On today’s stop on our literary journey through my novels we find ourselves outside the house in Liverpool where my novel writing journey began. It was here that I started writing The Silver Locket. Built in 1911, the house was pretty run down when we moved there in November 2000. It didn’t even have a kitchen, although it did have a ghost.
It had been rather a grand house in its time, owned by a widow of the Irish Free State and then by a master mariner, prior to the family we bought it from purchasing it in the 1950s. It even had a flagpole out the back. One of the upstairs rooms still had a push-bell to summon the housekeeper. She would, no doubt, have lived in, and the attic rooms at the top of the house would have been the servants’ quarters at one time.
I believe our ghost was that of the former housekeeper.
There was no ghostly apparition, but there was definitely a presence; a warm, benevolent presence that I would sense when the house was quiet and I was upstairs, usually in the day-time. She’d descend from the attic, traverse the landing, passing the two front bedrooms, then turn to go downstairs, at which point the feeling of someone being there would evaporate. The cats were aware of her too. If one of them was in the bedroom with me, they’d look up and follow her progress. Even my husband couldn’t deny that there was ‘something’.
Over time, I came to think of her as Hodge the Housekeeper, who graced the pages of The Silver Locket. Subsequently, as a younger women at an earlier time, she turned up as the housekeeper in Following the Green Rabbit (you can’t waste a good character).
We spent several years doing up the house, finishing with the little attic room with the dormer window (top left in the photo), which had a little white-painted fireplace, very like this one. It was this old, untouched room that I translocated to the house, 20 miles away in Rufford, which Laura inherits at the start of The Silver Locket.
The Prologue begins:
“The silver locket hides beneath the loose floorboard in a small attic room. Sunlight streams through the window pointing towards the tarnished trinket which waits patiently for its secrets to be unlocked.”
There was, indeed, a loose floorboard by the little fire place, but sadly there was no tarnished trinket to be found in that hidey-hole. I was so disappointed! But where my locket came from is a different story.
Now, let us join Laura who, having settled back in the old leather armchair and closed her eyes, has the first of her mysterious dreams, which seem to be connected to a little locket she’s found.
Excerpt from ‘The Silver Locket’
Laura is in the little attic room. Sunlight and birdsong stream through the open window. She looks around. The room is simply furnished, with a table and chair in one corner and an overstuffed couch facing the window. A large chest has been placed under the window and a small silver framed mirror is propped against the wall on the mantelshelf over the fireplace.
She approaches the fireplace, intrigued by the metal fire surround. Someone has started to decorate the raised sunflower pattern in yellow and green paint. Then she notices that she has a paint brush in her hand. It is she who has been carefully painting in the flowers on the dull metal.
She looks in the little mirror and is surprised to see another face reflected in the glass, the face of a young girl, her long dark hair drawn back in a thick plait. She is wearing a white cotton pinafore and the front of it is stained with yellow and green paint.
“Miss Cathy! Miss Cathy! Are you up here? What are you doing?”
The face looks guilty and turns toward the door.
The woman appears in the doorway, her face flushed from climbing the stairs.
“There you are… and look at the state of you,” she says. There is an Irish lilt to her voice and although she is frowning, she doesn’t seem cross.
Laura feels the girl’s guilt and puts the paint brushes in their water jar, which is balancing on the narrow mantelshelf.
The woman is well-built and dressed in a stiff white blouse and long black skirt, Laura judges her to be in her thirties. She advances into the room and stands next to her, viewing the newly-decorated fireplace.
“That looks much more cheerful, so it does. This little sitting room of mine could do with a spruce up, not that I have time to use it.” The woman turns and smiles. “Now come and get cleaned up. Your mother’s ready for her afternoon tea.”
As she is gently escorted from the room, Laura catches sight of her reflection in the little mirror. The face looks pleased, but her eyes look sad.
Obediently she follows the woman down the narrow stairs onto the landing. The house is familiar, but the furnishings are different and the layout wrong in some way, which Laura can’t identify. The woman takes her into a bedroom and pours water from a heavy-looking jug decorated with dark blue roses into a matching porcelain bowl.
“Now wash those hands while I find you a clean pinafore. You know how a mess upsets your mother.”
Psst! – Fancy a look inside my old house? This site still has the photos from when were selling it.