From here to Basingstoke…

F4667w Charlie posing on a Hovis loaf, Shaftesbury Today's Charlie picture includes a Hovis loaf. We encountered the loaf in Shaftesbury, where it had been part of a fundraiser. It's made of metal. The picture's from my recent travels, and travel is the topic of this blog.

Why Basingstoke, you ask.

Because when I think of travel, the Basingstoke roundabuot comes to mind.

Basingstoke is a town in Hampshire that always has been on the road from London to the south west with other roads going to places like Southampton the the south coast and and Bristol to the north west. Thus, back in the sixties if hitch hiking  south west out of London, to Devon or Cornwall, for example, getting a lif to the Basingstoke roundabout was a good and quite likely thing.

Why travel, you ask? 

Because it's so important in a book.Franticladyletters

I forgot this in starting my new book. The first chapter went smoothly. The next went okay, but I had that niggling feeling that Something Was Not Right. In that situation I can't go ahead, because likely when I realize what it is that isn't right, the truth will change the story in some significant way.

I don't like to talk about MIPs  (manuscript/masterpiece/mess in progress) in detail, in part because they are likely to change, but also because many readers, including me, don't like spoilers, but this much is innocuous, I think. My hero is in London, hears of a death in the family and goes north to Yorkshire. I wrote the scene of him arriving in time for the funeral, having allowed him a speedy journey of three days.

Coach2

After a day of fiddling around worrying about the Something That Was Not Right, I saw it. Probably you already have. If it took him, flat out, three days to get north it took the message at least as long to reach London. Once there, the messenger would need to find him, and his lifestyle is not exactly regular. What's more, his family won't be sure he will be found quickly, and they know it will be close to a week before he can arrive, so the funeral goes ahead without him.

That doesn't significantly alter the plot, but it alters the scenes around his arrival.

Another quirk of traveling time is what goes on during it. Past or present, if two people set out on a journey of many hours or even many days, things are likely to happen. If at odds, they may travel in silence, but that will be stressful. Travel tends to throw up moments of stress. How do they react? So if I send my hero and heroine off on a journey I can't ignore it and pick up when they arrive. Sometimes a long journey is interesting, as in A Lady's Secret, which is a "road book", taking Robin and Petra from Abbeville in Northern France to Dover and hence to England. Sometimes it would just be in the way.

A few years ago I wrote a free Christmas story for my readers that involved an elopement to Scotland. My first attempt started in the south and I realized a lengthy journey wouldn't serve the plot, so I moved them up close to the border. If you haven't read that story, it is here.

Cor In another story my medieval characters manage to travel surprising distances in the night. But they are helped by Grail magic. That's in Chalice of Roses, coming in January, and Mary Jo has a story in the collection, along with Barbara Samuel and Karen Harbaugh. Yes, we've collaborated before, in Faery Magic and Dragon Lovers.

I've just seen the positive review from Publishers Weekly. Yay! "Four engaging novellas bring romance to the legend of the Holy Grail etc"

How long did travel take in the past?

That varied a lot, of course, and I like to find snippets of primary source data. Using their own horses all the way, Jane Austen traveled 50 miles in one day. In a mid 18th century play, a character talks of traveling out of London and spending the night at Basingstoke. About 50 miles. On the other hand, travelers in the mid 18th century sometimes found the roads so bad that they only achieved five miles in a day. I have some more information about travel times here.

The consequence of distance is one of the ways in which the past was very different.

I'm always surprised by the way people often traveled by night, and these were regular schedules, so it wasn't always by the full moon. I'd have thought coach lamps could only do so much. Perhaps they had great faith in the horses.

Do you have any wisdom to share about travel in the past?

What would it be like if 50 miles was a day's journey, especially before the telephone, never mind the internet? What would communities be like? Or countries?

Do you think we modern readers are as comfortable as our grandparents with the fictional world of slow travel and communication? Do you enjoy a road book, or prefer a novel set in a small area so people can nip from place to place?

Jo

65 thoughts on “From here to Basingstoke…”

  1. I like well written books, and sometimes travel factors well into them. A road book offers a wide variety of plot opportunities you wouldn’t get if staying in a small area.
    We are such a face paced society, I think it is a little harder for us to relate to the time that travel entailed a few hundred years ago. Our grandparents were used to slow or poor communications and travel that was slower with fewer direct routes.

    Reply
  2. I like well written books, and sometimes travel factors well into them. A road book offers a wide variety of plot opportunities you wouldn’t get if staying in a small area.
    We are such a face paced society, I think it is a little harder for us to relate to the time that travel entailed a few hundred years ago. Our grandparents were used to slow or poor communications and travel that was slower with fewer direct routes.

    Reply
  3. I like well written books, and sometimes travel factors well into them. A road book offers a wide variety of plot opportunities you wouldn’t get if staying in a small area.
    We are such a face paced society, I think it is a little harder for us to relate to the time that travel entailed a few hundred years ago. Our grandparents were used to slow or poor communications and travel that was slower with fewer direct routes.

    Reply
  4. I like well written books, and sometimes travel factors well into them. A road book offers a wide variety of plot opportunities you wouldn’t get if staying in a small area.
    We are such a face paced society, I think it is a little harder for us to relate to the time that travel entailed a few hundred years ago. Our grandparents were used to slow or poor communications and travel that was slower with fewer direct routes.

    Reply
  5. I like well written books, and sometimes travel factors well into them. A road book offers a wide variety of plot opportunities you wouldn’t get if staying in a small area.
    We are such a face paced society, I think it is a little harder for us to relate to the time that travel entailed a few hundred years ago. Our grandparents were used to slow or poor communications and travel that was slower with fewer direct routes.

    Reply
  6. Your log on travel was specially timely. A co-teacher gave me a copy of the National Geographic Medieval England map (1979). On seeing it my son asked where did we go on our tour bus. I showed him, London, Salisbury, Stonehenge, and Avebury. He was stunned; it appeared we had traveled halfway across England (E-W) in just a day. He wanted to know the scale. When I told him that London to Scotland was only around 200 miles he was amazed. He drives a little over 100 miles round trip to work and back.
    While living in Arizona, I noticed a young woman pressed tight against the wall outside the Commissary (military grocery store). I asked if she was ok? Her reply in a British accent, indicated that it was so big. She was overwhelmed. There was a 30+ mile open desert vista ahead of her. She had never seen so much space. I guess distance is just as relative as Einstein’s time.
    Prince William County in Virginia (named after the 18th century prince) just installed 4 roundabouts. It was a major controversy. Many wanted overpasses instead. They are just outside the Bull Run Battlefield (our Civil War) and the fight between preservationists and developers is often referred to as the third Battle of Bull Run.

    Reply
  7. Your log on travel was specially timely. A co-teacher gave me a copy of the National Geographic Medieval England map (1979). On seeing it my son asked where did we go on our tour bus. I showed him, London, Salisbury, Stonehenge, and Avebury. He was stunned; it appeared we had traveled halfway across England (E-W) in just a day. He wanted to know the scale. When I told him that London to Scotland was only around 200 miles he was amazed. He drives a little over 100 miles round trip to work and back.
    While living in Arizona, I noticed a young woman pressed tight against the wall outside the Commissary (military grocery store). I asked if she was ok? Her reply in a British accent, indicated that it was so big. She was overwhelmed. There was a 30+ mile open desert vista ahead of her. She had never seen so much space. I guess distance is just as relative as Einstein’s time.
    Prince William County in Virginia (named after the 18th century prince) just installed 4 roundabouts. It was a major controversy. Many wanted overpasses instead. They are just outside the Bull Run Battlefield (our Civil War) and the fight between preservationists and developers is often referred to as the third Battle of Bull Run.

    Reply
  8. Your log on travel was specially timely. A co-teacher gave me a copy of the National Geographic Medieval England map (1979). On seeing it my son asked where did we go on our tour bus. I showed him, London, Salisbury, Stonehenge, and Avebury. He was stunned; it appeared we had traveled halfway across England (E-W) in just a day. He wanted to know the scale. When I told him that London to Scotland was only around 200 miles he was amazed. He drives a little over 100 miles round trip to work and back.
    While living in Arizona, I noticed a young woman pressed tight against the wall outside the Commissary (military grocery store). I asked if she was ok? Her reply in a British accent, indicated that it was so big. She was overwhelmed. There was a 30+ mile open desert vista ahead of her. She had never seen so much space. I guess distance is just as relative as Einstein’s time.
    Prince William County in Virginia (named after the 18th century prince) just installed 4 roundabouts. It was a major controversy. Many wanted overpasses instead. They are just outside the Bull Run Battlefield (our Civil War) and the fight between preservationists and developers is often referred to as the third Battle of Bull Run.

    Reply
  9. Your log on travel was specially timely. A co-teacher gave me a copy of the National Geographic Medieval England map (1979). On seeing it my son asked where did we go on our tour bus. I showed him, London, Salisbury, Stonehenge, and Avebury. He was stunned; it appeared we had traveled halfway across England (E-W) in just a day. He wanted to know the scale. When I told him that London to Scotland was only around 200 miles he was amazed. He drives a little over 100 miles round trip to work and back.
    While living in Arizona, I noticed a young woman pressed tight against the wall outside the Commissary (military grocery store). I asked if she was ok? Her reply in a British accent, indicated that it was so big. She was overwhelmed. There was a 30+ mile open desert vista ahead of her. She had never seen so much space. I guess distance is just as relative as Einstein’s time.
    Prince William County in Virginia (named after the 18th century prince) just installed 4 roundabouts. It was a major controversy. Many wanted overpasses instead. They are just outside the Bull Run Battlefield (our Civil War) and the fight between preservationists and developers is often referred to as the third Battle of Bull Run.

    Reply
  10. Your log on travel was specially timely. A co-teacher gave me a copy of the National Geographic Medieval England map (1979). On seeing it my son asked where did we go on our tour bus. I showed him, London, Salisbury, Stonehenge, and Avebury. He was stunned; it appeared we had traveled halfway across England (E-W) in just a day. He wanted to know the scale. When I told him that London to Scotland was only around 200 miles he was amazed. He drives a little over 100 miles round trip to work and back.
    While living in Arizona, I noticed a young woman pressed tight against the wall outside the Commissary (military grocery store). I asked if she was ok? Her reply in a British accent, indicated that it was so big. She was overwhelmed. There was a 30+ mile open desert vista ahead of her. She had never seen so much space. I guess distance is just as relative as Einstein’s time.
    Prince William County in Virginia (named after the 18th century prince) just installed 4 roundabouts. It was a major controversy. Many wanted overpasses instead. They are just outside the Bull Run Battlefield (our Civil War) and the fight between preservationists and developers is often referred to as the third Battle of Bull Run.

    Reply
  11. I love your Christmas story! I read it two or three times during the season, every year since you released it. 🙂
    Travel. Yes, well, I finished a ms that had the H/Hn traveling from London to a little town in Scotland and back. I agonized over the travel logistics for two days, but I think I got it right in the end.
    I’ve always wondered though in some historicals I’ve read, how the people traveled so fast. Because without the assistance of magic, they’d have taken just as long as everyone else. Pulls me out of the story and I don’t like that. After all, if the author is going to do all she/he can to draw you completely into the characters and their dilemma, why be so lazy with the smaller details.

    Reply
  12. I love your Christmas story! I read it two or three times during the season, every year since you released it. 🙂
    Travel. Yes, well, I finished a ms that had the H/Hn traveling from London to a little town in Scotland and back. I agonized over the travel logistics for two days, but I think I got it right in the end.
    I’ve always wondered though in some historicals I’ve read, how the people traveled so fast. Because without the assistance of magic, they’d have taken just as long as everyone else. Pulls me out of the story and I don’t like that. After all, if the author is going to do all she/he can to draw you completely into the characters and their dilemma, why be so lazy with the smaller details.

    Reply
  13. I love your Christmas story! I read it two or three times during the season, every year since you released it. 🙂
    Travel. Yes, well, I finished a ms that had the H/Hn traveling from London to a little town in Scotland and back. I agonized over the travel logistics for two days, but I think I got it right in the end.
    I’ve always wondered though in some historicals I’ve read, how the people traveled so fast. Because without the assistance of magic, they’d have taken just as long as everyone else. Pulls me out of the story and I don’t like that. After all, if the author is going to do all she/he can to draw you completely into the characters and their dilemma, why be so lazy with the smaller details.

    Reply
  14. I love your Christmas story! I read it two or three times during the season, every year since you released it. 🙂
    Travel. Yes, well, I finished a ms that had the H/Hn traveling from London to a little town in Scotland and back. I agonized over the travel logistics for two days, but I think I got it right in the end.
    I’ve always wondered though in some historicals I’ve read, how the people traveled so fast. Because without the assistance of magic, they’d have taken just as long as everyone else. Pulls me out of the story and I don’t like that. After all, if the author is going to do all she/he can to draw you completely into the characters and their dilemma, why be so lazy with the smaller details.

    Reply
  15. I love your Christmas story! I read it two or three times during the season, every year since you released it. 🙂
    Travel. Yes, well, I finished a ms that had the H/Hn traveling from London to a little town in Scotland and back. I agonized over the travel logistics for two days, but I think I got it right in the end.
    I’ve always wondered though in some historicals I’ve read, how the people traveled so fast. Because without the assistance of magic, they’d have taken just as long as everyone else. Pulls me out of the story and I don’t like that. After all, if the author is going to do all she/he can to draw you completely into the characters and their dilemma, why be so lazy with the smaller details.

    Reply
  16. Jo, I like road books- they give the author a chance to introduce new situations and locales for the same characters. The act of travel, in historical times, was difficult and stressful enough that the willingness to embark can tell us something about the characters. But those staying at home books are nice, too- I love to see how an author handles the limited society of a small community.

    Reply
  17. Jo, I like road books- they give the author a chance to introduce new situations and locales for the same characters. The act of travel, in historical times, was difficult and stressful enough that the willingness to embark can tell us something about the characters. But those staying at home books are nice, too- I love to see how an author handles the limited society of a small community.

    Reply
  18. Jo, I like road books- they give the author a chance to introduce new situations and locales for the same characters. The act of travel, in historical times, was difficult and stressful enough that the willingness to embark can tell us something about the characters. But those staying at home books are nice, too- I love to see how an author handles the limited society of a small community.

    Reply
  19. Jo, I like road books- they give the author a chance to introduce new situations and locales for the same characters. The act of travel, in historical times, was difficult and stressful enough that the willingness to embark can tell us something about the characters. But those staying at home books are nice, too- I love to see how an author handles the limited society of a small community.

    Reply
  20. Jo, I like road books- they give the author a chance to introduce new situations and locales for the same characters. The act of travel, in historical times, was difficult and stressful enough that the willingness to embark can tell us something about the characters. But those staying at home books are nice, too- I love to see how an author handles the limited society of a small community.

    Reply
  21. I like what you do with the story while they are on the road. I just re-read Winter Fire which sets everything up on the road. I live in RI the smallest state in the USA and we joke that RI residents take a lunch basket when they travel to the other end of the state which is 30 miles wide and 50 miles long.

    Reply
  22. I like what you do with the story while they are on the road. I just re-read Winter Fire which sets everything up on the road. I live in RI the smallest state in the USA and we joke that RI residents take a lunch basket when they travel to the other end of the state which is 30 miles wide and 50 miles long.

    Reply
  23. I like what you do with the story while they are on the road. I just re-read Winter Fire which sets everything up on the road. I live in RI the smallest state in the USA and we joke that RI residents take a lunch basket when they travel to the other end of the state which is 30 miles wide and 50 miles long.

    Reply
  24. I like what you do with the story while they are on the road. I just re-read Winter Fire which sets everything up on the road. I live in RI the smallest state in the USA and we joke that RI residents take a lunch basket when they travel to the other end of the state which is 30 miles wide and 50 miles long.

    Reply
  25. I like what you do with the story while they are on the road. I just re-read Winter Fire which sets everything up on the road. I live in RI the smallest state in the USA and we joke that RI residents take a lunch basket when they travel to the other end of the state which is 30 miles wide and 50 miles long.

    Reply
  26. Jo here.
    LOL on Rhode Island, Lois. That certainly is different to Texas!
    Yes, Gretchen, in the past, traveling at all said something about people. Yet at the same time, some of them did it a lot and traveled long distances. That’s a whole other angle.
    Perhaps when people set off at a slow pace, and when ordinarily people just ten miles away wouldn’t be seen that often, moving on for weeks, months, even years didn’t seem so huge.
    Just a vague thought there.
    Jo

    Reply
  27. Jo here.
    LOL on Rhode Island, Lois. That certainly is different to Texas!
    Yes, Gretchen, in the past, traveling at all said something about people. Yet at the same time, some of them did it a lot and traveled long distances. That’s a whole other angle.
    Perhaps when people set off at a slow pace, and when ordinarily people just ten miles away wouldn’t be seen that often, moving on for weeks, months, even years didn’t seem so huge.
    Just a vague thought there.
    Jo

    Reply
  28. Jo here.
    LOL on Rhode Island, Lois. That certainly is different to Texas!
    Yes, Gretchen, in the past, traveling at all said something about people. Yet at the same time, some of them did it a lot and traveled long distances. That’s a whole other angle.
    Perhaps when people set off at a slow pace, and when ordinarily people just ten miles away wouldn’t be seen that often, moving on for weeks, months, even years didn’t seem so huge.
    Just a vague thought there.
    Jo

    Reply
  29. Jo here.
    LOL on Rhode Island, Lois. That certainly is different to Texas!
    Yes, Gretchen, in the past, traveling at all said something about people. Yet at the same time, some of them did it a lot and traveled long distances. That’s a whole other angle.
    Perhaps when people set off at a slow pace, and when ordinarily people just ten miles away wouldn’t be seen that often, moving on for weeks, months, even years didn’t seem so huge.
    Just a vague thought there.
    Jo

    Reply
  30. Jo here.
    LOL on Rhode Island, Lois. That certainly is different to Texas!
    Yes, Gretchen, in the past, traveling at all said something about people. Yet at the same time, some of them did it a lot and traveled long distances. That’s a whole other angle.
    Perhaps when people set off at a slow pace, and when ordinarily people just ten miles away wouldn’t be seen that often, moving on for weeks, months, even years didn’t seem so huge.
    Just a vague thought there.
    Jo

    Reply
  31. A cool thing about road books is that it takes the characters outside their comfort zone. Makes them vulnerable. Tests them in interesting ways, and throws them close together. You are one of the masters of the road book, Jo. I love when you do long cascading sequences of characters on the run, being swept from one place to another.
    I haven’t done that many road books myself, but every now and them, that’s just right for one of my stories.
    Mary Jo

    Reply
  32. A cool thing about road books is that it takes the characters outside their comfort zone. Makes them vulnerable. Tests them in interesting ways, and throws them close together. You are one of the masters of the road book, Jo. I love when you do long cascading sequences of characters on the run, being swept from one place to another.
    I haven’t done that many road books myself, but every now and them, that’s just right for one of my stories.
    Mary Jo

    Reply
  33. A cool thing about road books is that it takes the characters outside their comfort zone. Makes them vulnerable. Tests them in interesting ways, and throws them close together. You are one of the masters of the road book, Jo. I love when you do long cascading sequences of characters on the run, being swept from one place to another.
    I haven’t done that many road books myself, but every now and them, that’s just right for one of my stories.
    Mary Jo

    Reply
  34. A cool thing about road books is that it takes the characters outside their comfort zone. Makes them vulnerable. Tests them in interesting ways, and throws them close together. You are one of the masters of the road book, Jo. I love when you do long cascading sequences of characters on the run, being swept from one place to another.
    I haven’t done that many road books myself, but every now and them, that’s just right for one of my stories.
    Mary Jo

    Reply
  35. A cool thing about road books is that it takes the characters outside their comfort zone. Makes them vulnerable. Tests them in interesting ways, and throws them close together. You are one of the masters of the road book, Jo. I love when you do long cascading sequences of characters on the run, being swept from one place to another.
    I haven’t done that many road books myself, but every now and them, that’s just right for one of my stories.
    Mary Jo

    Reply
  36. I apologize, Mark. A Word Wench shouldn’t typo!
    Are you from Basingstoke? I don’t think I’ve ever visited apart from “the roundabout” in the dim and distant sixties, but now I wonder if there were lots of them. Do you know?
    Jo

    Reply
  37. I apologize, Mark. A Word Wench shouldn’t typo!
    Are you from Basingstoke? I don’t think I’ve ever visited apart from “the roundabout” in the dim and distant sixties, but now I wonder if there were lots of them. Do you know?
    Jo

    Reply
  38. I apologize, Mark. A Word Wench shouldn’t typo!
    Are you from Basingstoke? I don’t think I’ve ever visited apart from “the roundabout” in the dim and distant sixties, but now I wonder if there were lots of them. Do you know?
    Jo

    Reply
  39. I apologize, Mark. A Word Wench shouldn’t typo!
    Are you from Basingstoke? I don’t think I’ve ever visited apart from “the roundabout” in the dim and distant sixties, but now I wonder if there were lots of them. Do you know?
    Jo

    Reply
  40. I apologize, Mark. A Word Wench shouldn’t typo!
    Are you from Basingstoke? I don’t think I’ve ever visited apart from “the roundabout” in the dim and distant sixties, but now I wonder if there were lots of them. Do you know?
    Jo

    Reply

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