Welcome, ladies and gents, to the first in what I hope will be a wonderful series of guest posts here at Over The Effing Rainbow. First up is the awesome Anne Lyle, who was good enough to provide a guest post inspired by the world setting from her Night’s Masque books. So without further ado, here’s her advice for navigating the twists and turns of her Elizabethan London…
Do’s & Don’ts in Elizabethan London
On the street
Elizabethan London is a lot like most fantasy cities: filthy and smelly with shockingly high poverty and a correspondingly high crime rate. Experienced travellers will therefore not need warning to be on the lookout for pickpockets, beggars and suchlike – and of course showers of shit being thrown out of upper-storey windows! However there are some hazards particular to the streets of England’s capital.
– In a tavern, don’t accept an offer of a drink from a stranger, especially if he asks you to look after his cloak whilst he takes the wine to be sweetened – this is a favourite trick of coney-catchers (con men) and the landlord will charge you the cost of his stolen silver jug
– Do note that whilst men dress as women on the stage, cross-dressing in public is frowned upon and may lead to a spell in the stocks
– Do also remember that homosexuality and duelling are technically illegal, so we recommend discretion (or being so rich & powerful that the constables daren’t arrest you)
– Don’t criticise Queen Elizabeth, her son and heir Prince Robert, the Privy Council or the Church of England unless you fancy a visit to one of the city’s fine (i.e. squalid & brutal) prisons on charges of heresy, sedition and/or treason
– Don’t mention the summer you spent clubbing in Ibiza either – you’ll be suspected of being a) Catholic b) a white slave trader or c) both
– Do visit the royal mint and armouries at the Tower of London, and also the royal menagerie, home of the only lions in England. Expect to have to tip the yeoman warders at every step, unless you go with a local – foreigners are considered fair game!
– Do set aside plenty of time to enjoy the pleasure-gardens of Bankside, with their theatres, brothels and bear-baiting arena. Forget Shakespeare – the most popular play in London is “The Spanish Tragedy” by Thomas Kyd.
– Do feel free to talk during plays, though for the comfort of your fellow playgoers we do ask that you use the buckets at the ends of the galleries rather than pissing in the yard. Also, if you wish to take advantage of any of the whores who frequent the theatres, please ensure that the sound of your rutting does not drown out the actors’ speeches
– Don’t meddle with the swans on the Thames, as they belong to the Queen
– Don’t try to cross London Bridge on horseback unless you have hired a local mount that’s used to the crowds – and keep to the left, as you would on the highway. You’re in England now!
These visitors from the New World are easily identified by their swirling facial tattoos and elongated canine teeth, but don’t worry – they don’t bite!
– Don’t turn up at the encampment in Southwark and expect a warm welcome – skraylings like to keep to themselves and rarely admit humans into their enclave
– Do visit Billingsgate Market, where you’ll find a wondrous array of goods from the New World for sale: pottery and gold from the Andes, turquoise and jade from the Kingdom of Mexica, skins and leathers from the southern jungles, and stone carvings from the vast plains of the west – and of course a variety of delicious foodstuffs
– Do taste any skrayling food cautiously – the aliens are fond of spicing their dishes with a burning pepper called “chilli”
– Do visit a skrayling apothecary if you feel unwell – they’re far more competent than local human physicians, who are more likely to make you worse than better
We hope you have a wonderful time in this, the largest city in Northern Europe. Just keep your purse hidden and your mouth shut!
* Footnote: a few of the tips from the sightseeing section are lifted from “Shakespeare’s London on Five Groats a Day” by Richard Tames; the rest are my own.
So there you have it! Many thanks to Anne – and if you’re new to her books, the first two in the Night’s Masque series, The Alchemist Of Souls and The Merchant Of Dreams, are out now. The third book, The Prince Of Lies, will be released soon – you can find details here. You can also find Anne at her website, on Twitter and on Facebook.