Wednesday 31 October 2012

The buns of war: cake and death in the trenches of WW1

I have a project on Kickstarter. If you don’t have the first idea what on earth I’m talking about, I’ll quickly explain. Kickstarter is an online service that helps people fund all kinds of creative projects, from feature films to iPhone cases. Until recently it’s only been available in the USA but since 31st October the service has been offered to UK residents as well.

My project is a non-fiction book. This also needs an explanation.

It’s about a man called William Foord Bridge… although, in many ways, the story could have happened to anyone. Mr Bridge was working in a Kent department store when the First World War started in 1914. He joined the army a month after Britain declared war and the following year was sent to France, which is when this story really begins.

You’ve probably spotted the similarity in our surnames. W F Bridge was my grandfather and part of his story is told in a notebook that I’ve recently discovered.

His notes describe the journey to the Front Line in the kind of detail that struck a chord with me. He doesn’t talk of secret manoeuvres and military detail; instead he remarks on the food at the French camp and tells of a cake that he couldn’t resist.

“I got into disgrace with the Staff Captain by purchasing a cake from a travelling local man”

Plenty of people kept diaries during World War One. This isn’t about simply transcribing five thousand words from a notebook, although I’ll certainly be doing that. Instead it’s about discovering the man behind the story.

Although we never met, I certainly feel a connection with him – and I don’t think it’s just because we appear to have shared a sweet tooth.

My plan is to link the ‘official’ reports of the war in 1915 with the events in the notebook. I’m hoping to retrace some of Private Bridge’s first steps in France by visiting the battlefields where his regiment fought. And I’m also planning to track down the mysterious cake that threatened to end his military career.

funded with Kickstarter
Why have I turned to Kickstarter?   Because it combines support and reward. Depending on your pledge you could even think of it as being rather like pre-ordering a book. The backing will allow me to devote a fair amount of time to this research and to pay for printing. Yes, I could have approached a publisher but I’d rather write this particular story on my own terms.

So that’s it. If you head over to my Kickstarter project page you’ll find more about my plans and an opportunity to offer support. Or to pre-order the book.

Thursday 25 October 2012

Eric Hill meets Harry Hill?

A literary critic I am not. Neither would I call myself a Direct Marketing expert. I have, however, written more than a few letters on behalf of CEOs, managing directors and business owners.

Dear customer... Dear retailer... gentle introduction, sales bit, reminder, close. That kind of thing. To be honest, it can be a bit of a challenge to avoid cliches.

This is clearly not a problem for Eric Hill, the company that recently sent a clothing catalogue to my mother.

I picked up the catalogue before reading the letter, which could be why the opening paragraph seemed more like Harry Hill... perhaps briefed by Salvador Dali.

I'll admit I might be missing the point. Or perhaps I'm just the wrong demographic.

Friday 12 October 2012

C'est la guerre

"To all enquiries the same answer is returned: c'est la guerre, monsieur".

French philosophy, according to my grandfather's diary of the First World War.

Wednesday 10 October 2012

Time to escape from the escape

It's the noise that hits you first. A guttural roar that tails off into a hiss, as though an angry medieval dragon was rousing itself from sleep. The crashing of a hundred china plates and the clattering of a dozen metal jugs. The desperate shouting of long-forgotten names. And the screams of children abandoned by parents lost in their own fantasy worlds. I'd forgotten what a busy Starbucks sounded like.