Nicola Vincent-Abnett

Nicola Vincent-Abnett
"Savant" for Solaris, Wild's End, Further Associates of Sherlock Holms, more Wild's End

Sunday 2 December 2012

So that's what a writer does with her weekend off

Every once in a while, it is my very great pleasure to go away for the weekend with a good girlfriend. I do it for a break, and to have fun, and to spend time with the women I love that I don’t live close enough to to see regularly. I also do it to get the husband away from his desk. I go away for Friday and Saturday nights with the girls, and then the husband joins me for Sunday night and drives me home, giving him a break he wouldn’t otherwise get. 

I also go away to recharge my batteries, to stimulate my mind and for the purposes of research, which is why I always try to choose interesting cities, and/or interesting buildings to stay in.

The Rows in Chester, above street level
This weekend, I came away to Chester with Sarah. I don’t remember every being in Chester before, although I knew it was an old and beautiful city, and that it has been continuously inhabited for more than two thousand years, so I was expecting great things. I wasn’t however, expecting The Rows.

Sometimes it’s a wonder to happen upon something out of the blue. Of course, if I’d known about The Rows, I might have sought them out long ago; no matter, I have found them now, and I marvel at them. 

Chester, for those of you who haven’t visited, is built on two street levels, one above the other, in a cross formation. Some of the buildings date back to the thirteenth century, whole rows are medieval, but the more modern additions follow the same format of shopfronts and walkways, above and below, joined by short flights of steps at intervals.

The Rows, detail
Apparently nothing like The Rows exists anywhere else in the World, and I can well believe that. The whole forms a warren of shops, including lots of good jewelers, cafes and even offices, often with small footprints, and of covered walkways and stairways leading back and forth and up and down. It is, for all sensible purposes, the first shopping complex. 

It is also the stuff of fantasy novels. It is not difficult to imagine a sword fight or a brawl raging up and down the staircases and walkways; or a fire raging through the buildings; or bawdy women tossing the contents of chamber pots, or hanging a dodgy customer by his ankles over the balustrades over the street below. It is not hard to imagine all manner of mythic creatures skirmishing the length of the walkways, or hanging off the facades of the timber buildings. It is not hard to imagine the labyrinth of connections between rooms and shops, between corridors and walkways, between stairways and bridges, or the chase sequence that might happen between some poor urchin and his ruthless pursuers.

For me, every place, every person, every event throws up possibilities, throws up ideas, is fodder for some story or other. There is no rest for the wicked, and if the wicked also happens to be a writer...

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