Catching breath

Hard to know where to start this post, and even as I type, a little voice is whispering over my shoulder, ‘Deadline! You should be working!’

Dearest editors, should you chance to read this – I WILL be working in just a few minutes.

Meanwhile, it’s a delight to be able to stop and draw breath. It seems to be one of the rules of this game (or maybe I’m just very disorganised) that the fun things you get to do as a writer all happen at a time when you’re supposed to be sitting at home hunched over a hot computer. This is the first day for weeks when there’s been absolutely nothing in the diary apart from ‘deadline -15’. I’m sadly excited by the prospect of a day drinking coffee, chewing gum and tapping out deathless prose only to delete it ten minutes later.

One or two edited highlights of the last few weeks:

New Discovery Number One – Those beautiful timbered buildings in the middle of Chester (see the Photo Gallery) are just as amazing inside. After the chairs were cleared away I snatched a couple of pics inside Bishop Lloyd’s Palace, where Dug and I met a roomful of lovely people as part of the Chester Literature Festival. It’s in Watergate Street – the route Ruso would have taken down to the jetty in search of missing furniture, housekeepers, etc.

Inside Bishop Lloyd's Palace, Chester

I’d like to blame the Bishop for the luggage spoiling the photo, but it’s mine. Here’s one looking the other way:

Fireplace in Bishop Lloyds Palace

New Discovery Number Two – the context that the traditional photos of Chesters bath house (on Hadrian’s Wall) don’t show you. This is the archaeology shot that appears in all the books:

Niches in stonework at Chesters Bath house

Below is the picture you don’t see, showing the scenery. As I’ve said before, those Romans knew how to pick a location.

Chesters bath house showing river alongside

Old haunt number one is below –  the Ilfracombe coastline.

coast path and cliffs at Ilfracombe

Old haunt number two was Housesteads Fort on Hadrian’s Wall. The idea for the Ruso books began to germinate after seeing a caption there which read,

“Roman soldiers were not allowed to marry, but they were allowed to have relationships with local women.”

The caption’s not on display now but the model soldier is still on duty:

Model of soldier at Housesteads museum

Is it just me, or does anyone else wonder why the local women would want to bother?

2 thoughts on “Catching breath

  1. Ruth, just discovered your books at my local library. I have always enjoyed historical fiction about the Roman Empire. I live in the US, but
    I work with someone from Yorkshire. We’ve talked about me going
    home with him next summer to do some sight seeing. Can’t wait. I enjoy
    trying to figure out current locales from your ancient latin names. Thanks,


  2. Hi Pete,
    Yes, definitely come sightseeing! All the places mentioned in the books existed, but the one you won’t find on the ground (or if you do, please let everyone know) is Ulucium. It’s mentioned in the Vindolanda letters but as far as I’m aware, nobody’s yet been able to prove where it was.

    The Ordnance Survey do a good map of Roman Britain which is handy for working out where places are now, and where the roads went – although of course not everybody agrees with them.

    If you’re in the UK on July 12th next year and can bear to go south of Yorkshire, we’re having an Open Day on the site where I’m a volunteer digger – – come and say hello!


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