Judith spent seven years meticulously researching and writing Southborough War Memorial. She abhors every sort of war and violence, yet she had always felt deeply moved by the personal histories of the ordinary men and women (one woman on Southborough War Memorial) who suddenly discover themselves caught up by world events and carried off to a hitherto undreamed of world where killing is organised and systematic, and human suffering and cruelty is on an unimaginable scale. Yet for all the filth and hate and degradation, there is often immense courage, kindness, and powerful demonstrations of selflessness and generosity of the human spirit. Judith took up the task in 2001, suddenly realising that the last living connection to those who had fought and died in Gallipoli, Ypres, the Somme, and many other battlefields in foreign lands were themselves fading fast; she began interviewing in earnest. In fact, by the time the book was published quite a number of the most elderly of these ‘interviewees’ had sadly passed away. She has often spoken of the eagerness of these people to relate family stories of an older brother, father or adored cousin. As the interviews concluded many of them thanked her for what she was aiming to do. When someone has a relative who has died in a war, that loss never seems to be fully mourned, the grief is never completely come to terms with - least that’s how it seems to me.
Judith planned to do her best to find a photograph and if possible something of the life and death of the two hundred and fifty-two names on our local war memorial. In most cases she succeeded, sometimes the result was beyond reasonable expectation, however, sadly, a few names beat her completely. The book is 254 pages long and its comprehensive indexes list each person by regiment and where they were laid to rest. I saw her break down in tears after setting the whole book and realising she had scanned every image (about 250) at the wrong resolution. For an hour or two I think she actually said she was giving up! It was probably Judith’s determination to finish this massive project, all done in her spare time (as I said, over seven years) whilst holding down a full time job, which in turn encouraged me to pick up my own pen again. I had been utterly discouraged and disheartened by the world of publishing after they’d initially shown so much interest in N & H - but the only thing I got in the end was a couple of free lunches and a lot of hot air and promises! A bit like Scarlett O’Hara I vowed I’d never put myself in such a vulnerable position again - well a little bit like that!
Anyway back to the morning’s book sale. I’d spoken to a bookshop owner yesterday who was ringing to order some books, and he asked if we’d mind someone calling by to get a copy of SWM as they were returning home to Wales. The lady, although originally from Kent, had lived in South Wales for the past twenty years, which of course prompted a nice little chat about home. She said she already owned the Kindle version of SWM which she liked very much but I could tell that she was very pleased to be holding the print version in her hand - book lovers are so transparent! She was also related to one of the names on the memorial - hence her very keen interest in Judith’s book. She asked me what I did and I told her that I wrote stuff too. She went on to ask if she might find my writings on a shelf somewhere and I said there were copies on the shelf directly behind her head.
I pictured another cash sale as she leafed through N & H and Roadrage. She looked very interested. I tried to look nonchalant.
She said she’d check them out on line!