A taste of freedom

Image: Pixabay

The way down from the cliffs was a struggle, the boulders less even than they looked from a distance. The bladder wrack was still wet, slippery under her heels and she had to use one hand to hold her skirts up – she could just imagine how much trouble she’d be in if her only black dress was marked with slime and seawater.

‘Wait for me,’ she called.

Charlie was already a way ahead, striding from rock to rock. His trousers wore twin stripes down the hips, brown and green where he’d carelessly wiped his hands. His patent boots were muddy to the ankle.

Every part of her life felt shackled – working at the big house, the housekeeper with her sharp black eyes, the mistress running pudgy fingers over every mantel and sill. Free time was rare and even then she was not permitted to walk along the Front or go to the music hall or the fair, only to Church or on ‘improving walks’.

How she envied him those boots, those trousers.

She closed her eyes, breathed in the salt tang. Her corset pinched at the waist, on her lower ribs, cut under her arms. Even her breathing wasn’t free.

This was the closest she came, though.

If they sneaked down the beach, out of sight of the Grange, in the shelter of the boulders, there was privacy of a sort. The wind whipped sand in her face, tugged hair from its pins so it caught in her mouth, flicked against her cheeks – she loved it all.

Gulls soared overhead, hovering, wheeling, calling her to join them, mocking when she couldn’t.

‘Come on!’

Charlie had made it to the mouth of the cove. He sat on the sand, peeling off his boots and socks, turning up his trouser legs. He wriggled his toes in the sand like a little boy.

The closest thing to freedom.

***

The image is of Seafield House in Westward Ho!, UK. My current obsession.

26 thoughts on “A taste of freedom

    1. Thank you, Matthew! Yes, me too. I went through a stage of basing every story bear water – in a lighthouse, near a lake, on a river. My latest WIP is set in a rundown seaside resort. I think I’m obsessed! Thanks for reading

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  1. Is this for a challenge, Lynn, or just a delicious bonus treat for those of us who love your writing?
    We care very quickly for your Victorian housemaid (I think) and will her onward to her ‘petit bonheur’.
    Wonderful piece of period drama.

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    1. This was just an odd the cuff thing as I’d completed all my usual challenges ☺️. Bridie/Birdie is an important girl to me, so I thought I’d write a scene with her in. That sense of being hemmed in will be important when I write more about her. Thank you so much for the lovely comment C. Glad you liked it

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  2. The details portray well the social constraints she faces on her choices and movements, and you have me cheering her on to gain this bit of freedom, to take her turn with her toes in the sand. I like how you illustrate her constraints even more starkly by comparing them to a man who is, I assume, of the same general social standing as herself, and yet has far more freedom. Even the clothing she wears hems her in, while he walks free and easily, and he doesn’t seem nearly as concerned about getting his clothes dirty, suggesting he faces fewer penalties. Nicely painted!

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    1. Thank you Joy. Glad all of that came through. I’m guessing most women born in that era just accepted their lot as the way of things, but their must have been some who railed against all those restrictions or the suffragist movement wouldn’t have begun, or the workers strikes involving women, notably the match girls strike in London in 1888. Some women hated their lot in life and we have them to be grateful to for the liberties we enjoy now. Thanks for the kind and thoughtful comments

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      1. Indeed, the majority of people in any age are so seeped in their surrounding culture that it’s practically impossible for them to even recognize all the assumptions they accept — and I count myself in there too! It’s mostly only noticeable when you compare your (totally normal) beliefs about the world to the (ridiculously old-fashioned) views of your grandparents or to the (preposterously irresponsible) views of your grandchildren. I’m fascinated with the challenge of writing historical fiction for a modern audience, who often have a hard time grasping how women in the past could be radical for their time in one way (such as fighting for the right to vote) and yet not also believe all the things a modern feminist does. This is how you end up with the princess who’s also a sword fighter and wears pants and is “just as good as a man” sigh…. Anachronisms abound.

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      2. You’re so right there, on all counts. So hard for any of us to get in the mind of people from different cultures and times. It’s an issue for writers, to be sure and one I tussle with. I can play safe and stick with my primary experiences (white, female, reasonably well educated) which would be very tedious. Or try to put myself inside the lives of others from different backgrounds and risk some seriously offensive cultural appropriation. I’m writing a character at the moment who’s a white female, a lesbian who was a young woman during the first part of the 20th century. I’ve basically just made her an interesting character (I hope!) Though she faces prejudice, of course. Hoping I’m walking a good line with her but may need a sensitivity reader at some point. You ever felt the need for one? I remember you’ve been to seminars about avoiding cultural appropriation.

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    1. Thank you, Crispina. Have you ever worn a corset? I’d be intrigued to try one in, just to feel what women want through for so many years. They really were a symbol of how women were seen – all that trussing us up, changing our forms, restricting us so we’re incapable of free movement or exercise. It says so much, doesn’t it? Thank you for reading

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      1. Apparently, the idea of the minscle waist is a myth. The very slender look was exactly that… a look. An illusion due to the lines and the cut. Though some women did take things to extreme, most wore their stays cos it gave their dresses etc a smooth and uncrumpled line.
        No, I’ve never worn on. I remember my grandma wore stays, though I’m not sure they did much for her figure except to make her look like a sausage (from a child’s eye view!)

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      2. I suppose women were just smaller too, so we see the corset and assume you’d have to be prised into it. I wasn’t thinking that Bridie’s was pulled tight, necessarily, just that it would be restricting and dig in. Your grandma must have been a card, wearing stays when everyone else had deserted them. I like your sausage comparison – very visual. Though when I was 18 I worked in a small department store in Buxton and I was taught how to measure ladies for bras and we sold stays – very solid, flesh coloured. They looked horrifically uncomfortable ☺️

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      3. I agree, they did look awful. As to smaller figures, when my mother joined the WRAF in 1939, aged 17, her waist measured 18″. I know this; she still had the uniform when I was in my teens. By then, three pregnancies later, she was a size 18! Oops.

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      4. Ha! Happens to the best of us – my mother in law was the same. Hoping I don’t go the same way, though I haven’t had an 18 inch waist since I was a child ☺️

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  3. Lovely story, Lynn. We all cherish freedom, and our awareness is heightened by current restrictions. Even so, we have more than your heroine. I hope she enjoys her snatched hour!

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    1. Thank you so much Penny. Yes, although freedom is always relative, dictated by the society we live in (we never really have total freedom, or society would fallout apart!) we certainly enjoy more freedom than the women who went before us. Thank you so much for reading

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  4. Damn, there’s the rhythm to this one and a deeper intimacy it seems with the characters, where your “camera” goes. It makes me long to read a longer piece of yours. Hook through lip and the tug of your eye ha

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    1. Thank you so much, Bill! Birdie/Bridie is a character I’m working with at the moment – kind of. In something very much longer. So I’m very glad she tugged you in! Thanks for reading and the kind comment

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    1. Thank you so much, Iain. Yes, makes a change to go over the 100/150 word limit – fun. Thanks for the kind comment and I hope you’re surviving lock down okay. Managing to write?

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      1. Editing the third book, will be releasing in May, so that has helped me to keep sane! Still going into work one or two days a week – which helps to break up the days. Hope you are safe too.

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      2. Well done for keeping focus enough to edit! I’m into the first draft of another novel, though it took two weeks of lock down before I could concentrate. We’re good thank you – healthy and furloughed, so very lucky.

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  5. Really enjoyed this – the contrast of her outer life and inner spirit which longs to soar free beautifully evoked and I could also feel the sand between my toes. Reminded me of Alison Rattle’s Victorian set novels.

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    1. Thank you, Alyson. Haven’t read Alyson Rattle’s Victorian novels – are they good? Was tempted by the book she co wrote about Amelia Dyer the baby farmer. Fascinating subject, but so dark

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    1. Thank you so much, Geri. What a truly wonderful comment. I’m so glad you felt that way about the story. I can’t imagine what it was like for women of this period, for women still struggling under these kinds of restrictions. Thanks for reading

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