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London: Haunt of a Cat Burglar in Training

London. It’s a place I dreamed of visiting after hearing the poem about Christopher Robin and Alice as a child. Do you know the one I mean? Here’s the first verse:

Buckingham Palace
by A.A. Milne

They’re changing guard at Buckingham Palace –
Christopher Robin went down with Alice.
Alice is marrying one of the guard.
"A soldier’s life is terribly hard,"
Says Alice.

Luckily I was able to persuade my husband that London was a good idea, and off we went on our overseas experience. Fast forward many years, and it was inevitable that some of my experience would find its way into my writing.

Today is the release date for Cat Burglar in Training, which is partially set in London. Eve Fawkner, my trainee cat burglar attends balls in various London locations and her receiver lives in Kensington, an area I’m familiar with since we lived there for several years.

Here are a few photos from the Kensington/Knightsbridge area. These are places Eve sees or drives past on a regular basis. (Scroll over the photos for info or click on them to enlarge.)

BTW – London was everything I dreamed it would be!

Harrods, Knightsbridge, London at night Kensington Gardens, London

Kensington Palace after a snow fall, London Albert Memorial, Kensington near Royal Albert Hall

The Goat Tavern, Kensington, London.  Horseguards, Rotten Row, London


CatBurglar_SM

Here’s the blurb:

Eve Fawkner had no intention of following in her father’s footsteps. But when the thugs harassing him to repay his gambling debts threaten her young daughter, Eve is forced to assume the role of London’s most notorious cat burglar, The Shadow. The plan is simple: pull off a couple of heists, pay back the goons and go into permanent retirement. But things get messy during her first job when Eve witnesses a murder, stumbles across a clue that sheds some light on her past and, worst of all, falls for a cop.

Inspector Kahu Williams would be the perfect man, if Eve were looking, and if there wasn’t the little matter of their career conflict. The man is seriously hot—and hot on the trail of a murderer. A trail that keeps leading him back to Eve…

Purchase today from Carina Press

Is there a place you dreamed of visiting as a child?

A Wealth of History on the Thames

Thursday Thirteen

I’ve read a lot of non-fiction books about England and England history recently. Thames: The Biography by Peter Ackroyd inspired my topic for Thursday Thirteen this week.

Thirteen Facts and Interesting Tidbits About the Thames River

1. The Thames is the longest river in England but not the longest in Britain. The Severn is approximately five miles longer.

2. The Thames is 215 miles long, 191 miles of it navigable.

3. The royals used the Thames as part of their celebrations. During the sixteenth century Henry VIII and Elizabeth I sailed down the Thames in luxurious barges. It was a way of interacting with the people. When Anne Boleyn sailed down the Thames for her coronation, it was said that the barges following her stretched for four miles. She also sailed down the Thames a few years later to get to the Tower.

4. During the sixteenth century the Thames was full of ships. People said the Thames looked like forest of masts. In 1724 Daniel Defoe calculated that at any one time around two thousand vessels were on the water.

5. The Mayflower sailed from Rotherhithe on the Thames.

6. In 1665 and 1666, during the time of plague and the Fire people took refuge on the Thames.

7. The river was linked with excess and bad language, smuggling and theft. People who worked on or near the river were considered disreputable.

8. The workers in the grain and corn warehouses of Milwall Docks were known as “toe-rags” because of the sacking they wore over their boots. The word became a synonym for a despised individual.

9. Mud-larks were usually very young children or old women who spent their days wading through the mud banks during low tide for bits of coal, wood or metal.

10. Venetian galleys brought in sugar, spices and silken garments and returned to their home ports with raw wool from England. By the fourteenth century around one hundred thousand sacks of wool were transported each year.

11. The first steamships appeared on the river in 1801. They were used mainly for towing larger sailing vessels.

12. The Thames is a tidal river, which means high tides and floods are a danger to Londoners. There were major floods in 1809, 1823, 1849, 1852, 1877, 1894. In 1927 fourteen people drowned during floods. The Thames Barrier was built to counteract the effects of the tide. The barrier can hold back 50 thousand tons of water, but it’s said it will be obsolete by 2030. Meanwhile the tides keep getting larger.

13. Between the seventh and seventeenth centuries the Thames froze on eleven occasions. The worst was in 1434-5 when the river froze from the end of November to mid-February. When the Thames froze Londoners celebrated with Frost Fairs. There was food and entertainment on the ice, the last taking place in 1814. When the thaw started, it always happened quickly and the ice broke up in hours.

Have you visited London and seen the Thames?

Back in the Eighteenth Century

Thursday Thirteen

Thirteen Things about Life and Sex in the Eighteenth Century

1. Coffee houses were places for men to meet, take refreshments and read newspapers, but even here they got into trouble with the opposite sex. Coffee-house owners were blamed for providing attractive barmaids. A quote, “such tempting, deluging, ogling, pretty, young Hussies to be our Bar-keepers, as steal away our Hearts, and insensibly betray us to Extravagance.”

2. If a gentleman had admired a lady at a ball or masquerade the previous evening, he might request to meet her by placing a newspaper ad. An example from 1754: If the Lady that was at the last Masquerade, dress’d in a white Domino, trimm’d with Purple, a hat of the same, tall and genteel in person, will be so obliging as to favor the gentleman who ask’d her to dance, but was refused, with a line when and where he may have the pleasure of seeing her, by directing for C.G. at the Cocoa-Tree in Pall-Mall, he intends to propose something greatly to her advantage.

3. Many taverns doubled as brothels where a man could buy a pint of ale in the front room, pick up a young woman and take her into the back for sex.

4. Despite its seriousness, veneral disease had become so widespread in the eighteen century that any libertine might expect to catch it. When Boswell’s father shared his concerns with his friend, Mrs. Montgomerie-Cunningham, about his son having contracted pox yet again, she responded casually that “it was now become quite common.”

5. It was not only a woman’s chastity that came under scrutiny in the disciplining of the female body, but also her eating habits. A woman should not appear too healthy or robust as it was considered unattractive. The weak and delicate woman, especially when combined with her intermittent fainting, was thought to be the sort to turn a young man’s head.

6. A young man from a moderately wealthy family could make the choice to indulge in a wide range of sybaritic pleasures: heavy drinking, travelling on the Continent, eating to excess, as well as hour upon hour of sex. Frequent sexual activity was seen to be good for a man’s health – doctors advised that sperm should be dispelled regularly to ensure the smooth running of the humours, thus keeping a healthy balance of one’s bodily fluids.

7. Margaret Leeson, Harriette Wilson and Julia Johnstone were all celebrated courtesans. Their extravagant way of living found them frequently in debt. Once they reached an advanced age and were no longer able to attract wealthy lovers, they wrote their racy autobiographies in an attempt to cash in on their lives as some of the most notorious and wealthy men in society.

8. When the London hangman was arrested for debt on the way back from Tyburn, he was able to buy his freedom instantly with the clothes he had stripped off the corpses as one of the perks of the job.

9. Householders were responsible for the lighting outside their houses. There was no insurance against household burglaries. Insurance pertained only to fire.

10. Procreation was universally regarded as the primary purpose of marriage. In London between one-quarter and one-third of babies died before their first birthday. Only half of all children passed the age of fifteen.

11. Admiration of ladies’ feet was commonplace. The sight of a well-turned foot was recognized as an object of desire and something in which men might take a keen interest. Courtesan Harriette Wilson’s small feet were esteemed by her paramours.

12. Rents were high, but the majority of Londoners expected neither space nor privacy. These were unfamiliar concepts. Tall and narrow with two or three rooms a floor, a typical terraced house might be home to a husband and wife, two to four children, two to four servants including apprentices and lodgers. Rooms were small.

13. River transport in London was essential, partly because the streets were so congested and also because the bone-shaking jolting of hackneys was unendurable. The language of the watermen as they indulged in the tradition of shouting insults across the water was “coarse and dirty”. Many travellers opted to disembark rather than brave the rapids at London Bridge. The water was a deep and roaring torrent and was very treacherous.

Would you like to time travel to Eighteenth Century London?

Sources:
1700 Scenes from London Life by Maureen Waller
Lascivious Bodies, a sexual history of the Eighteen Century by Julie Peakman



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