Wednesday, 25 May 2016

Bingo! The Satisfaction of Research

This story has a sombre beginning, so let me tell you at the outset that she's okay now ...

A few months ago, my youngest daughter came to me and said, "Do you think I should get this checked out?" 'This' was a mole, which looked rather angry and, well, not quite right.

Okay, wrong kind of angry mole
Without wishing to add to her alarm, I said she should maybe see a doctor, just to put her mind at rest. She got badly sunburned during a school trip in her final year of primary school and she wondered if she had the mole at that point.

Well, I'm the first to admit that I'm a terrible mother, but I know she wasn't born with that mole. Did it appear after the sunburn? I couldn't remember.

That evening, I pulled out the old photo albums. Lots of 'em. I have three kids, and I love them. I love taking photos, generally, and especially of my kids. So it took a while. I even played a DVD of the Yr 6 school play - we know she was sunburned then because the feather boa irritated it (she was dressed as a toucan.) But of course, the feathers covered the area in question. 

I pored over the photos until I found a picture, taken a few weeks later, of her wearing a pretty skimpy t-shirt. The burn lines were clear, and so was the area of skin - and there was no mole. Bingo! Now all I had to do was find a photo of the mole. 

Given our weather, and lack of finances when the kids were young, there weren't too many photos of her in a t-shirt. But an hour later, I found a shot of her on the beach at Wicklow, two years after the sunburn incident, and the mole was just visible. Bingo again!

The sunny day in Co Wicklow

Now, I can't prove for certain when that mole appeared. All I can say is that it definitely wasn't there in summer 2008, and that it most definitely was there in 2010. And, despite the worrying reason for this mission, I derived a great deal of satisfaction from it.

My husband came home and I told him, "I missed my calling; I should have been a detective." And he simply looked at me and said, "Isn't that what you do anyway, when you research your history stuff?"

And of course he's right. A Bingo! moment is fantastic, but when you can add a Bingo again! to it, it's even more wonderful. Because even if it's not too narrow a time-frame, to have a proven point A and a proven point B is incredibly useful, for historians, and, especially, for historical novelists. Because then they are free to fill in the gap. Plausibly.

I would love to hear from any novelists out there who've had a Bingo! moment, especially if you've had a Bingo again! to go with it.

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