Calling London – a new title for Threadgold Press

On the 12th June, Threadgold Press is very proud to be releasing a book outside its usual genre. This book is scholarly, genuinely readable and historically important.In the twentieth century men from the Midland Bank travelled the world to try and understand how overseas centres of finance and industry functioned, to promote their business and meet their counterparts in other countries.

They were inquisitive, openminded and energetic. They sent back reports from Chicago, New Orleans, Montreal, St Petersburg, Vienna, Stockholm, Paris, Tokyo, Prague, Hong Kong, Buenos Aires and many, many other cities. They had an uncanny knack of fetching up in these centres at moments of high drama. And they reported back in detail and without political allegiance.

These reports are available for study in the archives of HSBC in London. Calling London set these reports into historical context with fascinating extracts along the way. 

Calling London: Travels by British Bankers, 1904-63

The back cover says:

There is hardly a happening in the world that does not have its repercussions, immediately or eventually, on Overseas Branch. Midland Venture, 1933

From 1904 to the 1960s managers of the Midland Bank in London travelled the world to visit centres of finance and industry and then report back. They often arrived, by chance or intention, at crucial moments in history – Russia in 1909, Austria in 1931, France in 1944, Chile and Japan 1948 and for example Germany in 1933:

Dr. Fischer was careful to explain to me, quite irrelevantly, that Hitler was a most peaceable and peace-loving man to whom war-like intentions were entirely foreign… W.F. Crick, Berlin, 1933

In a scholarly, informative and fascinating account, Edwin Green sets this rich resource in historical context. While Calling London throws light on local conditions in some serious times, it also includes delightful insights into how British Bankers were seen abroad:

Mr. Holden is no dreamer. The way he hands out a cigar is suggestive of the rapier. Toronto News, 23 September, 1904

Edwin Green was appointed as the Midland Bank’s first archivist in 1974. From 1993 until his retirement in 2007 he was group Archivist at HSBC in London, where the records of the Midland’s Overseas Branch are located. He is the author and co-author of many publications on banking and business history, including histories of the Midland Bank, The Mercantile Bank of India and the Institute of Bankers. He is uniquely placed to guide future researchers to this gold mine of twentieth century business archives.

From 12 June book will be available directly from Threadgold Press, or from Amazon.

In case you think a gremlin has taken over my blog… here are some peonies. 

The Railway Man

Yesterday I went to see the film of The Railway Man (Colin Firth, Nicole Kidman, Jeremy Irvine, Hiroyuki Sanada). Last night I re-read the book on which it is based that came from my father’s shelves.

DSCN4650The film was a moving depiction of a man finding redemption late in life, through the love of a woman who helped him to confront his traumas and finally to meet and even make friends with one of the men responsible for his traumas. It is ‘based on’ rather than an exact version of the true story.

The film also does two important things:

It renews my shame, as a UK citizen, at being even distantly connected to inhumanity of Guantanamo Bay and what the American military are still doing there. We have in the last twelve years thrown away the right to condemn any other nation for treating people inhumanely.

It gives me hope that people have the capacity to forgive their enemies, if they can only meet and talk.

The film is only a brief window on a relationship in trouble and the torture Eric Lomax underwent during interrogation. What the film does not, cannot, do is give the full long-term picture of what Eric Lomax and thousands of other men suffered as Far East POWs and the suffering consequently visited on their families when they returned. After lengthy torture, Eric spent a year or more in unimaginable squalor and imposed silence in Outram gaol. After release, first in India, he met the ignorance and indifference to his their sufferings that blighted these men’s lives – a lady volunteer who suggested that since they had been POWs during most of the fighting, they must now be anxious to ‘do their bit’. In England, so much had changed. Eric’s mother had died in 1942 and his father had remarried. People had suffered and were not keen to revisit, let alone deal with, something that was over and done with.

The book, not surprisingly, tells a more profound, detailed and informative story. There are many tributes to the book. Ian Jack of The Guardian writes: ‘This beautiful, awkward book tells the story of a fine and awkward man.’

Writing to a Ghost – POWs 16

While Barry is slowly recovering his strength in the big base camp at Chungkai, Phyllis has managed to move out of her parents house. Like so many other relatives, she struggled to write again and again with absolutely nothing coming back. It was, as someone said, like writing to a ghost – which sadly many of them were.

In November 1943 Phyllis wrote:

DEAR DARLING I HAVE NOT WRITTEN FOR SOME TIME, BECAUSE THERE SEEMS TO HAVE BEEN SO MUCH DOUBT ABOUT WHETHER YOU WILL EVER RECEIVE THE LETTERS AND THE MUST BE TYPED [IN CAPITALS] NOW. I HAVE BEEN ABLE TO BORROW THIS TYPEWRITER FOR A SHORT WHILE THIS MORNING. ROBIN AND I MOVED UP HERE AT THE END OF SEPTEMBER AND ARE NOW REALLY GETTING SETTLED IN. I HAVE A VERY NICE SITTING ROOM OF MY OWN. … ROBIN HAS BEEN RATHER SEEDY SINCE WE CAME HERE … BUT IS NOW PICKING UP AGAIN.

Robin

Robin

HE IS, NEEDLESS TO SAY, A CONTINUAL SOURCE OF DELIGHT TO ME. HE IS DEVELOPING IN SOME WAYS VERY LIKE YOU, AND IS REALLY AN INTELLIGENT COMPANION TO GO ROUND WITH NOW, THOUGH THE CLARITY OF HIS VOICE IS MATCHED BY THE DIRECTNESS OF HIS QUESTIONS AND OFTEN EXERCISES ALL MY TACT AND PATIENCE WHEN IN COMPANY, BECAUSE HE NEVER MISSES A POINT OR ALLOWS ME TO EVADE A DIRECT ANSWER. … HE IS ALWAYS TALKING ABOUT WHEN DADDY COMES HOME. … AND WHEN HE COMES HOME AND WE ALL HAVE A …HOME, AND A LITTLE BABY SISTER (PLEASE I WOULD LIKE A LITTLE BABY SISTER) LIFE WILL BE PERFECT.

HOW AM I? QUITE WELL, VERY BUSY, AND GLAD TO BE SO. TRYING TO POSSESS MY SOUL IN PATIENCE, NOT TO THINK WHAT LIFE MAY BE LIKE FOR YOU NOW, AND TO CONCENTRATE ON DOING ALL I CAN FOR YOU NOW BY WHAT I CAN DO FOR YOUR SON. ALSO TO SAVE AS MUCH AS POSSIBLE TOWARDS OUR FUTURE, … TO ONE IDEA I HANG ON FIRMLY, NAMELY THAT YOU WILL NOT BE WASTING YOUR TIME MORE THAN CAN BE HELPED, AND WILL BE LEARNING ALL THAT YOU CAN FIND ANYBODY TO TEACH YOU. ALSO, IF I KNOW ANYTHING OF YOU, YOU WILL BE DOING A LOT OF HELPING OTHER PEOPLE, TOO. SO MANY PEOPLE HAVE SAID TO ME THAT IF ANYBODY COULD ‘TAKE IT’ YOU CERTAINLY COULD. AND THANK GOD I KNOW THEY ARE RIGHT, MY DARLING. NEVER FORGET THAT I LOVE YOU, WILL YOU? EVER YOUR OWN, Phyllis

Sadly, Phyllis has missed notices in the post office saying that correspondence to Far East POWs has been limited by the Japanese to 25 words. Her letter is returned by the  censor.

Her next communications look like this.

permitted Far East POW letters

permitted Far East POW letters

Spoiled for choice – writer’s support network

My writing has been stalled because I had finished one project and was in desperate need of feedback on the other two.

The project, an article on my airman uncle (A Very Unlikely Hero) had been sent to a specialist blogger. My non-fiction (Writing to a Ghost: Letter to the River Kwai) was being read, as a favour, by a wonderfully meticulous friend and my re-re-re revised fiction book (Border Line) was in a queue to a busy writing friend.Two days ago my writing frustration peaked and I also felt a need of independent professional advice for some tricky chapters. So I sent them off to Sally Jenkins, who had done such a swift and helpful job on the synopsis, agent letter and first chapter of Border Line.

Later that same day the blogger, Pierre Lagacé, of Lest we Forget, http://athabaskang07.wordpress.com came up trumps and starting posting a new blog using parts of my article on my Mosquito Navigator uncle at http://johncustancebaker.wordpress.com/2013/09/10/and-if-by-chance/ I am thrilled with this.

Yesterday my friend, Lesley, came round with a wonderfully annotated manuscript of my non-fiction book and some very good advice.

Today, to my amazement, Sally Jenkins came through with the critique of my tricky chapters in Border Line. Her speed of turnaround only equalled by the seriously helpful advice on my chapters. http://www.sallyjenkins.wordpress.com/

Writing is something of a game of snakes and ladders. Today I am on a ladder. Back at my desk, I feel like a bee in clover – totally happy and busy though spoiled for choice about which manuscript to tackle first. It is this wonderful network of support from people we know and, in this new age, those we have never met that make writing possible.

This state of affairs has been very good for the house. DIY flourished, I have insulated a tricky section of bay wall with thermal lining, put up a pane of secondary glazing and ordered more lining, glazing panels etc.

(And my L reg. Nissan passed its MOT!)

writing – never give up hope

A writing friend has, after years of persistence, found a publisher for her third very interesting non-fiction book. This is a lesson in hanging in there. Her writing on historical subjects, that might otherwise lie untold, is lively, readable and scholarly and she continued to research, knock on doors, send in submissions, give talks and hang on, however often she had her manuscript turned down. It is truly and example to us all.

I have a small green shoot too. An agent (whose submissions are closed) has kindly agreed to look at the opening of my Far Eastern POW letters book.