In travelling home from Bury St Edmunds the other month I stopped in front of a narrow bridge over the railway line. In waiting at the lights before crossing over the bridge, my son and I got into a random discussion about why they hadn’t bothered to widen it. I used the phrase “thin bridge” and then the conversation turned to whether there was a town called Thinbridge, we couldn’t recall one, and what it would be like if there was one.
Further investigation at home revealed the surprising fact that there appears to be nowhere on the planet called Thinbridge, the words Thin and Bridge are at least as old as Anglo-Saxon if not older and so there could and perhaps should be somewhere so called.
On the next car journey we discussed further what the village/town might be like and how it might have evolved. The germ of a timeslip novel started and some research was called for. Soon after this we went on a family shopping trip to Norwich, mainly to spend Christmas money and vouchers. There are two Waterstones in Norwich, both of which are huge, so I used my gift card to get a couple of books on British history which are written more from the perspective of a normal person of the time, rather than a dry recounting of events and ‘famous’ people.
“The Time Traveller’s Guide to Medieval England” by Ian Mortimer does exactly what it says on the tin! He leads you though the sights, sounds and smells of the fourteenth century so that one could actually, possibly, survive without immediately being killed by robbers or hanged for heresy. A little bugbear of mine is people who make statements in books or programmes that are or appear to be unsubstantiated conjecture. Everything in Mortimer’s book is properly referenced with a long section at the back of notes and bibliography. This doesn’t get in the way of the text and you are pulled along, wanting to read the next bit like a good novel.
Equally enjoyable was “The Year 1000” by Robert Lacey and Danny Danziger. This describes the monthly passage through the year at the turn of the first millennium with it’s chief source being a calendar of saints days and other notable events from the abbey at Canterbury, what turned into the cathedral we know today. Again, everything is properly attributed and notes and bibliography support a very enjoyable read.
The missing link currently is a Roman reference book. Despite much rummaging through Amazon and various worthy websites I had no luck. Equally, a more recent visit to Waterstones in Bury St Edmunds was unsuccessful. The bookseller and I came to the conclusion that my best hope was to write the book I need myself! An interesting idea but not particularly helpful; I have theoretically three books on the go so writing yet another is not ideal but it might actually be the most worthwhile. We shall see.