Conventions

Chesham, Codicote, And Beyond

Okay, this is now a fourth post in four days. Have I become a daily blog? Fear not, this is a blip: I won’t be burdening you every single day. 😉

Blame Instagram for this post. I’ve made no secret here over the years of the fact I love fictionalizing places I’ve been or lived. It’s one of the fun aspects in writing: the author gets to pick the location(s).

For instance, the “Beckington” family in the late-1700s set Conventions: The Garden At Paris are from Chesham, Buckinghamshire, just northwest of London. Why Chesham?

St. Mary's Church. Chesham, Buckinghamshire. [Photo by me, 2016.]

[St. Mary’s Church. Chesham, Buckinghamshire. Photo by me, 2016.]

In the earliest pages I wrote, I had them in Bath; but I was never satisfied with them in Bath because it seemed a literary cliche of sorts. Bath – where Jane Austen famously lived for a time – is in tons of books. However, I’d thought, Chesham is not…

Chesham, Buckinghamshire. [Photo by me, 2016.]

[Chesham, Buckinghamshire. Photo by me, 2016.]

…so “the Beckingtons'” “Langley Hall” ended up outside of Chesham instead.

[Chesham, Buckinghamshire. Photo by me, 2016.]

A major reason for that location choice was I’d gotten to know the real Chesham mostly because my wife’s aunt lives there… and, during an early 2016 visit with her aunt, suddenly it hit me: forget Bath, the “Beckingtons” surely LIVE HERE. It is an historic town that is now at the end of the London Underground’s Metropolitan Line. Although on the Underground, it is still very much its own place: Greater London hasn’t quite “swallowed” it… yet.

In the late 1700s Chesham was then much more rural and distinct from London. It was well outside of what was then a far more “compact” British capital. Chesham, I felt, was therefore perfect for a “1787” large, rural country house that was also within a reasonable “carriage journey” of London.

Another place I’ve grown to know well is Codicote, near us here in Hertfordshire – about an hour north of central London. The village was founded officially in 1279. Having been wandering through Codicote yesterday, I posted on Instagram this picture I took of the sign on the village green:

[Codicote, Hertfordshire. Photo by me, 2018.]

As a result of that photo, I ended up in a lighthearted Instagram comments exchange with authors Eric Keegan (The Dioramist) and Laura Thompson (various) – also Americans, but in the States. When at one point Eric remarked on how I write “such adventurous travel and period pieces [because I] live it on a daily basis,” I joked to Eric that I *wished* my life was as exciting as that of “Robert Rutherford’s” in that novel!

Then, I backtracked. Actually, I’m glad my life is not. We can have too much excitement in our lives! 🙂

With all that, this post began to come to my mind. “Robert” in Conventions ends up residing in Codicote. Having tied the two places together in the novel as fiction allows us to do, I thought I could do a bit of the same here this morning:

[Excerpt from Conventions: The Garden At Paris. On Kindle for iPad/iPhone. Click to expand.]

Back in the 1780s and 1790s, it could indeed take a while to travel from Chesham to Codicote. Today, by car, we can travel between the two in about an hour.

You see there in that excerpt also references to a “Goat Inn” in Codicote. There is a real Goat Inn pub in the village. It had been standing as a public house and accommodation back in the 1780s and 1790s, so I believed a fictional “Goat Inn” deserved a mention in the novel.

True, Chesham and Codicote are not, and were not, London or Paris…

[Excerpt from Conventions: The Garden At Paris. On Kindle for iPad/iPhone. Click to expand.]

…but as Conventions proceeds, I like to think a reader pictures in their mind the likes of smaller Chesham and Codicote alongside much more famous and bigger places.

[Excerpt from Conventions: The Garden At Paris. On Kindle for iPad/iPhone. Click to expand.]

I feel it’s invaluable and even necessary as writers to “use” what we know. You may think what you experience is “uninteresting,” but to others out there unfamiliar with, for example, places about which you write, it may prove an eye-opener. You may be taking them somewhere new to them.

And in not going down a road well-traveled already – which I felt I would have had I opted to put the “Beckingtons'” “Langley Hall” near Bath instead of near Chesham – you are being inventive and giving readers something different. That’s what writers should look to do. It’s called aiming for originality.

There you are. If you didn’t, now you know of Chesham and Codicote here in England. See what you can discover through books (and on blogs about books)!

And I haven’t here even mentioned the village of Aigremont, over in France…

[Excerpt from Conventions: The Garden At Paris. On Kindle for iPad/iPhone. Click to expand.]

…because that is reserved for the novel(s). Or another post perhaps sometime? Perhaps.

Before I go, one last thing. Did you catch it? Note “Carolina” (incidentally, pronounced ‘Caroleena’, as is also explained in the book) there just above refers to St. Mary’s Church, Chesham… which is seen in that first photo at the top of this post. 😉

Have a good day, wherever you are in the world. 🙂

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