Monday, 3 February 2014


Lack of posts on the blog doesn't mean I've stopped working on Isabella - Oh No. I've been working on her story harder than ever since the Arts Council Funding ended in June.

First of all I went travelling. I drank coffee on the site of the hospital in France where Isabella worked.

Over the last few years, I've spent days in the Imperial War Museum, painfully decoding the diary of the hospital. The dip-penned, candle-light scrawled words have been hard to untangle. In their antique Edwardian script, they haven't always made sense. I've kept wondering if I've understood them aright. Visiting the place cleared that all up, made sense of both the writing and Isabella's tale.

I found old photos which showed me what the building used to look like, and I scoured the town for spots Isabella would have known.

I flew to Malta and was overwhelmed by the friendly interest shown by people in Isabella's story, a part of their island's story they knew little about. I was able to walk in the rooms where she had tended patients, and to stand on the steps where she had paused from her work to gaze down at the sea. I wondered what she had been in her mind as she sat in the very same spot.

It's been a satisfying adventure, but I haven't visited Egypt yet. I'm a bit scared of Egypt. Any suggestions?

On my return, I began to write up three years (on and off) of research. I'm halfway through. Halfway through my attempt to tell Isabella's tale in a way that's interesting and fun yet historically accurate.

But I'm wondering when I should tell people what I am doing; I'm busy panicking that I've missed the centenary of WW1 because all the commemorations have begun so early, and I'm wondering if all my work will prove to have been in vain.

But even if I am too late, I am still convinced that the story of a woman who served as a doctor during WW1 is worth telling. She was not a famous woman, she was just a junior doctor, but without juniors, how would people become seniors? Without people to test the waters of working in a male dominated environment, to begin to let men see what they could do, how could men begin to realise what women could do, and how could anyone else follow?

PS: Why have I paused working towards an installation? Because to get the funding to make an installation, I knew I would need to work out exactly what I wanted and what it would cost. But to do that, I had to collate everything I'd discovered about Isabella and her beads. And once I began doing that, I quickly found there was far too much to limit her story to an installation. An installation or something else can follow later. Let's hope!

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