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Meet the Bowlers Ask the Bowlers Interview with Joyce and Hilary



We caught up with Joyce and Hilary Bowler and asked them a few questions about their thoughts and memories of life in the 1900 house.

Interview with Joyce Bowler

QWhat was your biggest challenge during the three months?

JB Not going mad, mainly. That and keeping a grip on reality. Granted, it was an artificial experience, but it got more and more real as time went on. It wasn't like playing pretend. It had an enormous impact on our lives.

QWas it that grueling?

JB The whole thing was just funny, actually. We would be walking down the street, wearing our Victorian clothing, and we would just turn and look at each other and think, "What on earth are we doing?" It was surreal; it was beyond humor.

QWhat aspect did you find the most worthwhile?

JB Getting in touch with the woman who had lived in 1900. It was amazing to be wearing her clothes, living in her house, eating her food, reading the books that she would have read, and connecting with the news around her. It made me feel quite humble, really. I realized that I didn't know as much as I thought I knew about this woman.

QWould you have liked to have another family joining you in the experiment?

JB Oh, I would have loved that. We missed having other Victorians. It was a running joke that we would visit these imaginary people. You know, "I'm going to go and visit Mr. and Mrs. Such-and-Such," but they didn't exist. I wished they had, because we could have compared notes.

QAnother similar experiment is being launched in which a family is transported to the year 1940. What advice would you give them?

JB I think my daughter Hilary said it best. After watching some of us losing our cool, she told us to slow down and take it one day at a time. That was very good advice, because I was trying to take on too much all at once. I would also tell the next family to allow themselves to become immersed in the experience, to let it take over. You may hate it some days, but it's worth it.

QAs the woman of the home, you often stayed behind when others went out into the world for work or school. Did you resent this?

JB No. I think it was better for me, because I could stay true to 1900.

I could immerse myself in it completely, and I really, really wanted to do that. Going back and forth every day from one period to another would have been like living with a split personality. I don't think I would have liked it.

QNow that you've lived as a Victorian family, how do you think Victorians' lives compare to the lives of modern families?

JB I think they had just as many troubles and worries, and I don't think their life was any better or any worse. There were lots of things back then that I'm glad I don't have to deal with now, but on the other hand, things were probably simpler in some respects.

QIf you had the choice to live in any time period for the rest of your life, what would you choose?

JB I want to live now. I want to be me now. I think it's nice to be able to time travel, a bit like going on holiday. But it's nice to come home.

Interview with Hilary Bowler

QHow did the experience change your relationship with your twin, Ruth?

HB We grew closer than ever because we had to share a room and a bed. We also found out that we didn't want to be together all the time, and we learned about our differences. I went in there thinking it was going to be all lovely and everything, and Ruth was a bit like, "I don't know, I'm not sure." And I think by the end of it, we had both changed our opinions, and we really came to appreciate each other's differences. Before the experiment, we didn't really understand how different we were from each other.

QWhat was your greatest challenge?

HB All of it was a challenge, really. But the biggest challenge was trying to keep ourselves entertained, because we usually go to a boarding school and most of our time is used up. We had a lot more time with our family, and it was hard being nice to each other all the time. Having contact with your family all the time is really, really weird.

QWhat was the funniest thing that happened during the experiment?

HB When mum had her little episode out in the garden. I personally thought that was hilarious, but I didn't say so at the time because everybody else was being very sensible. Also, the shampoo incident. We'd all gone to the shop together to buy the shampoo, which was against the rules, and we got back and we were all washing our hair, thinking that we were never going to get found out. Ruth and I didn't realize that mom had confessed about doing this on the diary camera, so when it turned out that the television company had watched her confession and approached us about it, we were like, "How did you know?"

QDid you break any other rules?

HB Well, you know when you wear all those petticoats, it gets a bit hot, so Ruth and I usually didn't wear them. That was a bit naughty, but other than the shampoo, that was it.

QIf you had the choice to live in any time period for the rest of your life, what would you choose?

HB I would go to the future, a couple of centuries. I wouldn't go to the past because I think what has been done has been done, and I feel like moving ahead.

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