As part of our Arachne 5th Anniversary celebrations, we’ve asked all of our authors to come up with a blog, that might have something to do with writing or anniversaries. Some of them responded! This one is from Carolyn Eden who we published in Liberty Tales.
One chilly afternoon a few years ago I found myself chatting to a chap in the local health club’s Jacuzzi. I’d just completed a leisurely gym work-out, swum a few lengths of the heated pool and was contemplating either a visit to the steam room or the sauna or, indeed, both. The Jacuzzi had always been my favourite place to “zone out” and often, lying there with my eyes closed and my body partially afloat, I would find that as my aches drifted away solutions to niggling problems would bubble into my brain.
“It’s great here, isn’t it?” I said to the young man wallowing next to me.
“Yup, freezing outside,” he replied.
Then the thought that inspired “Free White Towel” blasted into my brain. “Give me,” I said, “ten good reasons why we should ever leave this building.”
I don’t remember what he replied and I certainly didn’t manage to think of ten reasons to leave because I rapidly became caught up in the idea that a leisure club was the ideal sanctuary; the bolt-hole I’d run to if there were a crisis of impending doom.
At a leisure club members can eat in the café, drink free water from the fountains, watch television screens as they pound the exercise machines, read newspapers or surf the internet in the lounge area, snooze on the loungers by the pools, sweat in the hot rooms, cool down in the showers where they can wash and preen using the complimentary toiletries.
Much of the idea was inspired by the story of the man who lived in the limbo of an airport and it wasn’t much of a leap for me to then get the idea that for a homeless person this place would be an improvement on the Spartan airport home, if they could blag their way in, or just afford the monthly fees (a good deal cheaper than the rent on a bedsit). The lockers were big enough to contain a cabin-sized piece of luggage and relatively secure. And then, everywhere I went people were handing out freebies at stations, and I wondered could you keep yourself fed that way, provided you didn’t look destitute?
The clincher was the free white towel that all members were given as they entered the leisure club. Cleanliness is the friend of normalcy.
And so my story “Free White Towel” was born in a whirlpool near Woking. Pamela, my heroine, was able to run away from her abusive husband into this sanctuary of warmth and moistness.
The original was a long poem, read at the first Liberty Tales event back in June 2014 to celebrate the 800th anniversary of the signing of Magna Carta. Excited by the ideas still flowing I wanted to turn it into a much longer tale; a novel. Pam was to be widowed and then the victim of a con-man, but my editor, the wonderful Cherry Potts, soon pared the story down to the essence of a vulnerable woman reinventing herself. The novel may emerge eventually, as I am still fascinated by how someone can live without a home and still look respectable, without resorting to anything more criminal than liberating a left-over portion of muesli.