Practically perfect pilfering
One of the joys of writing contemporaries is the ability to pilfer parts of real life to stick into your own personal world. I freely admit that I grabbed churches and bookshops and names of villages with wild abandon to put into Trowchester and its environs.
To start with the top down, the twisted spire of Trowchester’s cathedral owes its existence to the Church of St. Mary and All Saints in Chesterfield.
I don’t think I’ve ever been inside. To the best of my memory, I just saw it in passing as we drove past on the way to somewhere else. I couldn’t believe how eerie and wrong it looked, as if God had reached down and twisted it like barley sugar. I don’t know yet why Trowchester’s cathedral spire suffered the same fate, but I’m sure it will reveal itself to me in time.
Finn’s book shop is much closer to home. That’s based on Toppings book shop in Ely.
This is one of those tardis-like bookshops that are far larger on the inside. Outside, a tiny little front, inside it goes back forever, and down, and up and out on both sides. More than that, though, if you go up to the first floor there is a help desk, where you can say ‘What have you got on the Ottoman Empire?’ or ‘I’m looking for something about vampires’, and they will say ‘fiction or non-fiction?’ After which they will guide you to a window seat and place a pile of books in front of you, a pot of coffee and a cup, and they will let you read as much or as little of those books as you please, and to stay as long as you like.
Needless to say, I buy a lot of books there.
Finn’s shop, of course, has slightly more eccentric décor, and a collection of display pieces that he has acquired from up and coming local artists. Also a gay book club that meets on a Friday night. It’s a case of gilding the lily, but who’s going to complain about a golden lily? Not me.
Ely is also home to a tea shop that might feel very familiar to readers of Trowchester Blues – largely because I nicked it and put it on the page mostly unchanged. This is Peacocks Tea Rooms
Home of the widest variety of teas you will ever see served in one place, and cheese scones to die for, Peacocks is one of the most quintessentially English places I’ve ever seen in my life. It definitely deserves to be immortalised in fiction. Possibly in better fiction than mine – but one does what one can!
I’m not sure whether you can thieve the atmosphere of a whole city and put it into your book, but that didn’t stop me from trying. I personally love the bohemian, hippy, flower-child, alternative lifestyle atmosphere of Glastonbury in midsummer.
Because of the Tor and the Abbey, and the fact that King Arthur and Queen Guinevere are (allegedly) buried there, Glastonbury attracts people interested in spirituality, Christianity, paganism and folklore – and all of those things are like nectar to me. I didn’t think I could get away with stealing King Arthur, and besides, I’m not all that fond of the man, so Trowchester has a bronze age hill fort and a sacred spring instead. But I made off with the spirit of the place and crammed that into my book too.
I think that’s about it. Harcombe House, the country home of the Harcombe family is too much of a generic stately home to pin it down to any one influence. I’ve seen many houses on the banks of canals, and many marinas, but Michael’s house and boat-builder’s yard are not really any of them in particular.
Oh, one more. Khan’s Restaurant in London is a real place and appears as itself, though sadly Tahir and his father are entirely imaginary.
I have fond memories of Khan’s as it was the place my (now) husband took me for our first date. I was, as you can imagine, very impressed, and I remain so to this day.