Wednesday, 29 July 2015
Sunday, 26 July 2015
Peg did travel about, spreading her love amongst those who could afford her. Dropping babies along the way. All of whom she loved and sadly lost. Child birth was a hazardous proposition for a woman and child rearing seemed a bothersome task for the men who sired them.Child support being a lifelong commitment the worldly and selfish seemed reluctant to adopt.In much the same way as in the age of celebrity culture a nine to five job serving our fellow human beings is viewed as a step down or beneath the dignity of the golden league.You cannot help but speculate that Peg Plunkett would thrive in the polluted media driven miasma of today.Although there is a degree of anachronism at play in such speculation for no amount of unwanted or unwarranted fame is worse than the notion of a homeless death in a filthy ditch or death whilst chained to a wall as a sexually transmitted pox shrivels your brain.
Julie Peakman's account of the life of this woman is refreshingly free of judgementalism and carries the reader along as a witness without seeming purile or salacious. This is what this woman had to endure and no amount of post dated morality can change a written line of it. Nor does the author attempt to evoke sympathy for her horrendous plight or the randomly cruel events which at times overtake her.She trusts to the truth of the situation and the readers own ability to call a spade a spade whilst peering into a social abyss to carry us through to the conclusion of the book. She does not blow scarlet rose petals in our face or attempt to color the readers own judgement by imbuing Pegs character with infantile romanticism.Sexual relations, even those which are paid for(and few are not) are about so much more than just the exchange of bodily fluids and yet also so much less than the poets would lead us to believe. Peg Plunkett was a realist if nothing else and utterly pragmatic in the face of very masculine cruelty.Throughout her life she let her affections and strong feelings for certain men lead her to make decisions which were far from in her best interests but she survived as best she could in an age where few choices even existed for her gender, loving well if not wisely. Living long enough to see even this aspect of her character become a real threat to all the things she built, breathed life into and ultimately lost.
The illustrious House of Plunkett played host to many people over the period of its owners life(as well as changing shape, size and location.) that to say she covered the waterfront would be something of an understatement. The force of Peg Plunketts, nee Mrs. Margaret Leeson's, personality combined with her wit and hard won determination not to be a victim helped her overcome the adversities that were such a component of her everyday life. It would be something indeed to pass a copy of this book onto Martyn Jacques, the man and mind behind the genius Tiger Lilies. It might inspire him to write an opera based on the life of this most notorious of bawdy historical figures. Perhaps only they could skew the perspective sufficient to tell her tale truthfully free of moral judgements and sing her life as it was.
Peg came to visit.She came, she saw and she partied.)
Peg Plunkett Memoirs Of An Irish Whore is published by Quercus.
Saturday, 25 July 2015
A howling mob bay for entertainment, the final jittering of the Hanged Man, as he, or she, is kicked from this world on the end of a rope. A terrible way to die, even worse in those days. This was prior to use of a drop that led to a faster death.In those days a man had to rely on his friends jumping up to pull him down so that the combined body weight would lead to a hastier exit from this world.Thomas Hawkins, on his way to an appointment with the hangman, narrates his last confession and hopes still for a last minute reprieve. One promised to him but the timing off which is causing no small amount of terror and tension for him as he rumbles backwards on a cart to that infamous location and a beckoning gibbet. Thomas Hawkins tale is in itself perhaps a metaphor for this last desperate journey, a winding twisting path through the gin soaked alleyways of a London soured by the corruption of human desperation and his own determination to tread his own path whilst trying to survive being under the thumb of evil men and women.The stews of London are where he chooses to make his home and it is there he finds fellowship and love possessed of a mercurial morality that adjusts as needed to the situation.All life hangs by a thread here and innocence is a commodity to be bartered for.From the darkest filthy back street hovel to the court of the king Antonia Hodgson brings it all vividly to life.You are never really sure up to the very last if you are reading the last words of a dead man and yet is this not the conceit that lies at the heart of every historical novel be it comedy, horror show or a tragedy(in the case of the life of Thomas Hawkins it is all these things.As all our lives are.)Every line uttered,every action taken, is an echo,the shadow of the dead.
It being a sort of last testament it has a frenetic energy one finds only in the most desperate of scenarios and it was an energetic roller coaster of a read..It felt like a one sitting read and that I was in the company of a very dangerous man who seemed destined one way or the other to die by the hand of another.He tells the story of his lewd life; the son of a country parson this was a man born to a life of opportunity and promise but driven by restless demons. For all that Thomas Hawkins knows where loves lies and he has rested his head in its bosom many a time.Yet he is a man who needs the spice of danger to feel worthy enough to rest there and his story is a collection of some very dark days. He navigates the stews of London like a toiler on the sea. It is a blood and shit splattered almost feral city where vice and virtue war with each in filthy corners never touched by the light of the sun. Antonia Hodgson never shies away from relating the nearness of every vice imaginable which hover with a proximity only ever accorded to rats. Depravity and a desire for the rum and uncanny are constant companions in this fast paced Penny Dreadful of a yarn that is also quite touching in its depiction of the lives of those who look for love and company in a world without mercy or pity.Despite the dirt,beneath the encrusted fitlth of the age, lie real people with real lives, real hopes and real dreams(not all of them good.) which the author brings alive for the time we spend in their company.
In the text we may not be supping with anything so exotic as panthers but we are guzzling ale with whores and gamblers and scoundrels.Kick back, drink a toast to them then get out of there as fast as your heels can carry you.
Me? I will be going looking for Antonia Hodsgson's first novel in this series The Devil In The Marshalsea.
Thursday, 16 July 2015
1888, what a year for dark thoughts.
You know I can remember the days when the novelisations of episodes was the closest one could get to reliving adventures again and again( whilst the rest of the world seemed to be out in the sun playing football....ah, those were the days.Poor pale old me...)This book seems so much more as James Goss grasps that lovingly seat of the pants created script and runs giddily through the streets of 1979 Paris dragging all who read the novel with him. It is so well written that I know after a couple of rereads I will be remembering his version as the televised version I watched on our families old black and white set. We did eventually got a colour television and I can truthfully say I never saw a bluer blue than the solid blue of the Tardis. It is still the colour of home to me.
Your bookshelf cheerily awaits a copy of this book.
Saturday, 4 July 2015
It is so hard to be a time traveller and also a good Catholic.
We are such stuff as dreams are made of...