Wednesday 31 October 2018

Mrs Beckingham's Peacock Feathers

Object Post 132

Mrs Beckingham’s
Peacock Feathers
From The Peacock’s Pearl

Significance? She was reminding her son of his heritage
She brought peacock feathers into the house…

Dominic Beckingham’s wife died when her son was quite young, but prior to that she did her best to remind him of his heritage. James “Fox” Beckingham was descended from a long line of Lord Beckinghams, but a recent ancestor had sold the family castle and now Fox and his father lived in Australia. The family emblem was a peacock, and Fox had made himself a tee-shirt with a punning emblem. His distant cousin Cat Mahal didn’t like it so Fox decided to set her straight about peacocks, pies and bad-taste tees.

“This is not about the family emblem, Cat Mahal. Well, it is, indirectly, but not the way you think. See, when I was a kid Dad was concerned that I was missing out on my ‘heritage’.” (He actually gave that word air quotes.) “So, Mum rectified the problem in her typical Mum-like way.”
Now he smiled, reminiscently, and I almost liked him. He was fond of his mum.  Awww. He was not afraid to show it. Respect.
“She bought me a doona with a splashy great peacock on it. She brought peacock feathers into the house—though she thought that was bad luck—and she had pictures and posters of peacocks hung here and abouts. She even bought a DVD about peacocks, and an obscure guidebook that happened to mention Beckingham Castle and showed a picture of its peacocks perching wherever they chose and peacocking about.”
“Sounds obsessed,” I said.
“She was obsessed with making Dad and me happy,” he said sharply. No reminiscent smile now. “I guess she didn’t ever know you can’t make someone happy.”

The last peacock-related gift (and indeed the last gift of any kind) that Mrs Beckingham gave her son was a copy of Walter de la Mare’s Peacock Pie.

“‘Peacock Pie’ was the last thing Mum bought me. It came in the post and she was on her way out. She gave me a hug and said we’d start reading my new book when she got home. I could read just fine, but poetry was something we did together so I promised I’d wait for her to come home.”
I saw where this was going, so I wasn’t surprised when he added, “Only she never did.”

That was the last mention of Mrs Beckingham’s peacock feathers, and her widower and son had moved at least once since her death. Did they take the feathers with them? It’s likely they agreed not to, and then did so anyway.

Tuesday 30 October 2018

Baggage in Jack Russell

Baggage in Jack Russell: Baggage Handling Post 2

The Jack Russell series ran to twelve books. It covered a couple of fictional years and accumulated quite a bit of baggage. The first book introduced our hero, Jack Russell, his human landlord Sarge, Sarge's aunt, Auntie Tidge, Caterina Smith, her dog Lord Red, the Squekes and  Foxie the street dog. 
Book 2, The Phantom Mudder, saw the introduction of Shuffle the Pug, Jill Russell, Gloria Smote and her mini dachshund Polly. Everyone from Book One reappeared. These constituted the core characters for a while, but later Ralf Boxer the fierce chihuahua turned up in Book 4 and little Preacher in Book 7. 
All these characters brought in baggage. Since the Jack books are short (all twelve together comprise about 80,000 words) the baggage had to be kept under control. Thus Polly is sharp-natured and sharp-nosed, Lord Red is modelled on George from Black Adder, and Ralf is frightened of nothing (except the rooster). The three squekes share a plastic chop which they play with. These bits of baggage build and recur from book to book, but they may be a focus or simply a throw-away mention. The thing is, we had to remember they existed. 
    Obviously not all the characters could be actively involved in every plot. If Polly wasn't in a story well and good; Jack and Foxie just hadn't encountered her for a few days. If Lord Red wasn't there, that had to be accounted for, because Lord Red was always slipping away from Caterina Smith and coming to see what Jack was doing. We put Sarge in hospital once, and sent Caterina and Red off on holiday. If a major character wasn't there, and if a major bit of baggage (such as Jack's squeaker bone) wasn't used, then its absence had to be accounted for. 
   One way of dealing with the accumulation of baggage in a long series is to have guest stars. Examples in the Jack series are the Awful Pawful who appears in Book 5 and then makes a return visit in Book 8, the Blue Stealer, from Book 10, Inspector Jacques from Book 11 and High Heels from Book 2.  These characters appear in one (or two) books each. They may be mentioned again, in retrospect, and the baggage they add will be remembered. 
   However (and this is important in Baggage Handling) their absence from subsequent books does NOT have to be accounted for, because they don't live in Doggeroo. High Heels is married to a visiting dog show judge. The Awful Pawful lives some distance away and pops up in Doggeroo twice- more or less through accident or mishap. The Blue Stealer belongs to an itinerant who moves in and then moves out. Inspector Jacques and his master arrive on the trail of a stolen painting and then return whence they came. Their eventful visits are remembered, but not necessarily mentioned much, if at all, because their baggage isn't ongoing. 

Monday 29 October 2018

Baggage Handling Post 1

Baggage Handling Post 1 

One of the interesting things about writing a series is keeping track of what I call the series baggage. Sometimes single books gather baggage. That's all the stuff that accumulates every time you or your characters state something as a fact or opinion. Even if your character is lying or mistaken, you have to remember what was said or implied and add it to the series baggage.

If you forget, or mess up, your readers are likely to be confused. A good editor can help you catch these slips, but it's your responsibility. The best thing to do is to pay close attention to what you've written and make sure you (a) don't write something inconsistent and (b) don't forget someone or something who ought to be there. It's so easy for your character to tell someone she never drinks coffee (or for you to state it in a sentence) and later have her sipping an espresso. Or maybe she mentions Aunt Susie who brought her up, and later says she lived with her grandparents. This kind of  slip makes the alert reader go- "Hey! Wait..."

Sometimes you can fix the problem by rewriting. If it's too late for that, you have to think of a way round it. Maybe Miss Treasure told John she never drank coffee because she didn't want to drink it with him. Or maybe you can clarify that she never drinks brewed coffee. Or maybe she was flat-out fibbing because she knows John disapproves of coffee.

Aunt Susie brought me up. I lived with my grandparents.  These contradictory statements can be fixed by a throw-away line later saying, "My grandparents worked twelve hours a day in their business. Aunt Susie was the one who looked after me."

A fix in one book is pretty simple if you get to it before the final stages. What about a series, though? What if you made a statement in Book 2 and contradicted it in Book 4? Again, a good editor can save your bacon. I have a particularly good editor for a long series I'm writing. She queried a plural form. "Do we usually put sylvan or sylvans?" Because I handle my baggage, I was able to tell her it was sylvan but the fact that she queried it shows what a good editor she is.  

I remember a save I made in the Bandinangi Books back in the day. I'd said in one book that a building was in Street A and in a later one that it was in Street B. Okay, in a still later book I said it fronted on Street A but had a back entrance from Street B. Fixed! It's more difficult to solve a problem such as having someone celebrate his 21st birthday in spring and his 25th in autumn... unless he hops hemispheres or has an official birthday like the Queen. 

The easiest thing, I find, is to keep a running list of characters and facts; a series bible. I have one for each of several series-on-the-go, and amend it for each new book. Every time I bring a minor character forward into the spotlight, I add details and put them in the baggage bible. That way, I hope to avoid tripping up.

For example, one character said, out of the blue, that his sister stopped wearing pigtails when she was nine or so. What? Since when did he have a sister? Well, why not? He was twenty-eight, so he wouldn't necessarily see much of her.  Note for the baggage bible. Peck has a sister. She is probably younger, because he remembers her stopping wearing pigtails. Ah, but the person he made that remark to was his fiancee. Wouldn't she know he had a sister? Okay, so she did know, though the readers didn't (and neither did I until that moment).

    “One of these days I’m going to have to meet this elusive sister of yours." 
     The conversation moved on, but I wrote down the scraps of information in the baggage bible. Younger sister. Stopped wearing pigtails at about nine. Doesn't keep in touch. Chloe hasn't met her. In the next book, she made a brief non-speaking appearance, which added a few more scraps. 
   She has black hair, and a goth-look appearance. She's very quiet, the sort of person who nods rather than responding verbally to a comment. Her cousin Tab tells Sam that she's opaque. 
   She got two mentions in the next book, one where her cousin Jin says she could borrow a tunic from Promise, and another when someone says she's "home, by a miracle!" 
   Okay, so, she's about the same size as Jin so they can swap clothes. She was home briefly in September.
     When she took centre stage in the book after that, I checked what was established and then looked at what wasn't there. 
      Why is she so quiet? The rest of the family isn't. Why does she come and go a lot? This is a close extended family. Why does her brother remember her affectionately yet have little to do with her now? Where is she, most of the time? 
     All these questions get answered in "her" book. That adds a lot to her series baggage.  

Sunday 28 October 2018

Landon Chavez’ Silenced Transceiver

Landon Chavez’ Silenced Transceiver: Object Post 131

Source: It was a solid transceiver meant to last a long time
Significance: It was the only link Outward-Bound had with Elysian Dawn
When the Outward-Bound company launched Elysian Dawn, the great generational starship, the agreement was that those on board would never have any communication from Terra or anyone else until they had settled on their destination planet of Magellan 16. All the same, Outward-Bound did pledge to receive regular reports; they just wouldn’t respond. Four board members, designated The Faceless Four, were tagged to monitor the reports. One of them, Landon Chavez, obeyed the very letter of the agreement. He made sure they would receive the reports using a special transceiver. He certainly didn’t promise to listen to every one. When he thought he could get away with it, he locked the transceiver into a dust-proof stasis box, and hid the key. At some point after that, he died, leaving the other three board members, Cornelia Conti, Tomas Ash and Samantha Woo, to carry on.
All was normal until, eighteen years into the starship’s journey, it crashed on an unknown planet and sent out a distress call.
Cornelia Conti was on duty at the time.

She focused on the partition that hid the old transceiver. She had no idea why she should have jumped at the first burst of static. This was not unusual. It happened from time to time. When it happened on her shift, her mind simply noted the facts. Report time. I wonder how many babies by now?
She hadn’t bothered to decode a report in years. It was too laborious. The transceiver had once been state of the art, but in nearly two decades it had drifted into the realms of vintage, and the translator had to run double-compatibility mode to sort out the old-fashioned code.
The transceiver had only one function, and that was to send and receive reports to the Elysian Dawn mission and these, being in a silent code, never impinged on anyone’s attention beyond the first, and usually only, crackle of static. Even that was muffled since the thing itself was locked into a stasis box behind a fireproof partition.
Cornelia made a decision that was going to change her life. Instead of leaving things alone, she decided to check the transceiver.
She reflected that she was ashamed of her part in the Elysian Dawn saga.

It occurred to her she could not be the only one to feel shame. Chavez, for all his cold logic, was the one who set the transceiver to silent code. The first few reports from the starship came verbally, run through the voice synthesiser so station monitors could marvel without laborious transcription. The novelty soon wore off for, as agreed, reports were dry and factual. Many consisted of two words: ad lib, which presumably meant everything was progressing as scheduled.
At some point, between the growth of bored indifference and his death last year at the age of seventy-six, Chavez had disabled the automatic voice. He locked away the transceiver for protection.
Maybe the old equipment was failing. If so, someone must do something quickly. The colonists had been promised their journey would be monitored. Eighteen years in was far too early for system glitches.
Cornelia did something quickly. She managed to get the silenced transceiver out of its safe box (which involved working out where on Earth Chavez would have hidden the key) and then getting it to work and, for the first time in over eighteen years, making direct and forbidden contact with the pioneers on Elysian Dawn.
She managed to talk to Eduard Balm, the duty com-tat, and later, to his son Edsen, but although the good old transceiver carried on, its opposite number on Elydian Dawn was glitching. All too soon, the transceiver fell silent forever.

Saturday 27 October 2018

Perren's Unicorn Jar

Perren's Unicorn Jar: Object Post 130

Source: It came from the woman at Pet Kingdom
Significance: It was opaque, so Perren couldn’t see in
Related to? The unicorn jar has things in common with Arabella Dove’s Potty Coffee Jar, Julia McCrystal’s Haunted Binocular Case and Marcus Whippersnapper’s Squirming Brown Paper Parcel. It is also a bit like Frances Eckmann’s Bimboesque Fairy Doll

Go back to the counter while I put it in a jar.

Perren was allowed to choose a pet for his birthday. Dad had made him a wonderful cage. It fell to his bookworm big brother Bokkie to escort Perren to the pet shop and Bokkie, who read all the way, had no idea where they were going. When they reached the shops, Bokkie ducked into a book shop and left Perren to enter the next-door Pet Kingdom.
The odd woman inside divined he wanted something special and showed him a pocket unicorn. Perren wanted to hold it, but the woman refused. It was to be held only if he was buying.
Perren agreed, and the woman went to get a jar.
Perren met Bokkie outside. He had the unicorn jar in his pocket, but he declined to show his big brother in case Bokkie made him get a white mouse instead.
When Perren took out the jar at home, his hands were shaking.

It was wrapped in brown paper that seemed to be glued in place and the lid was covered in wax.

He was pretty much convinced he’d been tricked.

Perren tore at the paper with his fingernails. He managed to tear off a long strip. Then, holding his breath, he peered in through the slit.

It took some time to get the lid off the unicorn jar, and Perren soon found why it had been waxed in place. The pocket unicorn was loud and loquacious and if wax was good enough to stop up the sailors’ ears to block out the siren song in The Odyssey

Friday 26 October 2018


Unka: Character Post 69
From Pisky Business and The Kissing Ring

From Pisky Business and The Kissing Ring

Merryn Pendennis was a pisky man who lived at Treborrow over there. He was also a mutable fay, like his natural son Jory. Unlike Jory’s fluffy white terrier manifestation, Dog Jory, Merryn’s was a sleek, long-legged black dog that looked somewhat like

"a cheerful whippet.

This was Unka, a friendly and mercurial dog with a merrily beating tail. Unka was playful, and when Merryn’s younger son Tane was small they often played together.
Years later, when Tane was an adult, Linda came with Jory to meet Merryn for the first time. While Merryn and Jory got acquainted in manform, Linda talked to Merry’s friend Drew, who explained how Merryn’s dog manifestation got its name:

My sons used to love playing with Unka, which, I regret, is what they call Merry’s mani self. "Walking Unka" was a great game to them and Merry, bless him, played along.

Jory was nervous about displaying his (fluffy, white) dog self to his father, but he steeled himself to do it.

The fluffy dog appeared. It looked from the pisky to Linda and back. Its tail was low and nervous, and Linda wanted to pick it up for a hug. But this was Jory’s business, so she held back.
“As well your boys did not see that. They would be green as an angry pixie,” Merry said cheerfully to Drew. He dropped to his knees and bent so he was nose to nose with Dog-Jory. Then he raised one hand and blinked out. In his place stood a sleek black dog with long legs and a pointed snout. It reminded Linda of a whippet, but it exuded more joy de vivre than whippets typically did.
Dog-Jory jumped back. Dog-Merry waved his tail and descended into a play-bow. Dog-Jory yapped and bounced. In a moment they were rushing about, barking madly, and then, by some accord, they took off up the hill.

A few years later, Jory and Linda were married with a daughter and a second child on the way. Linda’s mother and her new husband had a daughter and Merryn, to his inexpressible happiness, had reconnected with Jory’s mother Rachel and they’d had a daughter. This meant three little girls, all connected, had joined the extended family. When Jory suggested spending a night somewhere nice, Linda enquired about their daughter…

"I take it Mum’s looking after Laura?”
“Not this time. Ma and Merry turned up with Richenda just after you left this afternoon. Tane and Jill came with them. Laura wanted to play with Richie, so they all stayed over so I could come out and do that job. Last I saw of them, the little maids were snuggled up in a beanbag with Unka keeping guard. Tane was playing the flute, and Ma and Jill were dancing and discussing the finer points of pisky ears.”
“Good God.”
“Situation normal, you might say.”

The latest mention of Unka is in I Promise, when Promise Grene sees her cousin, Corin, hanging a picture in his father’s gallery.

Then Prom saw Corin come out of a store room and hang a picture of a cheerful black dog in one of the few empty spaces.
 “Greet you, Corin,” she called, smiling as she wondered what gallery visitors would say if they knew that dog wasn’t only or always a dog.

Merryn’s black Unka had a short dense coat. As Merryn turned sixty in 2018, Unka might be greying a little about the eyes and muzzle, but he’d still love going for a run or playing with Tane and Jillian’s youngest children. 

To meet Unka and Dog Jory, check out Pisky Business

Thursday 25 October 2018

Citizen Meera Singh’s turquoise shalwar kameez

Citizen Meera Singh’s turquoise shalwar kameez: Object Post 129

Significance? It was one of the ways the Citizens showed their elite status

Meera Singh stepped into the communications booth. She pulled back the hood of her all-enveloping burnous and ran one slender finger down the cling-me line that held it together at the front seam, before sliding it off her shoulders and hanging it on the waiting hook. Underneath, she wore a traditional shalwar kameez, in her favourite colours of turquoise and peacock green, appliqued with sparkling gold and ruby flowers. Today not even that could lift her mood.

The inhospitable climate of Shiva meant everyone, Citizens, resident Terrans and visitors, had to wear an all-encompassing burnous when out of doors. These were all white, as the best colour to deflect the harsh sunlight. To compensate, the young Citizens wore brilliantly coloured clothing indoors.

Inside the salt-white buildings, Terra-born residents wore drab pastels or subdued prints and the young Citizens arrayed themselves in an eye-watering variety of florals and dazzling borders.

Cornelia Conti, a Terran with grey hair and a penchant for drab clothing, was especially affected by Meera’s choice.

How she must have looked to that beautiful, vibrant, Shivan girl in her peacock and turquoise silks!

Meera’s taste in brilliant colours was partly cultural (the Shivan Citizens were encouraged to array themselves in the best) but may also have been inherited from her mother Diya, whose wedding saree was a beautiful confection of gold and purple.

Wednesday 24 October 2018

Edsen Balm’s Sacrificial Comm-Set

Edsen Balm’s Sacrificial Comm-Set
From New Dreams
Object Post 128

Source: Dr Dorotea Suchet delivered it to Edsen on Elydia
Significance: It allowed Edsen to have a single conversation with the person who had tried to help
Fate: The Elydian effect killed it, just as it had the first two
Edsen answered the comm-set when it flashed. “Jameel? Have you found out any more about the possible predator?”

When the folk on Indira tried to rescue the orphans of Elysian Dawn,  Jameel Singh gave a modern comm-set to Edsen Balm, a fifteen-year-old whose parents had been com-tats (communicators) on the ship. This one soon started to glitch.
 Edsen obtained a second one and Bede, his young friend, unscrewed the damaged one to find a growth of the ubiquitous silver substance that made up an important part of the planet’s ecosystem, had infiltrated the electronics.  

“What’s that black and silver bit?” Edsen reached out his free hand to indicate a small mass in the corner of the shell.
“Maybe that’s the bit that makes it work?” Bede prodded it with his finger. “I think it’s broken. Look. Is this supposed to be loose?” He lifted a bit of silver free and handed it to Edsen.
 “How would I know?”
Marianne held out her hand, and Edsen dropped the small mass into her palm. She rolled it about. “This looks like the silver rock stuff. Maybe it got in there by mistake.” She froze, as a nasty thought hit her. “Maybe it got in and killed the comm-set!”

The second comm-set failed as well. Naturally, Bede got at that one too. After all, he was an eight-year-old boy.

“Have you talked to Doctor Suchet yet?” she asked.
“She tried, I think, but…” Edsen held up the comm-set.
It seemed lopsided. “Have you unscrewed that one, too, Bede?” Marianne asked.
Bede grinned at her. He looked unrepentant. “Yes, I did. Edsen said I could.”
Edsen gave her a half smile and shrugged.
 Bede went on, “Guess what, Mim? It’s got silver stuff in it like the old one. And guess what again?”
“What?” she asked, tweaking his ear.
“We unscrewed it before, while it was still working and there wasn’t any silver stuff in it, then. It must be the silver that makes it stop working.”

When all efforts at rescue had to be called off, Dr Dorotea Suchet paid one last visit to the planet surface with yet another comm-set for Edsen to use.

“Edsen, I take it your new comm-set has given out?”
He tilted his head, trying to read her mood. “Yes. The silvering is inside it. We think that’s what stops it working. I don’t see any point in you giving me another one, but please, can you let Cornelia Conti know—”
“You can let her know yourself.” Doctor Suchet handed him a comm-set from her pouch.

At the same time, Dr Harry Fejoa, Dorotea’s friend and colleague, had arranged for a similar comm-set to be delivered to Cornelia Conti, the Terran who had launched the rescue effort.

“I know you haven’t been able to speak directly with any of the Elysian Dawn people since their Terra-tat went down, and that’s why I arranged the comm-set for you. As you know, our rescue attempt failed quite spectacularly, but I think the remaining children have a good chance of making a successful community on the lines you intended. A boy named Edsen Balm has been given a comm-set, too, and I know he is anxious to contact you. Understand, this is temporary. The comm-set you have will last for the foreseeable future, but planetary conditions where he is mean this may be your only chance to speak with him. I trust you’ll make the most of it and not distress him with apologies and regrets.”
Thus Edsen and Cornelia finally got into contact, but Harry, Dorotea, Cornelia and Edsen himself knew his third comm-set would be his last, and that it was a deliberate sacrifice. Cornelia had her two colleagues Woo and Ash present for the one and only contact and miraculously Edsen, who was just as socially inept as Cornelia, managed to say the right thing.

Edsen met the gaze of each in turn. “Thanks to all of you. I won’t be able to talk to you again because Elydia messes up tech. I—we all—want you to know we’re all right.”

Orphaned, stranded on a planet with no hope of rescue, with a single comm-set that would presently fail… but they were all right. The sacrificial comm-set had earned its brief tenure… that was, until Cornelia asked if there was anything they could do and Edsen said yes and told them what it was!

Tuesday 23 October 2018

Aelfthryth's Poppinjay Plumage

Object Post 127
Aelfthryth’s Popinjay Plumage  (From Replay)

Source? The Replay mechanism triggered them
Significance? Parrot plumage was an excellent disguise for Aelfthryth
Fate? Left behind when she moved on
Author’s inspiration? I was exploring some possibilities. Since Harry was a dog in the late 20th C, why should not Aelfthryth spend some time in feathers?

By the end of my time in feathers, I was quite a pretty performer, but good things come to an end, and so they did for us.

Aelfthryth and Hereward were married in the eleventh century, but a twist of fate, along with some help from Aelfthryth’s old nursemaid Nan Poole, sent them tumbling through time, living in different centuries and remembering their identities only when they had met in each new guise. In their fifth replay, as they called their cycles, Hereward was a young scholar named Harry Harrison and Aelfthryth was a popinjay; a green parrot. Until then, they’d both been human, so Harry was a little disconcerted.

I think I have mentioned before that takes him just a while to process unexpected new ideas. And you can't get much more unexpected than a wife who is also a parrot.
Their meeting was joyous…

"Harry!" I squawked (and I do mean 'squawked'). I nearly deafened myself.
Harry turned round and spotted me. He ran towards me and I flew straight into his arms. And I do mean 'flew'. With wings and feathers and frantic clicks of my beak. I was so excited to see him, that I reached up and pecked his nose.
"Aelfthryth!" exclaimed Harry. "Ouch! This is worse than ever!"
I didn't think so, but it was a bit of a shock to realise there wasn't a Replay Rule that said I had to be human.

…but Diccon, the sailor who had current possession of the green popinjay, refused to sell for the groat that was all Harry had to offer. Harry and Aelfthryth had to think fast! First, why did Diccon want a popinjay?

“I have it in mind to be a strolling player, and Poll to be my dancing bear. He jigs right merrily to my pipe. So hand him over, do."
I didn't want to be handed over, so I clung to Harry's doublet with both my claws. Diccon's hand came closer, and I pecked his thumb as wickedly as I had bitten Godwin's hand in Nan Poole's hovel. Diccon drew back with a curse, but did not cuff me.
"Would you then!" He dragged a kerchief from his doublet and wrapped it around his hand.
"I would stay with Harry!" I squawked, and flapped my wings.
Diccon stared. "Well, I'll be! Mary and Joseph, Poll, where did you learn to prate like that?"
Aelfthryth, hush! said Harry, and of course I did.
Diccon turned his attention from me to Harry. "So there's more to you than a gabble of Latin grammar, Master Scholar," he said slowly. "How did you learn to throw your voice so well?

Their efforts worked, and Harry and Aelfthryth spent an entertaining time working the fairs and taverns with Diccon. But, as Aelfthryth said, all good things come to an end…
First Harry went into replay…

The end of the Replay came first for Harry, and very odd it was for me to see 'Master Scholar' and hear him speak and yet know it wasn't my Harry. The boy was a nice enough lad, but he didn't care much for Diccon or me, and he said he wanted to go home. I suppose he went back to the grammar school to be birched by Master Cruickshanks, or else he was too old for that, and took up some profession.
I really hope he didn't get into too much trouble on our account. And yet - he must have played truant when he went to the docks, so maybe he deserved a little trouble.

Then it was Aelfthryth’s turn to leave the 16th Century behind.

In 1655 I was a Puritan girl called Amabel Arbour, but the main thing I remember about that episode was my surprise to find myself in grey and white after so long in popinjay green.

And that was the end of Aelfthryth’s time in popinjay plumage.

Monday 22 October 2018

Allyso Tormblood's Stash Sash

Allyso Tormblood's Stash Sash (Object Post 126)

Source? It was part of the McAnerin costume
Significance? It was a handy way to carry things

She felt in her sash for her knife with the idea of assisting the hound, but her fingers closed on an empty fold of cloth.

Allyso Tormblood was having a very bad time. Her uncle and her friends were all dead and she was on the run with a hound that wasn’t hers, a knife one of her friends had given her and very little else. She’d put the knife in her sash, but obviously her exertions had dislodged it.
Later when she seriously needed somewhere to stash something she didn’t even have her sash because Master Wootton, the Seer, had decreed she had to leave everything behind when she went to talk to him. It must have been like those exams where everything is provided and you can’t take anything with you, or a concert where you’re not allowed to take your own water bottle and the queues are a hundred people deep.
'I must talk to the seer,' she said again. 
'Right.' Leonard pointed at a cleft in the rock. 'Go down the steps. There's a lamp at the foot; light it with the tinderthing. Take a tunic out of the coffer. Take off all your own things, and I mean everything. Every stitch, boots and all, hair ribbon, anklet, chains or beads or whatever you've got on. Put on a tunic, take the lamp and then start walking.'
‘But where do I find the seer?'
'He'll find you.'

She chose the most likely tunic and peeled off her own, laying it carefully in the coffer. Shivering, she put on the new one and tugged it into place, lifting her hair free of the collar. The skimpy garment left her arms bare to the shoulder and barely reached her knees. She removed her boots and leggings, then felt for a sash or belt, but there was nothing.

…she must write a record of the meeting. She must write what Wootton had told her. It would not take long, for just a few lines would do. She could tuck it in her pack or under her sash and take it out when she reached the open air.
There was just one problem with this plan. Her pack and her sash were put away in a coffer.
She got it back, but not before she had a nasty experience… and once more she used it as a repository to stash her knife.
Some lived, more died, said Scholar's voice in her mind, but she stuffed the knife in her sash and trudged on.

Allyso’s sash might have been viewed as a curious container, but it was also legitimately an accessory. She used it normally to belt in her tunic for a better fit, as well as a kind of pouch to carry things. Writing this reminds me of the sashes we had when I was young. They were crisply-ironed wide strips of nylon or sometimes cotton or even satin and we used them to tie around the waist of a party dress. They were always tied in big butterfly bows. They weren’t attached to the dress in any way, so I suppose they might have been used for several different dresses, though most growing girls in the 1960s had one party frock. These had tight bodices and full skirts and to this day when I say the word frock  that’s what I tend to visualise. I still think it’s one of the more becoming styles.