Sunday, 29 November 2009

Bon Viveur II and biography

The tutorial this week clashed with the AGM of the boat syndicate we belong to, so I went to the former and Julia to the latter.

The picture above shows the boat, Bon Viveur II, completed in 2006, which lives on the Canal du Midi in the spring and autumn and the Canal de Bourgogne in the summer. The syndicate comprises a dozen couples who jointly own the vessel, with each couple having the entitlement to use it for the same specified period each year: we have the first cruise of the year, in the first fortnight in April.

The annual general meeting this year was more upbeat and positive than in previous years, primarily because the boat builder and sponsor of the syndicate had finally ended his connection with it. The responsibility for ensuring that the vessel was ship-shape at the beginning of the season had not been properly established at the outset, which resulted in our misfortune last year in going on board, in the evening and at a mooring in a remote village, to find that neither the water system nor the electrics were working. But, as they say, worse things happen at sea.

The syndicate management could now organise things on a properly business-like basis and the agenda was dealt with briskly and efficiently. At lunch afterwards Sue Hill, our redoubtable Hon. Sec., knowing that I was absent because of the course I am doing, told Julia that she has the diary of a great-uncle of hers in which the last entry records his premonition that the following day he would meet his death: he did.

Sue said that she would be happy to lend the diary to me. I've been wondering whether such a fragment could possibly be built up into a mini-biography, if there are no other papers or records about him. I believe it could, if there was sufficient of interest within the diary. It could, perhaps, be done at three levels: the campaign, within the context of the war on the Western Front as a whole; the regiment, and the training of troops; and the battle, and the death.

Now, if this were something that a dutiful kinsman would like to see produced as a limited edition, using on-demand printing, for circulating to other relatives, then this is something that I could consider doing as a preliminary 20,000-word thesis since it would provide a personal example to illustrate my major thesis, The Impact of New Technology on the Creation of Biography. I'll e-mail Sue about this tomorrow.

Maybe I'm running the risk of biting off more than I can chew: but "a man's reach should exceed his grasp, or what's a heaven for?"

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