Two Guides started to write about locations in London connected with Florence Nightingale, or as they like to think of them “flocations”. [Thanks very much to Hannah Smith, from the Florence Nightingale Museum, for inventing this word.] They had already amassed a good deal of knowledge from initial work on their walks and talks.  But they now had an opportunity to deepen their research, and to look for flocations in other parts of London.

Since this was in the middle of a lockdown, a desk-based approach was the most obvious starting point.  Having each amassed a small private library of books on their subject, Two Guides set about reading in depth.

Private library

One of the most useful and comprehensive works on the subject was “Florence Nightingale: The Woman and Her Legend” by Mark Bostridge.  This book became a constant companion to Two Guides as they delved into it, looking for places, people, subjects and stories.

Florence Nightingale by Mark Bostridge

Florence Nightingale herself was also a published author, and reading her own words was inspirational.  Her book “Notes on Nursing: What it is and what it is not” has never been out of print.

Notes on Nursing

And there were also plenty of resources available online.  Some of these obviously need to be taken with a pinch of salt.  But, there were some authoritative sources which were well worth exploring. Two Guides are completely indebted to the world’s leading expert on Florence Nightingale, Professor Lynn McDonald.  The online resources provided by her team at the University of Guelph, Toronto, Canada are world class.

And not forgetting the online version of the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, which is accessible to anyone in the UK in possession of a library card.

Having two co-authors for a book brings many benefits, including someone to share the workload, sound out ideas and discuss options.  However, it also brings an increased need for co-ordination.   Initially, Julie concentrated on locations featured on the guided walks, and Debbie focused on Florence’s friends, family and colleagues.

The writing of this book would have been a lot more difficult without the use of modern technology.  The manuscript was drafted using Microsoft Teams, as if it were a shared drive for documents.  That way, there was no need to send each other attachments, there was only one version of the document at any one time, and each could see what the other had written.  On weekly Zoom conference calls, Julie and Debbie would discuss progress and agree priorities for the period ahead.

Two Guides set themselves a target of writing the descriptions for 100 flocations before the end of the year (2020).  A daily routine emerged of researching, writing, checking and editing.  Then each would review the other’s work, and suggest amendments or improvements.  Two Guides did not always see eye to eye, but in the end a compromise was always reached.  Julie and Debbie know exactly which of the flocations they have written, but they hope that this is not obvious to the reader.

Two Guides reached their target of 100 flocations, but they realised they had not finished their research. So what did they do? They carried on writing.

Leave a Reply