There are times in life when you think “if only I could be a fly on the wall during that discussion” but, if you’re anything like me, it’s usually something directly relevant to you – either personally or professionally; I’ve never given serious consideration to being a fly on the wall in some other time in history.
But one of the authors I regularly turn to for light reading is Jodi Taylor – specifically her St Mary’s series. St Mary’s – an Institute of Historical Research – is a rather unusual academic centre where historians ‘investigate historical events in contemporary time’ and indeed get rather ratty should anyone call it ‘time travel’. Historians are sent to key times and places in history to observe and document, with firm instructions not to do anything which could change the course of history. The powers that be also prefer it when they manage to avoid getting hurt or killed – not something they always succeed in achieving.
Now, I cannot claim to be a history buff as, for me, the study of history during schooldays was a dry and dusty experience – one of learning reams of facts and figures without any clear understanding or purpose. I studied it until I passed my exams at age 16 and then dropped it like a hot potato. Since that time, I’ve read historical novels and wondered how much was fact, how much faction and how much out-and-out fiction. I now live with a historian and we’ve visited a number of museums where there are displays dedicated to showcasing history from the perspective of those who were there – or as I like to call it human/personal history. Himself is more interested in the big picture stuff, the story of those who were game changers, whereas I am fascinated by the everyday lives of people.
As this is a more frivolous than serious exercise, if I was to be a fly on the historical wall, I think I’d choose either …
- the roaring twenties in and around New York – fashion, music, bubbly, and wild, wild parties.
- WWII in London – and while I take my hat off to those young women who joined the Land Army, I’m a city girl at heart, so I’d want to be there while they dodged bombs, drove ambulances, nursed the wounded, dyed their legs with gravy browning and drew seams up the back with a pencil, dried their tears, but kept calm(ish) and carried on.
While I’ve no doubt that being a fly on the wall of the time periods I’ve selected could bring a sobering offering of reality, it would still be fascinating and a great opportunity for doing some writerly research.
If you could be a “fly on the wall” anywhere and at any time in history, where and when would you choose? Oh & why?
© Debra Carey, 2020