Wednesday, 1 October 2014

Dear Mr Bigelow - Frances Woodsford

I am really unsure how I found this book, but I must have seen in mentioned somewhere, as I ordered it, and when it came it sat on the shelf for a year or so.  And now I've read it and what an enjoyable read it is, too.  That is, if you like ordinary life with no sex, no murders, no mobile phones, no computers etc!  Frances Woodsford started to write to Paul Bigelow as a  'thank-you' to his daughter .... whom she had met whilst on holiday in the USA just after the war.  At that time, dressed in homemade clothes made from other second-hand items, she obviously struck a cord with the American, who sent her a bundle of rather nice (and new)clothes on her return to England.  And as there was nothing she could do to thank that  woman enough, she started to write to the elderly Mr Bigelow - a correspondence that lasted from 1949 to 1961 when he died.  No love, no inuendo, nothing except a transatlantic friendship.  He kept all her letters and after he died they went missing and that was the end of that.  Except that it wasn't, and they re-surfaced 40 years later - and here are some of them for your delectation.

In another life, Frances Woodsford might have become a writer herself, her style, aimed at not only telling Mr Begilow all the news but making him smile too, would have done nicely in fiction.  Whilst it is true that the letters are of their time (I don't know anyone who talks like that these days, in the world of "Laters" and "Where R U ?"), they are enjoyable because of that.  Add to which the  fact that I am familiar with the town of Bournemouth and the period the letters cover are the early part of my own life, I found it a lovely companion for a few days. It's just letters, together with a few reproduced pencil sketches and photographs.  That's it, but a lovely book to dip in and out of, or to just settle with and keep reading.

Frances Woodsford died in 2013 at the age of 99, and if you click on the link below you will find a lovely tribute for a woman who wrote to lots of other people too, and who this niece-in-law obviously apreciated very much.