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Odd Jobs of Bygone Days: Match Sellers

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Street vendors were a common sight in cities in bygone days, selling everything from milk or live chickens to pots, matches or ink.  They also sold services, such as shoe repair, catching rats, sweeping chimneys, or even writing letters for those who could not write (this service is still provided in some Second- and Third World countries).  Such jobs provided vital income for families, but meant long days on one’s feet, regardless of the weather, with perhaps little to show for the effort.

Match Seller, Greenwich 1884, London

Match Seller, Greenwich, London 1884.  Photo:  Pinterest

Historical Maps

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If you’re like me and my husband, you’re a sucker for maps.  If we could get away with it we’d probably wallpaper our flat with antique maps (replicas – don’t worry!).  In researching for my current novel, which is set in the 1750s and 1760s in England, I needed an accurate contemporary map of the counties Dorset and Hampshire.  I came across a great website, which I’d like to share with you, for the Map House, London.  I’ll definitely be popping in there for a (no doubt dangerously expensive) bit of shopping on my next research trip!

Just click on the image below, which is a section of map from 1760 Dorset, to hop over to the site and take a virtual tour; besides maps they also have catalogues, globes, prints, travel posters and more.

Bowen & Kitchin - An Accurate Map of Dorset Shire Divided into its Hundreds 1760 5b

Back in the Land of the Living

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Cardinal 2, Kindle DimensionsHi everyone!  I took a much-needed break from the computer, after launching my two novels in November – The Cardinal, Part One and Part Two!  The response has been great – one reader even compared the novel to the Hobbit and the Indiana Jones sagas!  It’s an interesting “juxtaposition” for me as the author to be compared to such works… I would never presume to say it, but if readers draw that comparison then it proves that the novel has taken on a life of its own.  That’s part of the letting go process for the author; it’s hard to let your baby go, and allow it to form opinions in others’ minds that might be different to how I envisioned the character; but if I did my job right, their image is not much different than my own, at the end of the day.  My aim at writing a visually rich landscape may be what led to that Hobbity comparison…  For more information, check out the Cardinal page!

Now that the books are out, I’m still involved with them – marketing, updating online bibliographies, etc.  Once the dust settles with that aspect, I can sink my teeth into the next project:  The third book of the Northing Trilogy.  This book will take me back to the workhouse orphanages of Britain in the mid-18th century, as well as aboard a military ship; it will be dealing with aspects of lives at the opposite ends of the social scale, how they collide and how they converge.  A lot of my research will end up splashing out here on Undusted!  This week I’ve been outlining Acts 1-3, and already the list of research questions to answer warrants a trip to London.  It’s a rough life, being an author… So now that I’m back in the land of the living, I look forward to blogging and researching, and sinking my teeth into the next epic tale!

Lines of Desire

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Photo Credit:  Unknown

Photo Credit: Unknown

No, this isn’t about how to write romance novels – it’s about architectural landscaping.  The previous article on the topic of paper towns and trap streets reminded me of this term that I’d come across while researching for a novel (in draft currently, in the queue of manuscripts to complete!).

Also known as desire lines / paths, social trails, goat tracks, cow paths or bootleg trails, these unnamed ways are the path of least resistance and most direct distance between their origin and destination.  The wider the path and deeper the erosion, the more proven a path it is.  By some landscape architects they are seen as a failure in proper planning of physical space, but by others they are seen as simple proof that one cannot always impose an empirical will on human choice.  If you zoom in on any large park in Google Earth, such as Hyde Park in London, you’ll see desire paths criss-crossing their shortest-path way throughout the park.

There are all kinds of urban legends about retroactive paving; I leave the verification to those who have expertise in this area, but here are two examples:  New York’s Central Park’s networks of paths are said to be designed around these desire lines, pavement making them retroactively official; however, it actually seems like a poor example as the paths marked do not readily fit the criteria of straightest path or path of least resistance.  Also, Columbia University is said to have turned the desire lines into sidewalks under the guidance of its president Dwight Eisenhower (before he became the 34th president of the US).  Whether such stories are true or not, it would seem like a logical solution to the problem of worn grass patches, rather than needing to re-seed them each spring as people forge their own lines of desire through winter snow.  Why fight human nature?  Or animal instinct.  In Scotland one is wise to follow the sheep paths up in the bonnie highlands; they are proven, solid paths avoiding the hidden streamlets, gigantic holes of souterrain entrances, and the mire of a hidden bog (usually – though the latter seems to bother sheep less than it does me).

Do you know of any “desire lines” in your town?  Have you taken them yourself, or are you one to stick to official paths?

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