How does Joyce Bowler look back upon her family's experience? With
her usual assertiveness, humor, and candor.
in THE 1900 HOUSE has made you the focus of a lot of media attention.
What kind of effect has that had on you and the family?
so bizarre that people halfway across the world are looking at my
face and hearing me speak; that's very strange. And, of course,
when the program went out [in England], we were in the Sunday papers,
and a friend said, "Oh God, I opened the paper and there you were;
I can't escape you!" It's just an amusing thing and it hasn't had
that much impact, because we've been quite low key, really. I think
there was a danger that I could have turned my whole family into
some kind of novelty item, and I don't wish to do that. I mean,
that wasn't what it was about for me.
you feel the series depicted your true experience?
as a snapshot, because there was so much more. There were some bits
they left out that I would have loved them to put in, much more
of the children, especially -- then, in the future I could watch
them on the television: my babies. I tell you, this is a hard question
for me, because I never wanted to make a television program, I wanted
to time travel. I was very nervous about what it would be like when
it went out. The people that made the television program gave their
version of it. We have our own three months, which we hold in our
heads, our own memories. It was very special.
you miss THE 1900 HOUSE?
yes. I thought maybe I wouldn't, that I'd be sick of it and want
it to go away. But we were so fond of the house and it was such
an amazing experience that time doesn't affect it. I miss it; I
know we all do.
you know what's happened to the house?
understand it's been sold. I don't know who's bought it and I don't
know what they intend to do with it.
did living in THE 1900 HOUSE effect your family's relationship?
was a lot harder than I think we expected it to be. I thought it
was going to be like a holiday. For myself, I think I discovered
what kind of people my children are a lot earlier than I would have
done through the normal growing-up stages, because there were situations
where I couldn't cope, and the normal family makeup was turned on
its head, really. It was very topsy-turvy. On many occasions, Hilary
and Ruth, my twin daughters, were able to be much more mature and
to kind of calm everybody down. It was a very intense experience
that's difficult to explain to people. We almost lost those traditional
roles, you know: Mum and Dad are in charge, and if anything goes
wrong, they'll sort it out. In actual fact, the children were more
levelheaded. But I think it's brought us closer. We're more democratic,
about your relationship with [your husband,] Paul?
know, while we were in the thick of it, on occasion I couldn't stand
him, because he coped so well. And I thought, "Why is this man coping
so much better than I am; me, the one that wants to do this?' And
after a couple of weeks he said, "Well, I'm a trained Royal Marine,
I'm trained to cope in whatever situation, in the jungle, in the
wastelands of Norway, whatever." To him, it was just like being
on an exercise.
what about romance in THE 1900 HOUSE?
You are the only person who's had the guts to ask that question!
We've been waiting for that question; I can't wait to tell Paul.
And I'll give you an absolutely honest answer. It killed it stone
dead at the beginning. Absolutely. I was exhausted, and if he thought
that I was going to get into bed and want to do anything else than
go to sleep, he had another think coming. I'm sure people think,
you know, beautiful brass bed, "Oh, darling, this is lovely by candlelight."
Quite frankly, it was, "Oh darling, can you blow that candle out!"
many people, the most fascinating aspect about the late Victorian
era was the roles of women and what their lives were like on that
eve before enormous social change. Were you a feminist before THE
1900 HOUSE, and do you consider yourself one now?
didn't consider myself one, but you couldn't ignore it. I was suddenly
hit in the face, almost literally, and I didn't realize that that
issue was going to be so big for me. I felt like I was carrying
the load for somebody from a hundred years ago. And I thought, "Why
have I never been taught this at school? Why was I never told that,
only a hundred years ago, things were so different?" Women's history
has been almost invisible for those hundred years and it made me
cross. Suddenly, I wanted to know so much more. Since the program,
I've been to the Museum of London and was taken down into the archives.
I met the granddaughter of one of the suffragettes and was actually
able to hold some of the artifacts. And there was a belt that a
woman used to chain herself to the railings [during protests]. Oh,
that was quite breathtaking -- even talking about it now, because
it's so real. I couldn't believe that there wasn't a permanent exhibition
to this stuff. What was it doing down in the dungeon? This journey
isn't over yet. That is a lasting impression, because it has made
me feel more of a feminist and I see things a bit differently.
going on in your life these days? Are you still at the same job?
Are you embarking on other adventures?
I would love another adventure now! No, I've still got the same
job. Paul is still in the Marines. Yeah, we've just resumed the
same kind of life that we had before, really. Which seems almost
impossible: how can you do that after you've been time travelling?
On the surface, I go to work and I'm just Joyce. But inside, I'm
not; maybe I'm going on more travels inside my head. And now I keep
thinking I want to be in a film, because I've done that little bit
of something. And it's not about being famous; it's about expressing
yourself and sharing it with millions of other people. And my own
life now sometimes seems a little bit small and boring. But then
I think, "I did that wonderful thing. Maybe there are more wonderful
things I can do."
do you hope viewers will take away from watching the series?
hope they'll appreciate the past. The experience made me think about
my great-great grandmother, who was alive then, and to think what
she was going through. I hope they'll see the "woman picture" aspect
of it; that's very strong. And I hope they'll think about themselves
and the way they view history. I hope they enjoy it. I hope they
find it funny, because there was a lot of humor in it, even though
for a lot of the time I was feeling miserable. I think there's something
in it for everybody. All human life is here.