Roll up, roll up! Tickets please! Take your seats! It’s your Inktober round up number 3.
I’m writing this at my desk looking out of the loft window onto a blue sky scudded with white and grey clouds. The birds are wheeling past just right there, hanging on the thermals. Leaves keep sailing by on the wind, and I think I might be inside a poem.
And I’m wearing a white shirt and 20s style wide grey striped trousers with a paper-bag waist and a big bow at the front. It’s a splendid outfit. Everything is fine and dandy. I ought to be wearing a top hat too after that circus introduction, but I’m not, though it would actually go quite well.*
I digress. Here we go:
Inktober day 15. Agatha Christie.
Prompt word – Mysterious
I do like an Agatha Christie mystery, although why I do not know, as going up to bed afterwards is difficult, and one must sleep with the light on and bury oneself in the warmth and comfort of a lover, all the while asking ‘Are we safe/did you lock the door/are you sure you locked the door/who can I trust in this world’.
If your lover is away, and you are trying to be the responsible adult in the house, in charge of three minors, I recommend NOT watching ‘And Then There were None’.
Day 16. Clara Steele
Prompt word – Fat
Now, I struggled with this one because the easy way out was just rude. I’m not going to call anyone the world’s fattest anything. I had to google ‘definition of fat’ to help me along, and of course: dairy products. It was easy after that!
Clara Steele was a pioneer woman who missed cheese so much in her new homeland of San Francisco, that she milked a wild cow (how?), made Cheddar, sold it in the market to rapturous applause and then made some more. Etc. Everyone loved the stuff, and Clara realised that pretty soon someone was going to nick her idea, so she opened a commercial dairy – reportedly the USA’s first – just in case.
Day 17. Anna Pavlova.
Prompt word – Graceful
Anna Pavlova was the prima ballerina for the Imperial Russian ballet, and she invented the role of the dying swan. She was also the first ballet dancer to take her art on tour.
Apparently, Anna’s way of dancing was not orthodox – not technically ‘correct’. Slightly wonky (like all the best illustrations, in my view). But it gave her something no one else had – a certain quirky delicacy, a signature style, a vulnerability. An artist after my own heart.
Bravo, Anna Pavlova!
Day 18. Belinda Mulrooney.
Prompt word – Filthy.
Belinda Mulrooney, the epitome of an entrepreneur. Like many others, Belinda saw the business to be made from the industry of the Klondike gold fields, but a smart piece of lateral thinking was the thing that made her rich.
All the other traders servicing the miners with food, shelter and goods stayed in the town. But Belinda trekked right on out onto the goldfields themselves. I’ve read a few historical novels about gold mining – it wasn’t pretty. But Belinda set up shop right on the frontline, as it were. And she took the miners not what they needed, but what they craved: comfort. She sold out of hot water bottles and bolts of cloth in a trice, and then opened a restaurant.
Day 19. Elsie Mackay.
Prompt word – Cloud.
Elsie Mackay did not want to play ball. I guess as the daughter of an Earl, certain expectations lay at her feet. Young Elsie stepped neatly over them with nary a backward glance, and became an actor, an interior designer, and an aviator.
I’m not keen on flying, but then I’ve never had the chance to wear one of those leather hats (another thing that would go quite well with this splendid outfit). Elsie loved it though, and decided to fly across the Atlantic.
She didn’t make it. The saddest detail is that her family didn’t even know she was attempting it.
The wheel of her plane was found washed up on the Irish coastline some time later.
Day 20. Violet Jessop.
Prompt word – Deep.
Imagine this: you survive the sinking of the Titanic. Four years later, you are on her sister ship, the hospital ship Britannic. (That’s the bit I can’t comprehend, being on any other ship after surviving the Titanic.) The Britannic sinks. And you survive that too!
That’s Violet Jessop for you. My little friend Rosie, who is spurring me on in this project and providing me with historical resources from her own bookshelf, and texts peppered with emojis and little dogs saying I love you (the kind of text I live for), says that this one is one of her favourites this week. Me too, Rosie!
Day 21. Emily Davison.
Prompt word – Fierce.
Fierce seemed an easy word to interpret in the form of an historical woman when I thought about the suffragettes. Emily Davison risked life and limb for the cause of securing votes for women in the UK.
Not voting these days would be to denigrate the memory of those fearsome campaigners, so I always, always do. I only regretfully missed it once when I moved counties and got married and was too young and disorganised to register in time. Shame, it’s a privilege. Even if my vote hasn’t yet contributed to an actual victory for the party I usually choose. One day, perhaps!
Day 22. Emma Sharp.
Prompt word – Trail.
Take what you know of me and consider this. How much do you think I adore the story of Emma Sharp?
Emma undertook the Barclay Challenge in 1864 – to walk round a trail for 1000 hours, covering 1000 miles. Pedestrianism, or competitive walking, a sport usually enjoyed just by men, was a big thing in those days. But Emma wanted to give it a go.
She did her walking challenge in the back field of a pub just outside Bradford. The landlord was delighted at the thought of the publicity, as Emma wore a man’s suit, and he sold lots of ale and pie & peas, one presumes, to the collected throng of spectators (1000s of them at a time).
So many people would have liked to deter Emma from her quest that she had to carry (and regularly fire) a pistol to protect herself from those hell bent on stopping her. Even her very food was poisoned by haters, but she completed the challenge, became a champion, and then opened a rug making business with the money.
Her husband sat in a pub in Bradford all the while, trying to be anonymous. Let’s hope she made him wear his fingers to a ravelling tatting rugs for the rest of his sorry life.
Yes, you’re right. I love everything about this story.
*I do have one. I keep it in the cupboard for dressing up 🙂