Where I Wrote . . .

Posted on 26th May, 2020

A week or two ago, I showed you where I was when I wrote the scene in The Sewing Room Girl in which Juliet visits Adeline Tewson's textiles factory for the first time. Today, I'm going to show you where I wrote a scene in The Deserter's Daughter.


It's the scene in which Ralph bursts into the Jenkinses' kitchen and confronts his father, Joseph Armstrong, and they argue about the antiques shop. Joseph knows exactly how he wants the family business to be run, but Ralph has his own ideas - and his own agenda.


I wrote the scene in the prettiest place you can imagine - sitting at one of the outdoor tables belonging to Haulfre Tea Rooms, which is the delightful cafe in Haulfre Gardens on the side of the Great Orme in Llandudno.




It was a sunny morning and there were lots of people enjoying drinks, cakes and snacks. Meanwhile, I was writing a highly charged scene with a violent ending.


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Here is an extract for you:


Ralph ghosted his way down the back entries until he stood outside the Jenkins’ house. The wooden gate might be in need of a lick of paint, but someone had kept the hinges oiled and it opened quietly onto tidy yard - mangle in the corner, tin bath hanging on the wall next to the rain-water butt, a pot of herbs on top of the coal-hole. Ducking beneath the washing-line, he cracked open the back door onto the scullery. Brooms and pail, clothes horse, roller towel, the copper, two sinks - not bad. This might be a simple two-up two-down, but if it had separate sinks for dishes and clothes, it was a better place that he had thought. His opinion of the widow went up a notch.

    The door to the kitchen was ajar. Good.

    Dad's voice. ‘I’ll tell thee straight, Mrs Jenkins. You need protecting from your husband’s actions.’

    ‘Mr Armstrong, please – ’

    ‘Nay, madam, let me finish. I can offer that protection. I’m prepared to buy a house. Buy, mind, not rent.'

    Buy? Where was the money to come from?

    'Somewhere with indoor plumbing and a garden, electrics too maybe, and right away from here. By the sea, if that suits you. Southport’s reet grand, or Lytham St Anne's. Young Carrie can come too, and welcome.’

    Southport, Lytham. As far away as you damn well please.

    Mrs Jenkins whispered, ‘What would your lads say? Aren’t they expecting to have the shop one day?’

    ‘Not Adam. I paid for him to get a fancy education and he's a doctor. As for Ralph – well, yes, in different circumstances he would get the business; but he can get a job in one of them posh antiques places in town. He’s even mentioned us having an auction room - as if we have time for that! But if auctioning is what he's set his heart on, working in a posh place on Deansgate would be a good move. He might even see if there's an opening at that auction place in Chester - Foster and Whatsit's. Don't fret: I'll see him all right for money.’

    Ralph’s heart caught between his ribs. So this was it. The old bastard wanted to wrench the business away from him. He planned to sell the whole bloody concern to the highest bidder so he could piss off and grow roses in Southport. All Ralph's years of work counted for nothing. All the years he, Dad and Adam had assumed - more than assumed - had known, dammit, known that the business would one day be his were to be dashed aside. Bung him a few hundred and send him to Deansgate - did Dad really think that was enough?

    Did he really think Ralph would permit it?

    And it wouldn't be just Ralph's inheritance he was selling. It would be the highly lucrative future that he and the others had bided their time and waited for. His associates wouldn't tolerate being let down. Just see what had happened to Jonty Fellowes when he pulled out.

    He wouldn’t let it happen, by Christ he wouldn’t, and he would deal with it now, here, in this house, in this kitchen. Contain the damage. Before she could accept the escape route on offer. Before Dad could march off to Brookburn with the glad tidings. Before anyone else could know what had been suggested. Kill it now. Kill it before it could grow.

How could Dad do this to him? How could he show him such lack of concern, such disrespect?

    Heat pumped round his body, preparing him. His brain surged with small explosions of argument, persuasion, anger. He barged through the door, seeing everything at once; the war had taught him that. Two faces turned to him, eyes wide, mouths slack. They were sitting facing one another across the kitchen table.

    'What the hell d'you think you're playing at? Sell everything and fob me off with a job on Deansgate? Not on your life. That's bloody outrageous.'

    'Watch your language in front of a lady.'

    'My language is the least of your problems. You want to retire - fine. Off you go, and about time too. But you don't need to sell the business and you don't need to buy a house.'

    'I'll do as I please.' Dad came to his feet, the chair screeching on the tiled floor.

    'You damn well won't.' Ralph strode forward. He squared his shoulders and expanded his chest. 'I've worked in that shop my whole life. I was running errands and doing small deliveries when I was eight years old. Every minute I wasn't at school, I was in the shop, watching, learning, listening to you and Weston discussing pieces, pricing them. Adam never did that, even before he got his high-and-mighty calling. But I did, because I knew what I wanted - and you're not taking it away.'

    'Nay, your ideas for the shop are pie in the sky. Adding an auction room - have you lost your senses? If you keep the shop, you'll end up losing everything because of your fancy ideas. You want a better class of customer - go to Deansgate. You want auctions - go to Chester. But don't kid yourself I'm going to let you run my business into the ground. I'm doing you a favour.'

    'A favour?' He took another step forward, crowding the old fool. He planted his feet apart, jutting his chin, but kept his voice low. 'Destroying my inheritance - a favour? You think I can't manage the business? You're the one that can't cope. You're stuck in the past. Who needs a delivery van when there's a perfectly good horse and cart? Who needs elegant displays when you can cram the windows full to bursting? Who needs modern ideas when you can carry on as if Victoria is still on the throne? Your time is over. You're holding me back; you're holding back the business. I don't care what you do as long as you do it somewhere else and leave me to build up the shop as it deserves - as I deserve. I worked hard for this. I've fought in a war, for God's sake; and I did it in the expectation of getting the business when I came home. This is my time, old man. Your time is over, finished.'

    A potent mixture of resolve and triumph poured through his veins. He took a step closer, forcing his father to step away, step backwards, old man giving way to young, old ways and old values submitting beofre the inevitable might of the new, the enterprising, the ambitious.


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The Deserter's Daughter at Amazon


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Comments (1)

The power of the writer's imagination, Susanna. This post made me chuckle because the place where you wrote that scene is so pretty and tranquil whilst the scene is anything but! I've started to write a bit on my porch (in part to escape family noise under lockdown) but don't usually stray too far from my desk. I shall now read your books with even greater interest and try to picture where you may have been when writing certain scenes.