Advantages Jogged a few memories and let my imagination wander
Disadvantages I can't actually time-travel - in some of these instances, I'd love to!
Aged eleven, I remember being set some homework to write a talk of three to five minutes’ length on “The Future” (oddly, I imagined a world where your TV, computer, video, stereo, camera and other gadgets would be combined . . . that was in 1995 and - thanks to YouTube, iTunes, iPhoto, Photoshop and various other applications - I think we might be there already) yet now I’ve started on this review, the most immediately obvious places I’d time-travel to . . . a concept the younger me always thought would be brilliant if it could only be done . . . all seem to be in the past.So, letting the child in me run wild, I don’t know exactly what my time machine would look like but - maybe uninspiringly - I envisage something a bit like a lift, with buttons on one panel. The difference with my time machine is, where the display panel just shows one number to indicate which floor you’re on, mine would be split into three sections. One would have four zeros so that you can key in whichever year you wanted to visit, retype it if you made a mistake and then select the BC or AD option. The next section would be set up so that a marker marked any of thirteen points on a dial - you can select a month if you want or go for the thirteenth option, “No specific month” - and a second dial would have thirty-two points marked on it, one for each possible day and an extra for “No specific day”.
Since I’m so passionate about family history and researching my tree (a terrible addiction for which there is apparently no cure!), the first option that springs to mind is to go back and meet my ancestors. Obviously with a family tree there are endless possibilities . . . if I started on the list of people I’d want to ask, “When did your dad die and where was he from?”, “Why did you put three different birthplaces on three consecutive censuses?” and “Why can I trace every one of your siblings except your older brother/younger sister?” and so on, I’d hit the word limit on this review a lot sooner than I want to. But there are a couple of particular places I’d like to visit, which leads me to arrange the details for . . .DESTINATION NUMBER ONE
What would I take? - A bottle of baby Calpol and some teething gel for Joseph - I don’t know if it would change things, but it’d be worth trying.DESTINATION NUMBER TWO and DESTINATION NUMBER THREE
What would I take? - To 1875, a load of baby clothes, a baby bouncer and soft toys so that baby Edith could entertain herself, some games for the other little ones and - for her mother - a few bars of decent chocolate. (I think she deserved them) To 1881, I’d take money (just in case Polly had had to go to her grandma’s because there was no room at home and her mum couldn’t afford to rent anywhere bigger) or alternatively, a couple of mobile phones so that Polly, who was about sixteen, could at least keep in touch with her mum and sisters.
DESTINATION NUMBER FOUR
7 September 1533 - Greenwich Palace, London
Why do I want to go? - Most people know a bit about Henry VIII’s ruthless quest for a male heir, but his daughter Elizabeth I seems to have turned out to be quite a tough lady. Famously known as the “Virgin Queen”, she didn’t get married (although to this day there are people who debate what exactly she got up to, if anything, with Robert Dudley the Earl of Leicester) and I’ve often wondered if it was because she realised why her father got through his last three wives so quickly - I’m not counting Catherine Parr because she outlived him. I believe Henry was quite fond of Elizabeth and she’s supposed to have idolised him, but I also have a glaring memory that he got quite stroppy with Anne Boleyn because he’d gone through all the hassle of falling out with Rome and having a secret wedding when she fell pregnant only to be presented with a baby girl.
DESTINATION NUMBER FIVE
1588 - Tilbury Docks, London
Why do I want to go? - Letting Henry VIII out of the time machine first (he strikes me as the kind of man you’d want to stay on the right side of) so he could see Elizabeth’s speech to her troops when the Spanish Armada were preparing to invade. I once used that speech as a model when I had to write a persuasive speech about why Britain shouldn’t stay in the EU at school because it was the most patriotic one I could think of - whether Elizabeth actually said it or not, I don’t know but I’d like to think she did because then I could show Henry VIII that he shouldn’t have worried about having two daughters and only one son because his second daughter was just as committed to her country as he was and being a girl didn’t mean she wasn’t a good monarch. (Saying that, she did have quite a temper - maybe she got it from her dad?)
DESTINATION NUMBER SIX
Moving quickly back into my machine before Henry sees anything that upsets him and blames me, I’d then like to key in the year 1813 and head to . . .
What would I take? - If I could find it, my scrapbook of newspaper cuttings from the 1990s when the Sunday papers and colour supplements devoted huge amounts of space to articles on Jane Austen and the actors who played the characters she created. I don’t think she’d believe me otherwise.
DESTINATION NUMBER SEVEN
The fourth week of September 1984 - Anywhere in Britain
Why do I want to go? - This one is a bit of a personal indulgence and I simply want to visit it because I have long been fascinated by the one period in my life that I will never be able to remember. It was the week when I was born so I’ve always thought it would be interesting to walk down any street or through any shopping centre or supermarket just to see what people were wearing, what they were buying and what they were talking about.
On a similar theme, there is one instance where I'd like to go forward in time:DESTINATION NUMBER EIGHT
What would I take? - Photos of me now, to see whether my 100 year old self thought my 25 year old self was as non-photogenic as I think I am now!.....
I can’t think of any other very major events that I’d want to programme into my time machine - actually, knowing me, I would want to dart backwards and forwards to hundreds of different places! - but to conclude my review - I have got a few “snapshots” that I’d put onto my “flying visit” list . . .*London in the 1590s
*Any of the royal palaces in England between about 1570 and 1603
Because . . . I’ve always wondered how good (or bad) Queen Elizabeth I must have looked with her wig and all that white lead make up on
*Aughton, Lancashire on 31 October 1744
Because . . . that was the day my 7xgreat grandmother Ann Hurst died and I wonder whether her husband George knew how he would manage with six children (all aged under fourteen and at least one possibly aged less than two)
*My back garden on 9 July 1995
Because . . . a few friends and I performed a play that I’d written about Henry VIII and - in our haste to get to Anne Boleyn’s execution scene - we accidentally missed out scene five. It was one of only two scenes where the girl playing Jane Seymour had lines to say so I’ve always wanted to make it up to her and give her the lines back!
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