First of all, I’d like to thank the 925 people who entered the Goodreads competition to win a copy of Watching Charlotte Bronte Die: and other surreal stories. Congratulations to the three winners – your signed copy will be on its way to you soon.
For those of you who missed out (sigh), the e-book version of Watching Charlotte will be on SALE from 4-10 July at just £0.99/$1.69 – a great reduction (79%). Follow the links below for your copy!
In my last post I promised I’d talk a bit more about the characters in my new (forthcoming) novel, Shadows of the Lost Child. You can read the first chapters on Wattpad here.
Miranda is one of the main characters, and lives at the turn of the century (1900). Tom describes her perfectly here:
‘She looked as wild as she always did, her eyes glowing bright from the moon up above. She tossed her hair and I stared right back…Neighbours and mates, that’s what we were, even though she was all grown up. Miranda Collenge was eighteen.’
Miranda’s ma runs a backstreet pub in Curdizan Low, a poverty-stricken working class area. Life in Curdizan Low was hard.
There were lots of pubs in Curdizan Low, and many of these were actually houses, with a bar and parlour, the parlour being kept for the ‘best’ customers.
More about the pubs in Curdizan (and other real pubs around that time)
- People who stood at the bar to drink, rather than sat down, were known as perpendicular drinkers
- Some pubs organised a day’s outing, usually in the summer, for regular customers. Miranda’s da ran such events before he died
- Music and singing were common in pubs – but few of these pubs had a music licence. The singers said they were paid as waitresses, and only sang to please the punters. Miranda hated the music nights. She thought it made the pub like a brothel
- Girls might go into pubs in groups, but a woman entering a pub on her own was considered inappropriate. Serious prostitution was rare in the Low, but some women would supplement an uncertain family income this way. Such women risked their health as well as their reputation, being vulnerable to pregnancy and STDs. There were also very few places to go, as working class life was naturally communal and houses and rooms were often crowded
- Opening hours were different to now. Pubs might be open early in the morning, and it wasn’t just adults who went into pubs. Kids would hover on the pavements outside, and sometimes go in, to get a jug of ale for their da
- If your family, like Miranda’s, ran a pub, you could be helping out at the bar, standing on a chair or a box if necessary, well before you were eighteen
- In Miranda’s pub, the Keepsake Arms, her mother displayed a boot on a shelf – in past times, a shoe was meant to ward off evil spirits when a building was constructed. The story of the boot in Shadows of the Lost Child is complex – you’ll have to read the book to learn more, but my original idea of the boot came from reading about a real pub called The Golden Slipper. It was previously called The Slipper, and before that The Shoe; and in the 1980s a mediaeval leather shoe was discovered during building renovations. Strangely enough, the pub’s name is believed to have come, not from a shoe, but from the name of a greyhound!
The Golden Slipper is a pub in York, and although the fictional city, Curdizan, draws on aspects of York for its history, the Keepsake Arms was NOT based on the Golden Slipper or any other actual pub. I’ve haven’t yet been in the Golden Slipper, which is not that surprising given that York has over 300 pubs!
The Golden Slipper website also tells us this interesting fact. In the front lounge, visitors can see where a ‘Coffin Drop’ was located, the ceiling being lower here. In past times, this was to allow bodies to leave the building via a side passage, as it was thought unlucky for a body to be taken through the front door.
- The Golden Slipper website
- Rowntree, B. Seebohm, Poverty: a Study of Town Life, Macmillan, 1903