As I have explained before, I am a great believer in taking inspiration from what is around me. So if I experience a terrific storm, or see a particularly memorable face, I write about it in a little paragraph and then file that away for possible use in a Sam story. Offhand I can’t remember where it is, but I know that in one of the first three novels there is a description of a very windy night that was actually in 21st century Cambridge but I transposed it to 19th century London (after marrying it up with a notably windy period that really happened then – I do love my historical weather records).
So you’d think that Christmas would be a bumper time – but no. Christmas was a special church date, of course, but in Sam’s day the celebrations did not spill over into everyday life. Work carried on much as normal, and other reliable sources – such as Jane Austen’s diaries – show us that people took very little notice of it at all. The Christmas celebrations that we would recognise are a Victorian phenomenon, thanks in equal measure to the royal family and Charles Dickens.
Being something of a coward, I sidestep the issue by not setting my novels at Christmas time; they tend to span about three to four months, and it’s easy to avoid late December. And it’s not as though the late Regency had no celebrations: summer and winter fairs were great occasions, and in 1827 – the setting for “Plank 4” – Sam and Martha will have been married for twenty-five years. I do hope he remembers.