One of the key points in my fictional novel, about a boy who takes a job as a Cragflinger and enters a competition to save the bankrupt kingdom, is its unhealthy environment. The story is set in an alternative England, somewhere between the 15th and 18th century, which I call it the Land of Gud. Most of the action takes place in the Palace and in the streets of the City and I wanted to play down the glamour often associated with castles, knights and Merry England. Gud City is a mess, just as any city up and down Britain was in that period.
Back then, the streets of England were strewn with the detritus of human existence. Systems to deal with the increasing number of inhabitants who had left the countryside and sought a better life in the over crowded streets of swelling towns and cities were desperately lacking. The stench and noisome smells from unwanted rubbish deposited in public places couldn’t be avoided and the resulting diseases and plagues from rancid meat, swarming flies and vast numbers of unchecked vermin became an every day occurrence.
We take it for granted today that roads will be swept, rubbish collected and animal excrement picked up. In the not so distance past, few realised the importance for cleanliness.
There was also little regard for peace and quiet in the urban centres. People often lived above or adjacent to their workshops or factories and carried out their occupation at all times of the day and night. Many a sleep was disturbed by the banging and crashing of metal workers going about their lawful business or the horrific squeal of butchers slaughtering their pigs for the morning’s trade.
Add to this the vast range of animals wondering the streets and you get some idea of what we would call these days a totally unexceptionable way of life. But then, it was the norm. Imagine the continual clatter of hoofs on cobbles and you start to ‘hear’ the din as our ancestors did. As well as horses pulling wagons, carts and carriages through the messy, rutted, mud-covered streets, rooting hogs, clucking chickens, stray dogs and goodness knows how many species of vermin scurried about the place adding to the clutter.
In my story, the King of the land is well aware of the terrible state and is desperate to clean up the city, but lacks the funds. I wanted the reader to experience some of this unhealthy environment and remind them just how fortunate we are today with our street lights, paved streets and dustbin men. I am not sure we have conquered everything. Towns and cities are still busy and cluttered with other things that impede and frustrate the dweller; street furniture, traffic lights, authoritative signs, sirens, thundering lorries to name but a few.
Splidge the Cragflinger is available to buy in paperback or in ebook from most on-line retailers.