Coping Mechanisms – 8 – In a Theatre

Theatre Dublin

We’ve all been waiting for something: meeting new babies, old friends; eating out in a restaurant; swimming in the local pool. The list is probably endless.

For me, as I’ve been lucky enought to see my family and a few close friends, it’s been a trip to live theatre in a theatre – a building purpose built for performance.

Last night – I got toTraverse I to see Enda Walsh’s MEDICINE. Starring Domhnall Gleeson with some or all of (I hate not having a programme) Clare Barrett, Sean Carpio, Aoife Duffin. It was everything one would expect from a Traverse Festival production and from a great playwright.

With the testing positive numbers at 6835 yesterday, it may be some time before one goes again, but oh, how I enjoyed last night.

Tomorrow night, 29th August, is the final broadcast of the Royal Lyceum’s SOPHIA by Frances Poet. It’s in their Soundstage season and stars Madeleine Worrall as Sophia Jex-Blake.

As regular readers know, my serial about Sophia and The Edinburgh Seven is currently running in The People’s Friend magazine. Instalment 3 will be in the shops on Wednesday. However, I suspect from the list of characters, that the play is going to give more importance to aspects of her life I didn’t include. Wonderful! I’m looking forward to that.

IN A CLASS OF THEIR OWN by Anne Stenhouse currently running in The People’s Friend magazine.


Round Robin – August 2021

Do you have any character habits or favourite words that always crop up in your writing?

Oh my! This does take me to task.

I’ve said it before but ‘that’ is like an alien species, invasive and hard to eradicate. My lovely editor at MuseItUp, Judy Roth, pointed the habit out to me and I now make huge efforts to check each ‘that’ has an earned place.

Another favourite word can be the word that (is that necessary? Ed) arrives in my head while writing on any given day. It will usually be an adverb or adjective and when I edit, I discover its presence in one paragraph after another. Maybe this need to edit makes the prose richer.

The antithesis of favourites are the bogey-men. Only in recent years have I developed the confidence to begin sentences with a (necessary) conjunction and end them with a (necessary) preposition. Likewise, I find it very hard to use suddenly and will often opt for abruptly.

Character habits, too, can become favourites. Agitation in my regencies is very often signalled by the heroine shredding the ribbons of her hat or twisting the strings of her reticule until her fingers are white. From Mariah’s Marriage:

“Mariah gripped her reticule so tightly flashes of pain stung her hands but shewelcomed the distraction they made because they prevented her bursting into shameful tears.”

Smoothing down her skirts is another personal habit I attribute to my heroines as they seek to bring a difficult passage to its conclusion. It in some ways signifies the resumption of control.

In describing the secondary characters, I often have stains on their clothing from dropped food. I’m using this to suggest the slightly lower level of society they inhabit, perhaps, or perhaps that their intellects set them apart from such mundane issues – in their opinion. When Tobias calls at Mariah’s home for the first time in Mariah’s Marriage his pristine and fashionable dress almost brings the household to a stand.

“Mariah reluctantly led the way into the house and was not surprised to findTilly opening the inner door as she entered the tiled vestibule. The girl had been spying through the side-light. ‘Tilly, is Papa in the downstairs study?’ she asked the maid, who was agog at the appearance of her escort. Mariah had forgotten how circumscribed their lives were. Of course Tilly would be interested in the earl’s tailored wool coat with his spotless waistcoat and carefully tied neck cloth. The men who normally visited here wore ill-fitting garments which were often stained with food. Not only that, but the earl had a clean-shaven face and the hair of his head was trimmed into a neat style that allowed his strong bones to be seen easily. Seen and admired, she thought.”

I’m sure there are many more, but please read on in the posts of my fellow robins from the list below.

This week saw the publication of the first instalment of my People’s Friend serial about The Edinburgh Seven. A Class of Their Own will run for 8 weeks.

Gerard Fay

Skye Taylor

Victoria Chatham

Connie Vines

Diane Bator

Beverley Bateman

Dr. Bob Rich

Fiona McGier

Helena Fairfax

Rhobin Courtright

Judith Copek

A Class of Their Own – The Edinburgh Seven

The Edinburgh Seven were ladies of unmatched determination in their pursuit of the RIGHT to matriculate in a British University and to study for a degree which would enable them to have their names added to the Medical Register.

Theirs is a story that has inspired and horrified in equal measure over the 152 years since five of them, led by Sophia Jex-Blake, took the first step and matriculated.

My story, starting today in The People’s Friend magazine, is a fictionalised account. I hope you, too, will share my wonder.

Illustration by GERARD FAY


Wednesdays are People’s Friend days

Regular readers know that I’ve spent a lot of the last year working on a major historical serial for The People’s Friend. It makes its appearance in the edition dated 21st August which wil be in the shops on Wednesday of next week. For those of you who are subscribers, it’ll be in your hands on Saturday of this week.

Nineteenth century medicine was practised by the cocks

Yesterday was ‘results’ day in Scotland. I received my share of brown envelopes, as they then were, and of course of euphoria and disappointment. But – I was able to sit those exams and own my results. Circumstances which did not always prevail in Great Britain and which do not prevail in many parts of the world today.

My research journey with Sophia Jex-Blake, her medical colleagues and the Edinburgh Stevenson sisters (Flora Stevenson School) was fascinating, eye-opening and heart-breaking.

There is a romance (thank goodness, Ed) and the serial is fictional.

Article by me about the Edinburgh Seven, published July 2019, The People’s Friend

If women’s struggle to become ‘real doctors’ interests you, then now’s the moment to reserve your copies.


Diary of a Writer – August Prompt

Clachtoll Rangers’ Hut – Now repaired

Back on Saturday from a week in Assynt. All much as usual but the Rangers’ hut door has been repaired. The hut itself, sadly, still closed. It’s a small space and ‘keeping people safe’ would be challenging.

So why a prompt? Well, maybe it’s time to begin thinking about the impacts of Covid-19 and to bring them into one’s writing. The door is an example – it could be repaired, joiner working on their own, but once repaired, it shuts off an informed and welcoming space.

Assynt itself is full of inspiration. Wonderful scenery, beaches (some still deserted despite the ubiquitous NC 500), excellent local food, a stag in velvet wandering the car park, a stoat on the shoreline, an otter in and out of the waves, young businesses setting up and striving and a range of local people who, like people eveywhere, comprise the welcoming and the not so welcoming. Constructive tension in abundance.

AND, AND we encountered NO MIDGES.


Look out for the People’s Friend dated 21st August as it contains the first instalment of my new Victorian era serial. In the shops on Wednesday 18th.

Has your own staycation been a source of inspration?