Wednesday 18 February 2015


No, not the rubbish Soap Opera, but the real Eastenders.  

For Christmas 2013, my son bought me the book of the making of "Call the midwife"  which he knew was my favourite TV series (possibly of all time!).  I loved the way that the TV producer Heidi Thomas explained how they had made the series - with all that it entailed.  It sparked something off inside me and on our next trip to London, I decided that we would stay in the East End and explore what was left of this fascinating area.  I then bought all four books written by Jenny Worth who's memoirs the series is based on.  I devoured these books as they are so well written.   I think it was so sad that she died before the series was finally finished and she never saw an episode.  

 On our visit to London, I was amazed to see how little of the original East End remains, but never the less, I found it fun to explore and see how the area is being "Gentrified".    Everything I saw and discovered fascinated me.  I love social history and this is a place with a million and one stories to tell.
 So I trawled ebay and Amazon and gathered more books based on memoirs and family history - so much more interesting than any fiction.  I think a combination of "Silvertown" (based on the authors grandparents story), and "Hopping" (the same authors family and friends stories of Hop picking in Kent - an east end of London tradition) and "The Sugar Girls" (based on the working lives of a number of young girls at the Tate & Lyle sugar factory), would make a fabulous TV series.
I've not started reading "Strike a Light" yet.  It is the story of how in 1888 1400 women and girls employed by the Bryant & May matchstick factory made history by walking out and radically changing the accepted history of the Labour movement in Britain.

I have also discovered a couple of blogs that explore the history of the Isle of Dogs and surrounding area that make me want to explore even more!  I think one of the fascinations for me is that the whole area has changed (in many places beyond recognition) both structurally and socially - in my lifetime.  I've added the blogs to the bottom of mine if you want to take a look.

This little pile of books and fascinating subject is helping me get through the longer dark evenings which I am pleased to note are lengthening noticeably!


Curtise said...

Glad you enjoyed the books, Diane,
I like a bit of social/industrial history too. My mum went hop picking at some point in her youth - she is from Buckinghamshire but moved to London as a nurse during the war. I'll have to ask her where the hopping fitted in!
I've heard of that strike at Bryant and May's but never read anything about it, tell me if you think the book is worth a go. xxx

mondoagogo said...

You'd probably like as well, there are often some great photos of east London on there, not just around Spitalfields but further afield (it's pretty well-known, so you might already have heard of it, but it's not on your sidebar, so I thought I'd mention it...)

Silvertown is where the Woolwich ferry goes on the north side of the river, right next to the sugar refinery. As a Londoner, I reckon it's worth going on the ferry at least once. :)

topchelseagirl said...

My Mum bought me the Call The Midwife book before it was dramatised for TV, as she knows I like social history - but I hated it, I have no interest in babies or childbirth at all lol!
My Dad and his family went hop-picking in Kent most years, it was the only way they could get a holiday and he has always said they loved it.

Diane said...

I have never read any of those books. Also never saw Call the Midwife, it was possibly when I was over seas. Sounds interesting. Hope you are well and yes the nights are at last getting lighter :) t'other Diane

Lyn said...

You do love your history don't you my friend? happy reading. xxx

Twiggy said...

What an interesting post, it is fascinating to see how places have changed over the years. Completely different area, but I recently read a library book about Port Sunlight and really enjoyed it.

Rosie said...

Have never seen Call the Midwife or read any of the books but I expect the background to the lives of the people featured is fascinating - how they lived and worked etc. Like you I love social/local and family history and I love stories of streets and factories and how people used to live and work and how the wider political and social events affected them. I look forward to more of your adventures in London seeking out the places in these books:)xx

Lisa said...

My friend bought me the two Midwfe books before the TV series came about and I was impressed how true they kept to the books when they it appeared on the screen. The Sugar Girls does sound very interesting. You are right not much beats true lives for interest.
Lisa x

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