The desk where I do most of my fiction writing is also the desk at which I work as a TV quiz question setter and verifier. Switching from one mode to the other can be tricky. To help me dive back into the world of my novel I have a pinboard covered with photographs and other pictures relating to my characters and settings.
I’m not talking Pinterest (tho I do use that too), I mean an actual corkboard. With pins in it. It’s not attached to the wall, so I can take it with me if I fancy writing at the kitchen table, in the garden or in bed.
I have dismantled my The Companion pinboard and am building up a new collage for my current work in progress. But here are some of the pictures that were on that original board.
Two family photographs. The first one is my Dad, taken in the early 1950s and the other is of my Great Uncle Cyril from the 1920s. Although Billy in The Companion is sandy haired, it was this picture of my Dad (who was also known as Billy) with his freckles and shy smile that was in my head when I began to tell his story. Uncle Cyril, who I’m sure was a lovely lad, struck me with his brooding stare and sulky mouth – add a mop of unruly curls and you have Jasper.
This has always been one of my favourite photos, showing my Dad and Grandad and known in the family as ‘Billy’s first pint’. It features in The Companion under a slightly different name.
In my previous post I included some pictures of Gibson Mill and Hardcastle Crags, all of which were on my pinboard. Alongside them was this postcard. Taken in 1912, twenty years before The Companion begins, it was the inspiration for a scene in the novel. Billy is revisiting The Palace when he sees “on the stepping stones a row of women posed for a photograph, hats held out in front of them like they’d each caught a fish.”
And finally, the rink at The Palace is an important setting in The Companion. Roller skating was very popular in the 1930s and Arnold Binns from Hebden Bridge, pictured below, was a local celebrity.
In 1930 he established a new world endurance record by skating non-stop for over 60 hours, apparently surviving on a diet of tripe and Horlicks. He then skated from John ‘o Groats to Lands End. I love his pose in this picture and liked to imagine him in his suit and cap circling the rink at The Palace, weaving serenely among the less able skaters, and maybe even avoiding a close collision with a determined but erratic Jasper.
More information about Arnold Binns can be found here
Details of the Stepping Stones postcard are here