Unlikely inspirations: going to work

On Monday, I’ll be posting here as part of the My Writing Process Blog Tour.  It’s got me thinking about what inspires me to write.  Such a big question: so big that, at the thought, my mind is flooded with images and ideas.  It’s all too much.  So I thought I’d pick one inspiration today.

Some mornings, I get to work early.  The building I work in was built between 1829 and 1835 under the supervision of Philip Hardwick, an architect who was also an executor of Turner’s will, amongst other things.  Like me, he was in his mid-thirties when he built this place.  I cross the grand staircase hall, a truly magnificent space, decorated in many different shades of marble: dark green, pale pink, dove grey.  Apart from the occasional squeak of my trainers, it’s silent.  Outside, City commuters are hurrying to work, sometimes their paths crossing as they thread their way through the streets; but here I’m watched serenely by the marble statues on the staircase: the Four Seasons, by Samuel Nixon.  My favourite is Winter, a cherub who is trying to wrap himself in a cloak which is being blown by the wind.  He looks a bit fed up by this.  In short, he looks like he’s in Winter.

Sometimes I give guided tours of this building.  I always point out the Four Seasons, the marble, the incredible grandeur of the place; the fact that the man who envisaged this building, who drove the build, and designed every aspect of it, is still, in a way, here.  Some of them look at me, empty-eyed – perhaps that’s my fault, I’m not conveying what I’m trying to say with enough clarity.  Sometimes, they get it.

It’s as though Philip Hardwick only just left.

He’d recognise this great, silent space; the dome above; the coloured marble; the chandelier (lit by electricity now, but by rapeseed oil in his time).  He’d wonder who I was, and if he’d listen, I’d tell him his great echoing room has withstood the blitz of the Second World War, thanks to the firewatchers and their buckets of sand.  Its front doors still have their ornate metal gates, to be closed if the City is in danger.

As I make my way to my desk, I remember I’ve just walked in the footsteps of Sir Robert Peel and the Duke of Wellington, who came to see this building opened.  I’ve also walked in the footsteps of the servants who handed them their glasses of champagne, and the men who lit the chandelier.  They’re gone now, and in just a few years I will be gone too.  Maybe, in a hundred years’ time, another woman will pause one day, on her way to the lift, and think she can hear a whisper of me.

There are so many stories.  That’s why I write.



February event – Sex, Scandal and Society

Along with the brilliant writers Emma Darwin and Imogen Robertson, I’ll be at Surbiton Library on Thursday 20th February for ‘Sex, Scandal and Society: Life in Georgian England’, an event organised in association with the Historical Writers’ Association.  We’ll be reading from our books and discussing the Georgian period.  Books will be available to buy on the night.

If you’d like to come along, the event is from 7.30-8.30.  Tickets are £2 and can be bought in advance from Surbiton Library (contact details below).

Surbiton Library, Ewell Road, KT6 6AG

e-mail: Surbiton.library@rbk.kingston.gov.uk

tel: 020 8547 5006

Publication day approaches…

The Silversmith’s Wife is published on 16th January 2014.  It’s been a long journey from the first notes I jotted down in the winter of 2010 to holding the hardback in my hands.  I’ll be posting here about upcoming events, competitions and reviews for the book, but in the mean time, to everyone who’s supported me, sent good wishes or ordered the book in advance of publication – thank you.