Coming into this module, I was initially quite overwhelmed at the thought of a weekly public blog because, aside from a one-off piece during second year, I have never blogged before. Blogging is something which has always appealed to me yet I felt like I needed direction in order to create something worthwhile. The Writing Lives project has allowed me to gain a set of skills which I have been able to demonstrate throughout the module, and which I will gratefully take away from the experience.
Writing for a blogging audience has enabled me to adapt my writing style, particularly concerning to what extent my writing is concise and what purpose it serves. These skills will help in all my modules, especially my Independent Study, and will remain part of my personal capabilities which will benefit me during my postgraduate studies.
To begin with, the thought of writing about somebody else’s life seemed like a daunting task, but after choosing and reading through Thomas Jordan’s memoir I realised it would be more of a rewarding challenge rather than a difficult ask. Needless to say, I think we have all fallen in love with our authors a little bit, but I feel slightly connected to Thomas and I’m glad I consciously chose someone from my local area to study as it has been so rewarding to share these stories with an online audience. It’s given me a sense of pride to be able to tell his story for the first time and I have enjoyed digging beyond his memoir in my research.
Knowing that my work would be archived online has been consciously in my head throughout the module, and for that reason I wanted to ensure my blogs were at a consistently high standard; not only for my own pride, but because a member of the Jordan family may one day stumble across this and I think Thomas deserves his story to have its own little platform.
The oral history element of studying the untitled memoir initially scared me a little because I couldn’t look to my peers for advice, nor was there any similar blogs from previous years on the Writing Lives website, but I realised quickly that this element gave the memoir a dimension not fully explored. I was able to use key texts and, with the help of Helen Rogers, I explored some of the pros and cons of working with oral history. I think the most important thing I learnt during this process was knowing that one approach to oral history ‘is to accept that people do not simply remember what happened to them, but make sense of the subject matter they recall by interpreting it’ (Summerfield, 67). This is something I have made reference to throughout my blog and Thomas’ voice has always been the leading focus of my writing.
The online element of the project has been interesting too, particularly spending some time on the Ancestry website where I was able to trace Thomas’ life and family through census records and a family tree I found from another user online. I remember finding his death records about half way through the module and it brought home the realness and the importance of the Writing Lives project. Likewise, a social media drive has enabled me to connect with others and promote my blog.
I’d love to have seen a picture of Thomas, to put a face with the name, however; without that I will take away from his memoir, and this experience, to work hard for what you want. He has taught me to look beyond the box we live in, and aim to achieve anything. Lastly, I don’t think I had enough opportunities to share everything about Thomas, but my favourite line from his memoir is when he is asked ‘That was unusual wasn’t it? The miner marrying somebody that was a teacher?’ and he replied, I imagine quite proudly:
‘I met this bonny young woman, and I was in a smart soldier uniform and she must have had more romance in her than brains… although she was a girl who belonged to a mining family she was a cut above the average in those days.’
Summerfield, Penny. ‘Culture and Composure: Creating Narratives of the Gendered Self in Oral History Interviews’, Cultural and Social History 1.1 (2004): 65‑93.
Thomas, Jordan. Untitled. Burnett Archive of Working Class Autobiography, University of Brunel Library, Special Collection, 1:405