Monday, June 14, 2010

From the Scullery

If you ring my doorbell and I answer draped in a woolen shawl, you will know I am writing. If you smell the smoke from a newly snuffed candle, or spy the butter in my pantry now residing in a new covered butter crock... you will know I am writing. And pretending.

These days I'm having lots of fun acting out tiny slices of daily life, lived by my characters in the late 1800s. These small touches help me smell and feel and taste a little of a world so removed from my own, yet so firm in its grip of my imagination. One day soon I want to bake damper. I want to light a fire outside and do some washing in the wind. A small load, mind you. Not all the bedding or anything. I want to milk a cow and churn some butter, and if I can do all that in my shawl with a candle burning nearby, all the better.

Today I am experiencing something my characters would also have enjoyed back in 1875. It's a public holiday here in Melbourne and most states around Australia. As we have since 1788,  on this day we observe the birthday of the current monarch.

For this generation it's Queen Elizabeth II, (wasn't she a cutie?)  but for my characters it was Queen Victoria.
In 1788, when the holiday was instituted to honor King George III, those who partied in Sydney Cove did so "with every demonstration of joy permitted." Each convict was issued three days leave and received half a pint of rum.

In 2010, we still get a three day weekend, although I'm not sure much thought is given to the birthday girl herself. These days, those who live in the north try for one last beach visit before winter sets in, and here in the south, this weekend marks the start of the ski season. Given the number of days I have snuggled under my beloved shawl, I would say winter has arrived with teeth bared.

So back to my writing. It's almost dusk. Another day is ending, but I'll light a candle and savor the glow. If you hear about the fire I nearly caused when the fringe of my shawl got singed, please remember, it's all fiction.