I have just experienced loss of the first draft of this blog, and I know not how so it could happen again. In my frustration I let out a yowl of dismay, to which David, fortunately just arisen from his blameless sleep, responded with a comforting ginger chocolate. So now I have to try and reconstruct what I said, which I thought was brilliant and insightful. As it is lost, the brilliance and insightfulness will have to be taken as givens, because NEVER have I been able to recreate lost posts. Therefore what follows is my ordinary pedestrian prose.
Recently there was a documentary on television, the Time Travel episode of Stephen Hawking's series, "Into the Universe." In it, Hawking reviews the many actual and possible forms of time travel (and a few impossible ones as well) but in my view he omits two forms: one being the fact that we all travel in time - one day at a time - into the future. The other is the time travel we do in our minds.
In our minds we can also go into the past. If we have a suitable vehicle, that experience of the past can be extremely vivid.
I'm not talking about science fiction, or any other kind of fiction, or indeed science fact. I am talking about my great-grandfather's journals. He began keeping them in 1852 and continued for most of the rest of his life. I have (with some effort and indeed cost) got my hands on all of his notebooks, and have been transcribing and footnoting them, and because of the style of his writing and the nature of the content I have been time-travelling to (at the moment) September 1859.
In September 1858 he wrote this:
"15th III The late Inspector of the East and West India Docks, William Thomson, told me today that just off the Trinity Corporation's premises at Bow Creek, a sunken Vessel, apparently of about 200 tons Burden, has from time to time become visible at low water. He says that now the Vessel can be plainly traced out at low water, and it has been found out that at that particular point a number of Vessels were sunk to block up the Thames (so that only one or two ships could pass) at the time of the Spanish Armada was feared in 1588, and this Vessel, which has lately made its appearance, is one of the sunken Ships, as is thought."
My great-grandfather, Henry Thomas Wake, time-travelled to 1588, about 280 years before his time, through this evidence of that era. I time-travelled back to his time a century and a half ago, and then further back with him to 1588. This would not be possible were it not for the vivid detail with which he records his life both the physical and the mental landscape. Working on the writings of others tt has often been necessary, as with the diaries of HTW's granddaughter, my aunt Elsie Hinde Ingram, to infer states of mind because the text gave little indication of anything except the PHYSICAL landscape of her life.
With HTW, I walk the streets and lanes of London - finding that most of those streets remain on present-day maps - and reflect on his annoyance at forgetting his umbrella when it comes on to rain, and his concern about the putrid state of the Thames - an open sewer - and share his delight in his children and his fatherly concern for their welfare. Time travelling. And now, through the laborious but highly rewarding process of transcribing his journals, I am making them accessible to the immediate family, and those of the extended family who might be interested. Making their forebears accessible to my grandchildren has been my central purpose in all my family history efforts.
I suspect that several books will arise from the transcription and footnoting of his journals. I am on Notebook #4, with more than 400 typed pages resulting. And many more notebooks await transcription.