My Handy Research Tools by Coco Ihle

I’ve found being a pack rat isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Some of my trips to the U.K. were family vacations and because these were special occurrences, I didn’t want to forget anything. Taking photos, saving receipts, keeping a trip diary, buying brochures and even audio recording various tours and people became the norm for me.

This collection came in handy while compiling photo albums to share with the family later. I didn’t have to wonder where the heck a certain mystery photo was taken or try to remember an itinerary or timeline. I was so glad I had documented everything.

Since trip planning fell to me, I wanted to make the experience as rich as possible. One year, my (former) husband and I, his parents, and our son went to the U.K., rented a car, and set out touring England, Scotland and Wales on a six-weeks adventure. Since we had three generations in the car, my goal was to include sights that would interest everyone.

We saw battlefields, military monuments and museums, visited Brands Hatch British Grand Prix Race Track and had pints in local pubs to satisfy the guys. Madam Tussaud’s, the planetarium, taking a class in brass rubbing, listening to bagpipers in Scotland and seeing suits of armor up close were fun for our son. Visiting and staying in historic manor homes and castles, attending medieval banquets with the Ladies of the Court in period costumes and strolling in topiary gardens were treats for my mother-in-law and me. We all enjoyed driving through the lush countryside and stopping in quaint villages with their thatched roof cottages; and speaking with the locals gave us different perspectives on the things we had seen and experienced.  At every turn, we tried to make each day interesting and unforgettable.

One night, we stayed in the thirteenth-century House of Agnes Hotel in Canterbury, mentioned in Charles Dicken’s, David Copperfield. Another, in the The Feathers Hotel in Ludlow, a seventeenth-century coaching inn. Lord Crewe Arms in Blanchland was once an eleventh-century monastery and is said to be haunted. Lord Dalhousie at Dalhousie Castle flirted with my mother-in-law during our postprandial cocktails, and she blushed for weeks afterwards. I could go on and on.

To help refresh my cherished memories, I have shelves full of brochures, audio tapes, photo albums, music, artwork, you name it. When I began writing my book, SHE HAD TO KNOW, set primarily in Scotland, I needed details for descriptions of castles and the countryside, on people in the villages, their personalities and their speech patterns. Even though I had Scottish friends at this point, and the Internet, I relied heavily on my experiences and documentation of the many trips I had taken.

I’m so glad I am a pack rat! Any of you, pack rats, too? Has it been good, bad?

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14 Comments

Filed under books, Coco Ihle, fiction, musings, writing

14 responses to “My Handy Research Tools by Coco Ihle

  1. Sherrie Hansen

    A kindred spirit! I am a pack rat as well – in only the best way, of course! And I love Scotland. The next two novels I’m working on are Blue Belle of Scotland, set in the village of Tobermory on the Island of Mull, and Wild Rose of Scotland, set at St. Conan’s Kirk on Loch Awe. Now I have to read your book!

    • Thank you, Sherrie! Oh, goodie, I can’t wait to read yours. Hurry and get them out! What genre are they written in? It really doesn’t matter, though. I’ll read any genre if it involves Scotland. Good luck with them!

  2. I try to explain the pack rat theory to others, but they see it as simply an excuse for clutter. Little to they know how valuable that clutter is.

  3. I’m a packrat but I’m so disorganized I struggle to rediscover what I packed.

    • I can certainly relate to the difficulty of organizing, Sheila. I just stuffed all my U.K. stuff on a couple of shelves, then Scotland on a couple of shelves, England, on a couple of shelves, and all the other countries on shelves, etc. It’s not super organized, but I know I’m in the general area, and it’s amazing when I find something I’ve forgotted I had. It can spark a whole new direction for my creative juices. i’ve been known for spending days buried in one corner of my office.

  4. Brenda

    Wonderful and vivid post. I’m looking forward to reading this novel. Yes, I am a pack rat too. I didn’t think of saving proper mementoes as you have done as part of being a packrat though.

    • Thank you, Brenda. I hope you enjoy it. Now you have a good reason to join the ranks of us pack rats. But then, your house may be neater than mine. Hmmm…

  5. I don’t know that I’ve become so much a packrat as I am someone who, through more than half-a-century of living, has accumulated enough things I can’t bring myself to throw away. The Bible says we’re not to get attached to worldly things. I guess I get that since we can’t take them with us; but I can’t bring myself to throw out my dad’s old footlocker from the marines and all the treasures he left inside it. They bring me comfort. I know, I’m supposed to take my comfort in God; but sometimes that’s easier said than done.

    I have a beer bottle collection and a collection of pint glasses and shot glasses that all continue to grow. I can’t bring myself to get rid of all the books I’ve accumulated and read over the years. Too many ties in my closet that I never wear since America went business casual; and why I still have the sport coat I wore to my high school homecoming dance I can’t explain. I’ll never fit into again, but there it sits, a reminder of another era.

    • Oh, J. Conrad, I know just what you mean! What I got most out of your reply was the word “comfort” which relates to nostalgia. Many years ago, I made up a word because nostalgia sounds like something past, never to be experienced again. My word is “hearthy”, which (to me) conjures up the warmth and comfort of the past, without the feeling it is lost forever. So, to me, you have things that are “hearthy” and bring back wonderful memories. Nothing wrong with that! Good for you!

  6. Coco! Sent you a note today – via US Mail. I loved the book – it is a page turner. My hubby is enjoying it now. You certainly have a gift for writing, and I can see how your trips to the UK really helped you with so much of the book. I tried to separate fact/fiction and got lost. Great job! Marie with Alma

    • Oh, Marie, I’m so glad you enjoyed my book and that your husband is also. The phone call to Sheena from Gennie Jordan telling her Arran has been found was almost word for word, according to my memory and notes. I’ll never forget you and Jeanie and how much encouragement and help you supplied me with. Bless you and the work you do!!!

  7. I think I save too much, perhaps because I’d like virtually nothing to be in boxes. I’d love to be as organized as you are, Coco with easy access to your info!

    • Christine, If things are in boxes they’re out of sight, right? I’m with you, it’s important to see your “stuff.” If boxes would help, how about clear boxes. I have some of those for my Christmas items. I also have boxes with itemized labels, so I know what’s inside and I don’t have to hunt. Years ago, I tired of always saying, “I spend half my life LOOKING for things! Now I have more time to LOOK AT instead of LOOK FOR. Yeaaaay!

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