Where I Wrote. . .

Posted on 16th May, 2020

As the lockdown continues in Wales and I am continuing to write in the conservatory, I have been thinking about where I normally do my work. I often write in the public library. I think I have told you before that I seem to have trained my brain to knuckle down and get to work as soon as I settle myself at a table there. But, of course, living by the sea, I also like to take my writing out and about with me.


A while back, I showed you a photo of where I was when I wrote the chase-through-the-fog scene in The Deserter's Daughter. Now I'd like to show you where I wrote the scene in The Sewing Room Girl where Juliet first visits her grandmother's textiles factory.


On the right of this photo, you can see one of the flights of steps in the gardens rising from Llandudno's Happy Valley.



If you come with me up the steps, here is where I wrote that scene - sitting on that bench.




* * * *

Here is the beginning of that scene:



Juliet stood beside her grandmother outside a vast building with TEWSON'S TEXTILES painted across the brickwork. She remembered standing on the hill above Annerby, seeing its factories, so dark and forbidding, but the windows here were sparkling. She recalled Mother quoting Adeline on the subject of good light. Even Mrs Whicker had ended up quoting Adeline Tewson.

     Adeline led the way upstairs. Juliet emerged onto a landing with doors along one side while on the other was nothing but a rail between her and a drop to the floor below. She gazed upon ranks of women working treadle sewing machines. Adeline strode ahead; she hurried to catch up. A woman in a grey jacket with red piping came towards them. She stood aside and curtseyed. Adeline swept by without so much as a nod. Mortified by her grandmother’s rudeness, Juliet murmured a good morning.

    Further along, Adeline waited for her. She gestured over the workroom below.

    ‘My empire. Are you impressed? You should be. This is a magnificent achievement for a woman. I’ve had to work twice as hard as any man.’

    It was impossible not to be impressed. All those machines, all those women. All the woman looked the same, each one bending over her work, concentrating on the needle flashing in and out, expert fingers guiding the fabric. Then, with a snip of the scissors, the item was finished, folded and dropped into a basket on the floor even as the woman leaned the other way to pluck the next piece from a basket on the other side. No one spoke, no one looked round. It was always work, work,

work with Mother: Clara’s words. Juliet remembered Adeline's description of taking on her first three workers and sacking one at the end of the first day. Did these women work under a similar threat?

    ‘Do you still consider it will be, and I quote, “fine” to work here? A fancy sewing room and a second-rate shop in the middle of nowhere – you don’t know what real work is.’

    ‘I’ll manage,’ she replied.

    Adeline was on the move again. Juliet scurried behind. A door opened onto a staircase. She thought Adeline would lead her downstairs to the workroom, but Adeline went up.

    Leading her through another door, Adeline said, ‘This is the next-door building. When I took it over, I had doors knocked through on each floor.’

    This building didn’t have a vast work-floor with overlooking landing. Adeline opened a door to reveal a long sewing room with lines of women sitting at machines. How light it was. Yet the windows, though clean, weren’t especially large, and the brightness was the same all over the room.

    ‘Electricity,’ said Adeline.

    ‘Is it true the lamps turn on and off without you going near them?’ Juliet whispered in awe.

    Adeline indicated a switch in the centre of a small brass square mounted on the wall. ‘According to the literature, flicking the switch is so easy that a lady may do it. No need to trouble the servants.’

    Juliet’s fingers itched. All those lamps being extinguished in one go was more than she could imagine.

* * * *





Here are The Sewing Room Girl's two covers - the audiobook version (which is also the large print cover) and the standard print version.


Here is the book's page on Amazon UK.




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Comments (1)

I enjoyed this glimpse of where you write, Susanna. I'm also interested that you can write outdoors. I've never been able to do that. Here in Canada, it's too cold in winter and usually too hot in summer...with the added complication of insects during the latter!