Friday, 23 November 2018

Learned Helplessness


There's a theory about learned helplessness, put forward by Seligman, a researcher into human behaviour, which teaches that as long as minimum requirements are met, many (most?) people are willing to put up with conditions they feel they can't escape from.  Of course, sometimes they really can't escape. A hostage with a violent, volatile captor does their best to avoid being noticed. They may empathise with their captor, appease them in some way and hope to avoid more pain. Or they may bide their time and wait for a chance to escape.

In my book THE MARSH PEOPLE,  published by Victorina Press, Scummo leaves the soulless city he has lived in for most of his adult life, taking with him a child.  Recently there have been some news items about newborn babies having immediate skin contact with their mothers and the fact that this contact aids lactation, bonding and emotional well-being, and I know from my own experience that many psychological and physical processes are begun by this simple act of touching, holding, in effect bonding, with a baby, even if it's not your own.

My first baby, born distressed by the use of forceps and having his cord round his neck, was taken away for 'cot rest' for the night. In pain and half doped, I tried to get to him, desperate with a primitive, instinctive urge to reach him, touch him, hold him. I was led back to bed and he was brought to me, but later when a doctor took a sample of blood and pricked his heel, I had to fight  the impulse to batter her. Instincts are there to be noticed and at that moment I became illogical, irrational and overwhelmed by a primitive instinct that welled up and would not be denied.

Scummo, in my story, has an instinctive need to care for this little girl, who represents something of his past - his own mother, perhaps. Something in him is awakened and responds to her need.

If it's a choice between sink or swim, the characters in THE MARSH PEOPLE know that their survival depends on them pitting their wits against the Masters and upholding their right to be free men, no matter what. And the women, with their protective, nurturing, natures are essential for the  survival of the tribe.

Monday, 27 August 2018

Selina Smith meets the world via Smashwords.

What Happened to Selina Smith.

Last night I finally uploaded this novella on Smashwords. Thanks to Phill Evans, who designed the cover, and other people who filled me in on the lives of Victorian showmen.

Selina, 13, and the eldest of four children, lives in a cottage near Market Drayton. Her father works on the canal, unloading barges and seeing to the needs of the bargees and their horses.
Her mother is expecting another child and is unwell and not able to work. Selina leaves school to attend the annual Hiring Fair and is chosen to work at the Rectory as a laundress, where she shares a room with Molly, the parlor maid. Life becomes even harder when Selina's mother dies in childbirth, and to comfort herself she visits Bostock and Wombwell's Travelling Menagerie, which has just arrived in town...

This Menagerie did visit Market Drayton and there is a photograph of the procession, led by a camel and an elephant pulling the lead wagon. Anyone who know camels will tell you this was no easy achievement. Back to the story.

You've guessed it. Selina leaves the Rectory after avoiding the advances of Mr Rodney, the son of the house, who feels she should be his property, and goes off with the Menagerie, becoming part of the circus family with Betty, the Python Handler, Marcus Orenzo, the lion tamer, Wallace the lion, Major Mite Tiny and a dozen more showmen and women.

This book, drawn closely from contemporaneous accounts in newspapers of the era, tells of one young penniless girl's adventures and how she uses her wits and skill to survive, thrive and support her younger siblings.