A Stolen Glimpse, a Lucky Find

It’s a simple item, a small notebook with unlined pages covered in a fragile, poppy adorned paper but it has mesmerised me for the weeks that I’ve been reading through it. Every page is full of beautifully inked script that I am inclined to believe is feminine, if it isn’t then the sentiment it records certainly is.

The owner of the notebook, and the decades of information within it, is a mystery, no name is written anywhere in the musty pages. The only clue offered up is an address written on the inside cover; 3408, Hawthorne Avenue, Richmond, Virginia. The year 1934 is written above the address which I would like to believe to be the date that this book came into the possession of the owner. Tucked in-between the pages is a letter from the address Arnmore, 63 Wembley Park Drive, Wembley, Middlesex a further clue, but nothing definitive.

I’ve romanticised that the owner was a British woman who married an American soldier. There are many references of America in the notebook, the pledge given by naturalised citizens is within the pages as is the inscription from the Statue of Liberty. There are also references to the war which fuelled my imagination.

The mystery of the notebook’s author is second only to the story that must surely sit behind it’s journey to the pocket of a raincoat that my grandmother bought from a secondhand shop ten years ago in the depths of Lincolnshire. I can remember her telling me how she’d found this little book but I don’t think I’ve ever read through it in any detail until I found it languishing at the bottom of a disused magazine rack last month.

The musty odour of stale cigarettes emits from the old pages sectioned into blocks of beige, lilac and pale green and the undoubtably British owner has used the coloured pages to organise their notes. First we have a record of epitaphs and tombstone engravings from churchyards in such places as Chester, Cornwall, Holme and Bedfordshire, together with prayers and blessings from different ministers of the time. The lilac section records odes, wishes, poems and such small ditties that the owner thought precious enough to keep. The green section starts as a gardening tips repository but morphs into a further record of poems and limericks which I like to think was an overflow of all the other sections dedicated to this collection of amusements, and the final section holds, amongst other things, jokes.

In the very centre of the book, quite out of keeping with the neighbouring humour, is a section from a family tree. The earliest ancestor is listed as William Beverage being born in 1795 and marrying in 1821. This surname appears sporadically through the family tree until the last entry of a child born in 1888. I am going to assume that this is the family name of the owner of this book but I have to wonder why this was never completed up to 1934 and beyond.

Family Tree

I long to know who owned this notebook and if they kept it with them whenever they travelled. I have read through it so often, many times struggling to unravel the elegant script of old and trying to work out what letter the swirling ink is trying to give me so I might make sense of the sentence. I like to imagine a time of more simple amusements with no phones, internet or 24hr media bombardment. How quiet that must have been, how many actual conversations they must have had with friends and family. I’d like to have known the owner of the notebook, to talk to them about the interests that shine through the pages of their musty old journal but that will never be.

I’d like to leave you with a few extracts from my mystery notebook:

A limerick from the pages

There was a contractor named Nunn,

Who erected a fence in the sun,

He said he would serve it

With some stuff to preserve it

But at present he hasn’t begun.

Self Centred Life

I gave a little tea party

This afternoon at three.

‘Twas very small, three guests in all,

I, myself and me.

Myself ate up the sandwiches,

While I drank all the tea.

‘Twas also I who ate the pie,

And passed the cake to me.

Don’t Trouble Trouble

Don’t you trouble trouble
Till trouble troubles you.
Don’t you look for trouble;
Let trouble look for you.

Don’t you borrow sorrow;
You’ll surely have your share.
He who dreams of sorrow
Will find that sorrow’s there.

Don’t you hurry worry
By worrying lest it come.
To flurry is to worry,
T’will miss ‘ee if you’re mum.

If care you’ve got to carry
Wait till ’tis at the door,
For he who runs to meet it
Takes up the load before.

If minding will not mend it.
Then better not to mind;
The best thing is to end it—
Just leave it all behind.

Who feareth hath forsaken
The Heavenly Father’s side;
What He hath undertaken
He surely will provide.

The very birds reprove thee
With all their happy song:
The very flowers teach thee
That fretting is a wrong.

“Cheer up,” the sparrow chirpeth,
“Thy Father feedeth me;
Think how much more He careth,
Oh lonely child for thee.”

“Fear not,” the flowers whisper,
“Since thus He hath arrayed
The buttercup and daisy—
How can’st thou be afraid.”

Then don’t you trouble trouble
Till trouble troubles you:
You’ll only double trouble,
And trouble others too.

Pages of the notebook


About Nicola Auckland

Busy wife to one & mum to two. I've caught the creative writing bug, now need to practice, get awesome and write something worth reading. Simples.
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5 Responses to A Stolen Glimpse, a Lucky Find

  1. @kebintho says:

    I love the poem and I love the handwritings, too. So classic and personally I think you were so lucky to have this gem. So, it’s a quest to find the owner? I wish you good luck! 🙂


    • I love it, I’m still reading through it and trying to fathom the unfamiliar handwriting. Most handwriting from this period looks the same to me, I can just imagine the lines of children at old wooden school desks, the type where the tops lifted to keep your books under, having to master flamboyant handwriting skills.

      Liked by 1 person

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