A few years ago...okay twelve years ago I married my high-school sweetheart. And after much begging, cajoling and in the end telling, we went to London England for our honeymoon. I’d always wanted to go, because who wouldn’t (my husband for one) and enjoyed every second while we were there. I’ve now created a monster (said husband) who’s the one always saying ‘we should go...’ and it’s me who now has to say ‘no!' All very funny but not really relevant to my post today...or is it?
While in England we did a tour with Trafalgar. Wonderful company and great tour guides. As they bussed us around the capital our noses plastered to the windows a story of a group of people made my ears prick up and take note. Not that I wasn’t already listening to the tour guide beacuae I was. During our stay there I soaked up every aspect of London and imprinted it on my brain permanently. I just love the place.
But, back to the tour guide who was explaining a group of people called Mudlarks who once searched the banks of the Thames at low tide. Just another name which means a beachcomber who searches the mud at low tide for anything of value. I wanted to be one of them. Just the thought of digging in mud and maybe finding some lost treasure hundreds of years old sent my blood to...okay I’m starting to sound like a romance writer. But let’s just say I was excited. The tour guide went on to say that only a few permits were allowed each year and that they were a well sought after article. I could only agree, as I now wanted one, even though I lived in Australia.
Eventually we went home and continued on with our lives until one day only four years ago I started to write. Then I started to write romance novels with a twist - time travel. And what a better way than to send my heroine catapulting through the ages but by having her find a piece of jewellery long buried in the banks of the Thames which does exactly that. You’ve guessed it; my heroine is a Thames Mudlark. In fact they are actually called The Society of Thames Mudlarks today. Anything they find they have a month before they must forward it to the Museum of London for cataloguing. After that time the item is returned to them, to either sell, (to the museum or elsewhere) or keep. The Port of London Authority issue the permits for them to fossick the ancient shores.
Although being a Mudlark today is for hobbyists and history lovers alike, back in the Industrial Revolution it was all that stood between starvation and food for some families. Should they find something, anything, a button even, it could be sold for food for them to eat. Most Mudlarks were widowed women and children. These poor souls had to deal with raw sewage and corpses of humans and animals that often washed up with the tide. Take the tower of London’s moat, need I say more on what a mess that was for a while. Not a very nice working environment for them, even if necessary.
So, a story told offhandedly years ago stuck a cord with me, and was the basis of a major turning point for my heroine in my manuscript. It’s true I suppose, that stories evolve by events in our own lives. That, when we hear tales of the past we writers see a plot somewhere between the words. I certainly did and will continue to do so.
Perhaps one day if I’m lucky, The Society of Thames Mudlarks will make me an honorary member. I can only dream.
This post originally featured on my blog http://tamaragill.blogspot.com 2010