown said...

Happy Birthday, HGs. I'd turn the dial to 1929 - I've always dreamt of being in Paris between the wars. Imagine sitting in a cafe listening to Andre Breton reading from the Surrealist manifesto, the scent of coffee, black tobacco and drains in the air. What could be better than sharing a Moveable Feast with Stein, Hemingway, the Fitzgeralds. Or to watch Man Ray photograph Lee Miller - the red lit dark room, scent of developing fluid, watching those luminous images floating to the surface of the paper. Wait - has Woody Allen been in the HG Time Machine? 'Midnight in Paris' ... he's beaten me to it.

michelle lovric said...

Happy Birthday to Us!
No surprise to anyone - the time machine is taking me back to a a certain time in Venice, to my home but in 1472, a century-and-quarter after it was built. Extensive renovations in the 18th century gave it two extra liagi or towers at the front, but now it has a perfectly flat facade, with gothic arches and windows. In my visit I watch a German printer, Windelin de Spira, or from Speyer, pass by the palazzo in his boat with his Venetian wife Lussieta, and they are taking a copy of the first ever printed edition of Catullus out into the lagoon. Publishing a book, as Lussieta thinks, is like casting it upon the water to see if it will float. They are about to formalise the idea in a symbolic act. I wave at them, but they don't see me, intent on their mission. Windelin is real; Lussieta, I invented, but she's real to me, with her blonde hair, brown eyes and singular intensity. The Grand Canal is very still. It will be another four hundred years before the first steam vaporetto interrupts the quiet thud of oars. The smells, as in Mary's Florence, are more vivid and less pleasant. As Windelin and Lussieta have gone, I am hopping aboard the time machine and twirling the dial to 1861 and this time I am watching the young WIlliam Dean Howells arrive in this palazzo with his new wife, watching him settle into Venetian life, about which he will soon write so wittily, watching him spectating on gondoliers battling with more verbosity than violence, watching him at his desk and attending puppet shows, observing Venetian church cats, working out how to portray Venice without caricature to an entire generation. He will succeed! I am happy for him and all those who will have the opportunity to read his book. I am reluctant to twirl the dial and return to 2013. It seems a noisy, troubled, dangerous, lonely and sad place compared to where I've been ...

adele said...

Well, Kate Lord Brown has done it for me...I'd have chosen that period too, but maybe I'll now go even further back in the Woody Allen movie mode to the 1890s ..but always in Paris. Or to London and a beautiful country house in a picturesque county BEFORE the First World I mean Downton? No, not as grand as that...more like the house in The Go Between. And a very happy birthday to us, History Girls all. Long may this blog flourish!! Greetings to all our readers as well. Actually, those 'which period would you like to have lived in?' decisions vanish like smoke when you take dentistry and medicine into consideration. No time like the present for that....unless it's the future,but I'm not betting on that either!

Linda said...

Happy birthday, ladies - and many thanks for the varied and enjoyable articles which accompany my cereal every morning! I'm always recommending you to history-minded friends.

Joan Lennon said...

I'll be sailing up the Nile in the winter of 1873-74 with Amelia Edwards on a dahabeeyah, and being a bit of a rebel, I'll not be wearing a corset. (Oh, and I've smuggled in my digital camera. And pills. And deodorant. And my glasses - no point being there and not being able to see beyond my nose!)

Joan Lennon said...

Sorry, meant to add Happy Birthday to History Girls, and here's to many more!

Laurie said...

Happy Birthday, and may we have many more.
I'd like to celebrate by slipping back to 1695. The Dorset Gardens Playhouse sounds about right. Susanna Verbruggen has a head cold and can't go on and I'm the understudy who steps into her breeches to play Lucia in Sir Anthony Love. There's nothing like a bit of strutting and rake-ing around to liven up a Monday morning.

Sue Purkiss said...

I think I'll pop into Victorian London and listen to Mr Dickens doing a reading from Bleak House. If I'm very brave, I might ask him if he couldn't make his heroines a little more lively... but no, probably best not. I hope I shall be wearing a Victorian dress too, with a tiny waist (I wish!) and a full skirt. it will be interesting to see how comfortable it is.

Happy birthday, History Girls!

Rosemary Hayes said...

A very happy second birthday History Girls!

As for time travelling, I’d like to see inside the heads of those 17th century Western Australian aborigines when they first came across two marooned young Dutchman in 1629. What did they think when they first saw these alien creatures, white skinned, fair haired, wearing clothes? Did they assume that they were their spirit ancestors? And did they then weave this assumption into their complex dreamtime mythology?

Time travel’s the only way of finding out. Nothing is written down and there’s no trace of these first European settlers other than the odd Dutch artifact at aboriginal camps and in the DNA of some of the coastal tribesmen and women.

But I wouldn’t hang around for long; the conditions would be far too harsh for me. Once I’d found out, I’d get in my phone box and take off!

Karen Maitland said...

Knights are cantering across the heathland, hounds streaming ahead as they chase after the deer. In his excitement, King William II, looks more ruddy-cheeked than usual as he curses and swears at his knights to keep up. He is well out ahead of the main hunt and expertly turns his horse as the stag swerves towards a thicket. The air is throbbing with the baying of the hounds, the horns and the shouts of the men, as their horses crash through the undergrowth. I am running behind with the other servants, praying they bring the quarry down soon.

Without any warning, a single arrow sings in the air as it curves through the sky. A man screams. The arrow has not struck the deer; it is sticking out of the king’s back. For few moments William remains sitting upright, riding forward as if he not hurt. Then he slumps sideways and tumbles from his horse. His foot is caught and he is dragged, head down, through the undergrowth, before the straps break and he crashes onto the ground. The year is 1100. King William is dead and I saw who shot that arrow.

Clare Mulley said...

Happy birthday from your latest member - and it's wonderful to join you. I am always nervous about time travel, time turbulence etc. I would like to go to 8 November 1939, to persuade George Elser to set his bomb to detonate 20 minutes earlier. That should mean that Hitler is successfully assassinated fairly early in his career. However on return I would have to resign myself to not seeing my children, as my husband would not have been born - being the grandson of a German war widow who moved to Britain with her British army second husband...

Eleanor said...

Happy birthday. I'm setting the dial to take me back to test any of the great conspiracy theories. I want to be up on the grassy knoll in Dallas in 1963, ready to spot the 'second gunman' at the Kennedy assassination, or on the right side of the traffic sign that obscures crucial frames of the Zapruder film. I want to br in at the autopsy, to see whether, how, and on whose command the doctors repaired the President's skull for the photos. I want to be at the Ritz in Paris in 1997, to see whether Henri Paul was drunk on the night Diana died, and at the underpass, to see what happened tp the white fiat. Or maybe I'll visit the Princes in the Tower. I'll let the machine decide

Jane Borodale said...

With an anxious thought for that less-well-known Chinese curse 'may your time machine be stuck in interesting times', am going to cautiously shuttle myself towards a joyous occasion in (most probably) July 1688 - where 29-yr-old Henry Purcell's 'Dido and Aeneas' is being performed for the very first time, in Chelsea at the school of choreographer and dance-master Josias Priest. Imagine being there as those freshly-minted extraordinary tunes are tried out! Who is there to hear it? Is the audience making approving noises, or are they cross and baffled by its innovation? Is there dancing? Does everyone gulp when it gets to the best aria? How many musicians are there? Is the acoustic good? Is Purcell delighted with the way it's gone? So many questions that would be answered... Then can we follow him home tonight in the dark and find out how he felt it went, before he retires to bed. It's the only time this piece of work will be performed publicly before his death in just seven years, (they'll be talking about nothing else at the Dorset Garden Theatre, won't they Laurie) so it really matters.

Happy Birthday History Girls!

Katherine Roberts said...

Happy second birthday, History Girls! (I guess that makes us toddlers? Or Terrible Twos...?)

Anyway, I'd use the time machine to go anywhere I could ride a horse to go places, instead of driving a car in a traffic jam or sitting on a train. I'd let the time machine decide. Oh, and somewhere without a computer screen or mobile phones... not fussy, really, except would like to avoid the middle of a battle if at all possible.


Dianne Hofmeyr said...

I'm keeping on home territory and find that I've arrived at the Cremorne Gardens on the banks of the Thames near Chelsea in 1865. There's magic and music and menageries and dancing and fireworks and freaks. I've paid to see the Giant Sea Bear or Walking Fish. And Christoforo Buonolore, the Italian Salamander, will walk through an arch of fire and Signori Costello will do aerial flights in a balloon and its said a lady will walk on a rope across the Thames. And by the light of the lanterns if I'm lucky, Mr Rosetti will spot me and choose me for his new muse. Since his wife died of an overdose of laudanum, he has a red-haired lady but maybe... ?

Elizabeth Chadwick said...

Happy Birthday to the History Girls from a newcomer!
I confess to using psychic time-travel as an integral part of my research since 2004, so I thought I'd post a piece from a transcription of a psychic session. Whether imagination or the real deal I leave to the reader. A professor of medieval cultural studies tells me that the mindset and cultural mores are spot on,and since getting those right is one of the holy grails of historical fiction,I'm fine with it wherever it comes from! It certainly leads me to ask questions and delve into the history from different angles, so it's a great aid to research.
Here, accessed by my psychic friend Alison King at my request,(she has the ability, I'm the journalist taking notes), is the mindset of Thomas Becket when considering resigning the Chancellorship in September 1163- research for my current work in progress.

"He is complex; there are a lot of different things going on. Thoughts and emotions. One element is towards Henry and it’s disobedience. It’s like going against parents. When you decide that you are not going to do as your parents do, you’re going to do it your way. It’s rebellion. ‘I’m not having this on top of me all the time.’ and what’s on top of him all the time are constant demands for this, that and the other, the big and the little all coming down the conveyor belt, and not only that but the demand behind it contradicts the one in front of it so that he feels that he is always having to change direction and not for very good reasons or for reasons that make no sense to him just because Henry has changed his mind. He really can’t cope with the pressure of it all. To have to do all this at Henry’s beck and call is just too much when he feels he needs space to think in his own head.
Becket wants the space to think his own thoughts in his own head. The more Becket resists Henry, the more insistent Henry gets and the more minute the demands. So things are getting faster. Becket is just thinking that he can’t stick it any more it’s just getting ridiculous.
Another element in why he wanted to resign the Chancellorship: There is some feeling of sadness here. He is just so tired he can’t keep up. He feels overwhelmed and the sadness is that he can’t do what he thought he could do. He has reached his limit and he has gone beyond it and he finds that sad because he thought his capabilities were endless. It’s starting to make him feel unwell, that’s part of the sadness. I’m getting a symbolic image of him bent down cleaning someone’s shoe, and the person stands up and stands on his hands so no matter how subservient he is this person is exerting pressure that’s above and beyond.
I’m moving on to a different element know which is more about his background. This is more about his steely determination that fought his way out of obscurity and it’s a trajectory upwards towards God. It’s grown from ambition and from his determination, but it now feels like it was justified and he was being chosen by God. So he is channelling that ambition and altering the flavour of it and justifying it. He’s colouring it with the colour of being God’s chosen vessel. And because that’s got all of his ambition ingrained in it, it takes his power as well. His power is in that and he’s got as much power and drive as Henry has. It might have been a quieter one previously but now it’s joined up with the God beam going down and Becket’s driving ambition going up and the two have met. And when he sees it in these terms, all the other things seem superfluous, so this beam cuts through all the wishy-washy grey stuff and there is clearness and space and surety. He’s moved his allegiance from Henry to God. God treats him better than Henry does. Henry will spurn him and spurn his hands and grinds them into the dust but God just wants him to rise up and be even better. He hasn’t jumped ships yet but he is moving towards serving God. So those are the different strands of it.'

Penny Dolan said...

Ohey! The time machine door has opened and I creep out through the darkness, edging towards the great hilltop. The night sky grows pale, waiting for the dawn's eye. The low rhythmic chanting ceases. We are waiting. The men within the circle of standing stones raise their strong arms, and fix their eyes on one far peak. Steadily, the grey sky washes itself in colour until the bright disc of the sun appears just where it must, where it has for as many years as we can remember. That way the winter valley. This way the summer. The sun shines gold and rises upwards, climbing the shoulder of the highest hill. Drums and strange musical instruments decorate the air, urgent, satisfied. The sun's year has turned and now we can hope all will be well. This place is what will be named Castle Crag,in Cumbria. And it must be Midsummer's Day. Help! I know, back in the future, the Birthday Celebration of the History Girls Second Birthday is taking place. There that date is the first of July. The Time Machine has veered a few days out of true. Quick. I slip back into the machine and hope the good Mary Maven can recover the course again. Would hate to miss the party! Thanks, all of you History Girls, for so many wonderful, entertaining and plain damn interesting posts over the two years. Onwards!

alberridge said...

I’d have real problems turning the dial, because as a writer I want to choose ‘interesting times’ – which are famously those no-one wants to live in. As a writer I want to go back to twelve noon on 25th October 1854 to the head of the North Valley in Balaklava and see what happens when the Light Brigade charge – but my eyes would be prickling in the black smoke, and my ears would be deafened by the roar of cannon, the rattle and splat of rifle fire, the thumping of hooves and screaming of men and horses. I don’t think we’ll go there.

Then I thought of another date, a summer day just like this one – August 4th 1914 at Brighton. My face shielded from the sun by the overlarge hat, the trickle of sweat under my corset, my legs hobbled by the narrow skirt – but the freedom of informality by the sea! The sound of Cockney voices, the smell of whelks, the laughter of children by the Punch and Judy, the band playing ‘Oh, I do like to be beside the seaside!’, and a boy flying a bright red kite as high as Icarus towards the sun. But of course that’s no good either, because I’ve brought my 21st century knowledge with me, and even the thought of it darkens the day. Along the promenade a little man is churning out Elgar’s ‘Rosemary’ on a barrel organ, the colours are fading, and the children hush as the hangman comes for Punch. What good is a Time Machine if it can’t stop time, wrap up the happy people in a protective bubble, and keep them safely in suspension so that midnight will never come?

No. War writers and time machines don’t mix. I think I’ll keep the dial right where it is, and celebrate today by wishing us all a very happy birthday as we enter the Terrible Twos…

Leslie Wilson said...

Yes, I too tend to write about times I'd rather not visit. But I did do a time-travel, on holiday, when we stayed in Velden on the Woerther Lake in the southern Austrian province of Carinthia. This is where my mother was taken to convalesce after she'd collapsed running away from the Russians, in the grand surroundings of the Schloss Hotel, and was made into a convalescent home - later a club - for British officers. My mother helped in the kitchens and, I guess, waited a bit on the officers, and presumably only had light duties. David and I took advantage of a special offer and got two nights there at midsummer. We got a room with a lake view, and even an upgrade, when we told them about my mother's connection with the place, and that she had stayed there in the '80s. And sitting on the terrace of the modern restaurant, overlooking the lake, I looked at the yellow-painted old building and suddenly felt my mother there, still suffering from trauma, worried about her own mother, and yet relieved to be alive, with a red-haired British officer (I won't say his name, since he wasn't my father) making up to her (he wasn't serious, she said. I thought about the distance in time that separated the middle-aged me from my nineteen-year-old mother, and about what it had been like there at the end of the terrible war, and I did cry a bit. And we had some prosecco, so we drank a toast to her, and to the Royal Army Medical Corps who treated her, and then later gave her my father. Good on them.

Susanna said...

I've turned the dial and ended up in the dull and drab parlour of our Northumbrian family farmhouse back in 1809.

Rarely used except for Christmas, Easter and funerals the parlour smells damp. Today the grim-faced men of the family are hastily convening to discuss the dramatic and sudden arrest of one of their own. They crowd into the cold room and try to find a seat on the mis-matched collection of furniture which has been passed down from one generation to another. Some perch on the ancient Tudor settle, others slump into the Queen Anne winged chairs and send up a cloud of dust. The colours on the tapestry upholstery has been rubbed away to grey by dozens of bottoms and faded by decades of sunlight streaming through the leaded panes in the mullioned window. A few muddy and weathered hands reach out towards the platters of cold meats, cheese and bread. Hastily supplied by the nervous women folk, the food is left on the small, spindly-legged tables but mostly remains untouched.

Several dour-looking ancestors – their names long forgotten – glare down from the walls in chipped gilt frames. A collection of ugly pottery dogs line the mantelpiece where a plain mahogany clock takes centre stage and ticks away steadily, oblivious to the mounting tension within those four plastered walls...

Karen Charlton
author of
'Catching the Eagle'
'The Missing Heiress'
Knox Robinson Publishing

Ann Turnbull said...

I'll turn the dial back about 100 years, and I'm walking in sturdy shoes along a Shropshire road at midsummer time - a road that's green with grass growing down the middle. The hedges on either side are full of wild flowers and birds, and they grow so high that the wild roses arch up and meet overhead.

Ann Turnbull said...

And many happy returns to the History Girls!

Penny Dolan said...

How very pleasing to be part of a bithday celebration that includes so many times and stories as well as one's own version! Though I suppose birthdays are all like that - memories and moments - except that the History Girls birthday has a much vaster memory.

Thank you for devising History Girls, Mary, and also to all the others who help to keep the HG blog time-line rolling on.

Stroppy Author said...

It's hot and humid. The air tastes different. There is no grass, and no flowers, just tall ginko trees and conifers. Ferns and grass form the undergrowth. Cockroaches rattle across the bark of the trees. The hum of insects is far louder than anything we're used to. A puddle a metre across is a footprint filled with water. A supersonic crack is the whip of a tail. 155 millions years ago. I'm about to be trodden on by an animal half the length of a football pitch. Ooops.

Mary Hoffman said...

This is from Jean Gill: (

22nd July 1943. Malta. After four years on this tiny island, and 3 million bombs, a young Scottish soldier is writing the last words in his secret diary, risking court-martial one last time before he takes the chance to smuggle his 30,000 words on a ship home. George can’t see me and yet I am there, with him, part of him. The diary is a standard Kenwood pad of thin, lined paper bought in the stores of the Navy Army and Airforce, when it was still possible to buy such things, before siege and starvation.

I look over George’s shoulder as he dips his pen in green ink and writes, ‘I wonder if anyone will ever read this. It’s just a lot of rubbish anyway,’ and he signs his initials G.S.T. Then he puts the diary dates on the cardboard front, finishing with 20th Feb 1943 to - . He thinks about the dash and what it represents, what date might follow.

I whisper in his ear, ‘Nettie will get the diary. You will get home, eventually,’ but he doesn’t hear me. I wish I could tell him how many people have read his words. I wish I could hug him. But he never was one for showing emotions, my father. He must have been so lonely without his diary.