Confession: I’ve never been to England. I’ve been to Germany, France, Belgium, the Ukraine, and all over the United States, but somehow I’ve never made it to England. Suddenly though, now that I’m writing a story which partially happened there, I’d very much like to go!
I sit back and imagine what I’d want to visit, if I went. London of course. Who could go to England and not visit London? And I’m sure I’d go to a lot of historical places. I love history, and let’s face it, compared to some of the stately pieces of the past they have there, most “historical” locations in America are barely out of elementary school!
I’d also visit the Tolkien and C.S. Lewis attractions, naturally. As a writer, I think I’m practically obligated to! (Though I’d want to anyway).
But there’s something else I’d have to see that might not make it onto the average American tourist’s site-seeing list.
For those of you who don’t recognize it in the *photo above, this beautiful white windmill is located on Lytham Green in the seaside town of Lytham St. Anne’s. It stands in the same place it has stood for over 200 years (yes, it was around before the little skirmish in 1812, everybody) a silent white sentinel between the water and the houses, stretching its sails to the sky.
And it hasn’t changed much since the 1940’s when Lily Brown was there to see it. The only dramatic difference between then and now would have been the grassy humps of air-raid shelters on The Green, as seen in the 1944 picture below.
I suppose not everyone experiences this, but for me, touching pieces of history that have seen more in their lifetime than I could ever see in mine gives me a sort of pleasant chill. There’s a kind of awe in the realization that people who lived and breathed and loved and laughed long before I even existed put their hands on the very same objects mine are touching today.
The past holds a never-ending charm for me. I seriously considered going back and getting a second degree, just so that I’d have one in history as well as English. I guess that’s why a biographical novel felt like a perfect fit!
I’m so much enjoying writing Lily and Fred’s story, and hope that someday I can visit the places they would have walked and talked and laughed together: Lowther Gardens, and the pavilion where they met at a dance, Clifton street, where the Browns lived, the Park Street church, where Fred and Lily were married. But most of all, I want to sit on the wide ribbon of grass between the town and the shore, and look up at the white windmill that is still standing strong, after 200 years of change have swept the world around it, bold and proud and beautiful…stretching its sails to the sky.
*Top image photo credit: Chris Illingworth