The Joy Club writers’ showcase: History and literature
We’re delighted to introduce our first ever The Joy Club writers’ showcase. Our members have been discovering their literary voices and crafting some brilliant poetry and stories. We have been awed by the talent and variety of work produced and feel it would be a huge shame to keep it behind doors! That’s why we’ve collated a selection of our members’ writing to share with you… This piece from our writers’ showcase is by our member Norma and is called ‘A little bit of history and literature’.
A little bit of history and literature (Norma Goodwin)
The Hoo Peninsular in North West Kent is a flat spur of land separating the estuaries of the rivers Medway and Thames. For miles inland it is a desolate area of salt marsh dotted with pools and crossed with dykes and suitable only for grazing cattle. This bleak landscape is blasted in winter time by cold north easterly winds with no trees or bushes to halt their wild path.
The village of Cooling on the edge of the marsh was recorded in the Domesday Book of 1087 to have ten households. In the last census of 2011 this small settlement consisted of just 216 people. The only listed building is the gatehouse, all that remains of the old castle built during the 14 century as a defence against French attack.
The 12th Century parish church of St James is now redundant and cared for by the Churches’ Conservation Trust. It was one of the favourite places for Charles Dickens to walk from his home at Gads Hill Place, Higham, north west of Rochester. Being a distance of eleven miles, the journey would have taken an hour and three quarters. No doubt he would have absorbed the wild atmosphere of this moody landscape which he described in detail in his writing.
It was in the churchyard that Dickens visualised the scene in the opening chapter of ‘Great Expectations’ for here is the tomb of the local Comport family who had the misfortune to bury fifteen infants whose little lichen covered and weathered gravestones lie behind and either side of the parents’ large headstone. Dickens wastes no time in the first chapter plunging almost immediately into a description of this forlorn scene but with just five infant graves. It is here that the main character Pip, still a boy, is visiting his dead family to get away from the tyranny of his sister who brought him up and is married to the blacksmith.
In the novel Dickens describes the desolate scene of nettles and brambles surrounding the neglected graves on a cold, grey day. From behind one of these Pip is confronted by a convict who escaped from a prison hulk ship on the Thames, a frightening character who threatens him with cutting out his liver and heart if he does not get him a file to cut off his iron shackles and some “wittles” (food).
In 1946 a black and white film was made of this novel which, in 1958, we watched in the school hall as we were studying the book for O Levels. There was absolute silence when the convict, Abel Magwitch, jumped out from behind the large grave and grabbed the young Pip. The actor Finlay Currie was truly frightening with his rough voice, bald head and the metallic sound of his shackles as he moved around. We all felt the sheer terror of the scene, enhanced by the atmosphere of grainy black and white cellulose film.
Read more of our members’ stories and poems in the complete The Joy Club writers’ showcase: Term 2.
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