In my day job, I am an anti-money laundering adviser, and one of the consequences of that is that I can spot and hear the phrase “money laundering” at a hundred yards. My husband claims that I can be at the bottom of the garden, and if someone on the radio in the lounge mentions money laundering, my ears will prick up. And it’s starting to get that way with all things Plank. In particular, I am finely tuned to his active time period: 1823 to 1830. But what I am finding is that it is hard to immerse myself in this time period – in preparation for my writer’s retreat next month – without contamination from other information. In the way that a dieter will suddenly see food everywhere, I am finding myself surrounded by tempting – but perhaps confusing – sources of material.
For instance, the lovely curator/historian Lucy Worsley’s new series “The First Georgians” has just started on the telly here in England. It sounds fab, covering all four Kings George (the Bad, the Sad, the Mad and the Fat), who consecutively ruled from 1714 to 1830. But what should I do? Should I start at the beginning, and risk filling my head with fashions and buildings and attitudes that are just too early for Plank – or should I be disciplined, and allow myself to switch on only in 1823? Likewise, there was a recent exhibition at the British Library called “Georgians Revealed” – and I had to go around it with strict blinkers, sneaking peeps at early stuff but really taking notice of the final ten years of material. That said, of course, in times gone by the ordinary members of society – among them Sam and Martha Plank – would have had plenty of old furniture and belongings. Only the extremely wealthy could afford to follow fashion with any dedication. But it’s so easy to include an anachronism by error – and just one can destroy the reader’s faith in your knowledge. As my little niece once said, “It’s a mind field out there”.