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The Dustshoveller's Gazette: September 2011

Monday, 26 September 2011

Submitting the Final Edit

So, today was the day I submitted the final ms for OUP: two copies of my 108K text with e- and hard-copies of my 35 chosen images and the four maps I've drawn up. All on a memory stick too. I spent last week on leave working on the last edits, the acknowledgements and the bibliography. And confirmed The Day Parliament BurnED Down rather than BurNT Down was grammatically correct. It's hard to let go after five years of research and over a year of serious writing. Scary stuff.

All packaged up and ready to go

Next, it gets copy-edited at OUP and then the great machine rolls on: typesetting and cover design, proofreading, marketing, publicity and distribution in time for a launch in about a year. Talk bookings are already coming in for then.

Meanwhile, I need to start putting together a proposal for the next book, after discussing ideas with my agent. And the day job continues too.

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Friday, 23 September 2011

The Invisible Women

I've worked hard to get women into my book.  It's not been easy.  A day-conference I attended earlier this year run by the History of Parliament Trust contained a whole session on their problem of undertaking a decades-long academic enterprise which, by definition, had to concentrate on the biographies of MPs and Lords before the 20th century - all of the subjects being men. 

So, in The Day Parliament Burned Down there is Frances Rickman, a principal witness to the fire, with her mother, who lived in the Palace, who have left behind correspondence which can been researched.  Then there are grand women, like Queen Adelaide, and bohemian ones like the poet Letitia Landon, whose views on the fire were recorded.  But there are others too, who flit through the records and therefore the pages of my book, in shadowy fashion.  The Westminster pub landlady whose beer barrels were drunk dry on the night by those pumping the engines.  The nurses at the new Westminster Hospital.  The terrified doorkeepers' wives in the Palace who first discovered the fire.  The waitress at Bellamy's whose uniform was burnt. The ladies in the crowd who fainted in the crush, and those scrambling up to their ankles in mud on the shore of the Thames to get a better view. The prostitutes in the back streets of the Devil's Acre slum nearby.  And the women whose lives were changed forever when their husbands were killed or seriously injured due to the disaster.  I wish I knew more about them. I never will.

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Saturday, 17 September 2011

Westminster's Throne on Wheels

Last week I made a whistle-stop trip to the Museum of London to look at Adam Lee's 1808 plan of the old Palace of Westminster in their Library.  This was a document I had been trying to track down for at least a year, thanks to a garbled footnote.  Job done, I headed for the exit via the galleries and passed the Lord Mayor's Coach, which the Museum described - very memorably - as a "Throne on Wheels".

The Palace of Westminster has its own "Thone on Wheels" in the form of the Speaker's State Coach, last used in 1981 at the wedding of Charles and Diana.  Originally made for William III in 1698, it was presented to the Speaker by Queen Anne shortly afterwards.  We know that the Speaker's residence in the old Palace of Westminster included an extensive range of stables, outbuildings and kitchens running along the riverside east of New Palace Yard.  It must have been there that the Speaker's State Coach was parked at the time of the 1834 fire.  For some years it was on display in Westminster Hall, but earlier this year it was loaned to the National Trust's Carriage Collection at Arlington Court, in Devon, fully conserved and put on view for the public alongside other fantastic chariots, broughams, landaus, barouches and phaetons.

The Speaker's State Coach undergoing conservation