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In the name of Research

Almost exactly a year ago I went with my sister to the V&A with the specific aim of seeking out all things Regency. I’m very lucky to live on the edge of London within striking distance of all it has to offer. On a very blustery and quite unpleasant day, my husband dropped me at the station and, two Underground trains and forty minutes later I found myself exiting South Kensington Station via the huge tunnel that leads to ‘The Museums’. Under cover all the way. It was packed! Half term. Maybe not the best time to go but wonderful to see so many excited children (and adults) heading to their chosen venue. I turned off at the arm signposted Victoria & Albert to find my sister already there but she hadn’t been waiting long. We headed straight to the café for coffee.
It’s all a bit of a blur but mobile phone cameras are a wonderful asset. So, in no particular order and with details courtesy of the information plates…

Watercolour BoxAbout 1820
As watercolour painting became increasingly popular among fashionable young men and women, suppliers of art materials such as Reeves and Woodyer in London began to sell portable paint boxes. Colours were pre-formed into cakes with a binding medium, avoiding the messy preparation previously needed. Wood, paper and mixed materials including pigments

One of the characters in the novel I was writing at the time is a keen artist so I was particularly interested in this. Easily portable and beautifully set out. I wanted it!

Walking Dress(spencer, skirt and bodice)1817-1820
            England. Silk with satin appliqué, silk frogging, tassels and braid.

GownAbout 1805
Women’s dress changed dramatically after 1785. The rich fabrics and complicated formal shapes of the late 18th century gave way to simple, lighter fabrics that draped easily. These new gowns achieved something of the effect of the simple tunics shown on classical Greek and Roman statues and vases.
Muslin embroidered with cotton thread.Fabric made in India, gown made in England.

Evening Cap1818-23
England.Silk and net embroidery with silk thread; wired paper and muslin artificial flowers.

This last was, I think, my favourite piece. There are other photos, other descriptions, but I hope this will give you a taste and perhaps convey some of my excitement. One of the most difficult things was walking through some of the other galleries staring fixedly ahead. I was on a mission! But, oh, so many wonderful things to see. Almost inexpressible thanks to those who had the forethought to create these spaces and those who donated or loaned their artefacts for the continuing joy of anyone who chooses to go and see them.
Our last stop was back to the café for lunch. These lights were dazzling but not as dazzling as some of the amazing things we saw.

Now we’re in lockdown and I can only dream of such an expedition. Lucky I have these

Until next time

Natalie

Don’t Get Me Started!

Language evolves all the time. As a historical novelist I know this – and the rules (there are rules) change. I accept that. But, being a bit long in the tooth, it took me many years to do so and even more to implement some of those changes into my writing. You will no doubt have observed that I began the previous sentence with the word ‘but’. But is a conjunction. Its purpose is to connect ideas that contrast. For example:

I like my coffee black but she likes hers with milk.

Had I put…I accept that but, being a bit long in the tooth etc…there would be no controversy. However it seems to me that it carries more weight this way. And, while I’m talking about breaking old rules, what is more important? Adhering to convention or using the best way to make your point? My poor English teacher would turn in her grave. Not only have I begun one sentence with But, but I began another with And.

A fairly recent innovation in the spoken word, not so much yet in the written, is the use of the word So at the beginning of speech, a propos of absolutely nothing at all, with not the remotest connection to what is to follow or anything that came before. Now this one really irritates me – I’m sorry if you’re a convert but I’m not.

Imagine my dismay then when, in the middle of the night, one of those times when a jumble of thoughts comes flooding in when you’d far rather be asleep, I found myself thinking…So, I wonder how my day will pan out tomorrow? Why the So? What’s the matter with just I wonder? And then I giggled. Silently. I didn’t want to wake my husband. Well, (a similar misuse I fear) was that so very bad? It isn’t the best example but it made me (metaphorically) sit up and think.

I’ve been known, when editing my work, to alter the text because it feels old-fashioned and stilted. I know I write historical fiction but I still want it to flow. Does the grammar really matter when what we’re trying to do is entertain? Old habits die hard but newly-acquired ones aren’t always so bad. (acceptable use of both but and so in that sentence)

And (see, I’ve done it again) don’t even get me started on split infinitives. I’m prepared to be shot down in flames. What do you think?

Until next time

Natalie

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Out of my Comfort Zone

A while ago we were having our bedroom decorated and were thus sleeping in the spare room. Nothing unusual about that, you might say, but after seven days I couldn’t wait to get back into my own bed. And then I realised it wasn’t just the bed but the whole room (now in soothing tones of cream and mushroom). The bathroom was in a different place when I got up in the middle of the night. The window was on the wrong side of the room. So that all got me thinking. Are we always happy with where we write and does it have an effect on what we write? 

We live in a traditional three-bedroomed house and some years ago the smallest of these was turned into a home office for me. I was SO excited. Bookcases lined the walls, a new desk assembled – not a posh one but perfectly serviceable. The printer was set up. I could look across the road into a field in times of reverie or when searching for inspiration. What could be better? 

Well, the temperature for a start. The room is north-east facing and has two outside walls. Even with the central heating on it never felt warm. With my back to the rest of the house, as it were, I felt cut off. This should have been a good thing as far as writing was concerned. No distractions, nothing to pull me out of my concentration. But it didn’t work. Not from the word go. Like my experience in the spare bedroom, I was out of my comfort zone. I felt a little sheepish when I told my husband that thank you very much but I would be returning to the hub of the home to work as before. Fortunately we hadn’t expended huge amounts on the transformation.


Writers often talk about their office or their garden shed or that place which is exclusively theirs. Some people dream about having their own space. But when it comes down to it we all have to go with whatever works for us. So I don’t have white boards and pin boards and other such useful tools.

What I do have is a place where I feel at ease and can lose myself in the adventures, antics, activities, hopes and fears of my characters, all from the comfort of my armchair. My laptop sits on a cushioned tray. I have a table to right and left on which I stack the things I might need to refer to. And I’m warm – inside and out.


Do you have a dedicated office or writing space? Is it something you yearn for? Think twice before you take the plunge. Sometimes the things you most wish for are those you already have. Returning to my own bed was wonderful. And now, as I write this piece, I am happily back in my comfort zone. How about you?

See you next time

Natalie

And When It Comes It Brings Good Cheer

And slowly answer’d Arthur from the barge: “The old order changeth, yielding place to new’ 

This quote from Tennyson’s Morte d’Arthur is for me like a ghost from Christmas past. The very long ago past when I could spew out massive chunks from this work and still some remain with me. Well, the old order has certainly changed beyond recognition, hasn’t it? Here’s another (the opening) 

So all day long the noise of battle roll’d
Among the mountains by the winter sea’

And it has been a battle, hasn’t it, which sadly so many people have lost. Even a year ago no-one could have imagined how our world would change in such a short space of time. I put this here not to dwell on past struggles but hopefully to shine a light on the future – hence the title of this post. Have you noticed how good people can be in the face of adversity? How much of themselves some people give? Well I have and that is what I’ll be taking with me into 2021. I’ll give only one example for they are far too numerous to mention, but will any of us forget Captain Tom Moore who raised in excess of £33m for the NHS. His Just Giving page is still open if you want to add to that sum.

Sadly, due to Covid 19, the anticipated publication by Sapere Books of my four Regency romantic novels has been delayed and I hope the first, The Reluctant Bride, will be with you in the spring. Since the cover is ready to go and I love it so much, here is what it will look like. Isn’t it fabulous!

In the meantime, I’ve written a tale to celebrate the season. Christmas at The Grange, available on Amazon, is an uplifting short story set in 1816, I hope it will bring you some cheer.

And so I return to the title of this piece. Whatever your persuasion, I wish every one of you a very Happy Christmas and hope it brings you all the good cheer you could wish for. Here’s to a better 2021