Researcher, writer of historical, paranormal, and general fiction. Poet.
My social media presence consists of an addiction to Twitter/Facebook:
My blogging presence is historical, but fairly influential in the spheres of theatre history (always a surprise to me):
I also blog about general history and here I find inspiration for my fiction:
The Swan Circle
The Guinea Ghost
The Sea Of Conscience
Waves To Light (September 2015)
The Air Jacket
Autumn has arrived with gentle winds and mild mornings. From his lodgings the cordwainer leans from the window and looks up at the sky. He wants to see the sun upon London's silty river and feel its rays across his forehead, but cloud shrouds the gables and overhangs of the city's crowded tenements. Still, it should be warm enough for the experiment and the river will not chill Mrs Randell and Mr Pavey to an early grave. They should survive to regale the tale to the various sharpers and charlatans who frequent the inns and taverns of Blackfriars and Southwark. Mr Cobb knows his invention works, it has been tested by his friend Mr Tinkler on the Broads where many a vagrant has met a watery fate.
Mr Tinkler a smith from Norwich has been his friend near twenty years. They have worked together on this passion of his with an assiduity he could only have hoped for from such a dear friend. And there he will be, standing beside him as the Thames rushes by with their helpers bringing to a culmination two years of experimentation.
Mr Cobb leans back from the window and attends to his own dress. He places about his shoulders a great coat and upon his head a chapeau bras, for though it is not cold, the wind gusts along the foreshores of the great river. He leaves his lodgings and walks along the claggy lane to London Bridge.
He spots Mr Tinkler and utters, 'Hollo, how and now?'
'Well Bill, well. Do you see the gathering yonder? They got word of our venture and have assembled to watch. The more, the word spreads, eh?'
'Indeed Robert, indeed!'
Mr Tinkler has always had 'plans of wonder' and shapes his white metal into wondrous, magical things. He believes some day the world will be his, he will emerge from his social rank and climb high enough to be a merchant or an inn keeper. Mr Cobb and his passion suits him, his ambition is elevated by Mr Cobb's needs and though he himself is understanding and true to them, they fuel his dreams.
How bitter are Mr Cobb's own dreams and memories for he has endured more pain then he thought was possible. His son gone, taken from him by a French frigate that pummelled his son's ship until it was ripped in twain and he fell to a cold death deep in the waters of the Caribbean.
He stares at the Thames and sees the corpse of a dog float by. He hopes Mrs Randell is unperturbed by such sights. He sees her, a middle-aged woman in a white mob cap with red ribbons, she is plump and pretty.
She had seen the notice in a Blackfriar's coffee shop and had sent word to Mr Tinkler she would be interested in attending and taking part in the experiment, just for something to do. She longed for something different, for in her head was excitement, a yearning and she wanted a reality where it actually existed.
Instead she tried to escape from her abusive husband, and having managed to evade his machinations to send her to Bedlam, her mind slowly turned to the young carpenter across the lane. She felt a love for the man she knew would never be requited, for both of them were married and she was some fifteen years older. It could never be. So here she was standing by the river alongside a tall man from Southwark who was to join her in this watery venture.
He had been a thief taker and not an honourable one at that. Many a time he had a planted a bundle of clothes for some unsuspecting lad, who happily took charge of them before Pavey nabbed him for theft, seen him sent to the gallows and collected his reward. Now Pavey was reformed, no more fraudulent dealings and a chance to be part of an historic moment.
He steps forward first as Mr Tinkler fits the air jacket about his waist, closes the buckles Tinkler has made to secure the jacket and gives Mr Pavey a pair of foot paddles. He places them on his feet and takes from a friend a small linen sack which contains a cheese sandwich and a pistol. Mr Tinkler pumps air into the jacket and proceeds to go through the same routine with Mrs Randell who has decided to perform the experiment without the props Mr Pavey has brought, but keeps her mob cap on.
'Ladies and gentleman,' Mr Cobb addresses the large crowd. 'I give you Messrs Cobb and Tinkler's patent air jacket.' And with a nod from Mr Tinkler, Mrs Randell and Mr Pavey jump into the Thames. The assembly give a little gasp to see them both bob and float upon the surface of the water. Mr Pavey fires his pistol in celebration and eats his sandwich, the efficacy of Cobb and Tinkler's device proven. The crowd applaud and after several minutes floating on the river, Mrs Randell and Mr Pavey are helped from the water.
She is exhilarated, but the realisation of normality is soon upon her. She will take that moment though, that brief thrill of floating on the current and accepts Mr Cobb's offer of a visit to the local inn to dry off. Cobb thanks his friend Tinkler and clasps his hand with an almost violent appreciation.
As the crowd disperse and people begin to go about their usual business, Mr Pavey calls his friend and they head south along London Bridge to Southwark, the water clings to his breeches and he smells of sewage and pistol shot, but he is happy to have survived and pleased he will make tomorrow's paper.
Back along the river bank Mrs Randell can only think of delaying the inevitable: the long walk home. She smiles at Mr Cobb while she takes off her foot paddles and puts on her shoes. He glows back at her, ecstatic to have completed his work. Now is the time to celebrate, now is the time to thank God for saving lives if sometimes all too briefly or too late. Whatever it is they have achieved, Cobb and Tinkler's task is done and so Cobb gives a little jump in the air as he waits for his friend. They leave the bank side for the inn and for one moment Mr Tinkler feels history rushing towards him.
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