As she devoured her Full Yorkshire the following morning, Celia downloaded a message from Laura at the festival, asking her to remove her tweet from the night before. Thinking she must be mistaken – Celia had no recollection whatsoever of sending any tweets – she ignored the message and carried on eating.
She had a very busy day indeed ahead of her. Laura’s typical young-person inability to judge just how long everything actually took was going to have poor Celia running around the county like a wild thing. At least, though, she was going home the following day. And, of course, she had the delights of finally meeting @RiponOff44 at Fountains Abbey in the afternoon.
But not, sadly, before she got through a lot of other meetings. Ripon Prison and Workhouse museum were on the schedule for the morning, followed by Ripon Cathedral. Only then – and, at the thought, a frisson of excitement stirred her –would she be able to escape to Fountains Abbey.
The added bonus – which seemed an almost unimaginable luxury at this point in the week – was that Laura was allowing her to take a taxi from Ripon to Fountains Abbey, because it was off the main road and there was no direct bus service in the winter months.
Mindful of the demanding schedule she had ahead of her, Celia grabbed a handful of miniature Gordons and Smirnoff bottles from her hotel suite mini bar, in case she needed a pick-me-up.
On her way to the bus stop, her feet wincing from all the walking she had done over the past couple of days, she stopped at a little boutique that had piqued her curiosity a couple of times in passing and picked up a pair of sturdy Church’s riding boots – not her normal style, but she had become infected by the local country aesthetic, and her poor feet wouldn’t be able to stand another day of wobbling around in Louboutin heels.
‘Could you mind these for me, please?’ she asked, handing her expensive shoes to the girl behind the counter. ‘Keep them in the boot box and I’ll pick them up either tonight or tomorrow.’
‘What name shall I write on the box?’ the shop girl asked.
‘Celia Fairweather,’ Celia said, with her usual flourish.
The girl looked up at her, eyebrows raised.
‘Yes. The author.’ Celia smiled dazzlingly.
‘No. I didn’t mean that… I mean, is that Celia with a C or an S?’ the girl asked.
Celia found her tour of the Ripon Museums – which comprised the Workhouse, the Courthouse and the Police and Prison Museums – rather trying.
Yes, it might well seem cruel to have locked people up because they were poor, itinerant or destitute, or unmarried and pregnant, but surely it was better than letting them starve? And didn’t most of them bring it on themselves, anyway? Celia found herself objecting to the liberal moral stance the museum’s curator took as she showed her around. What else would have happened to the poor wretches? No, Celia objected, much as she had objected to Dickens when she read him.
The other problem about the Workhouse Museum was that it was teeming with several schools’ worth of eight year olds, all dressed up in Victorian clothes, excitedly whacking old rugs with carpet beaters, operating mangles, learning about the Workhouse diet. Really, the constant hubbub and excitement was too much for Celia to bear. She had something of an allergy to small children
But she kept her mouth shut and pretended to be interested, so that she could get the whole thing over and done with as soon as possible, jump in that taxi and get to Fountain’s Abbey and her meeting with the heavenly @RiponOff44.
The museums were in separate buildings spread around the town centre, so there was quite a bit of charging along streets to get from one to another. While Celia’s new boots were flatter than her usual shoes, she was beginning to realise that they might have benefitted from being worn in more gradually.
At least, though, the day was brighter than it had been all week. Although it was freezing cold, the sky was blue and a weak sun brightened everything. Even a sore heel and a squelching blister couldn’t take the anticipatory spring out of Celia’s step.
The curator took her through the Courthouse – which Celia thought was rather a sweet little building that would make a far nicer house than it did a museum – then on to the Prison Museum, where she showed Celia how prisoners were put in straitjackets and restraining chairs or made to step on treadmills for hours or to work a hand crank full of sand which they had to turn ten thousand times a day.
‘Yes, yes,’ Celia said, moving on. She noticed the impertinent look the museum curator shot at her at this point, but she didn’t let it spoil her mood.
Her attention was diverted briefly by a display of old ledgers bearing photographs and details of criminals from the late 1800s. The curator – who, as Celia had suspected, had confessed that her background was as some sort of artist – had arranged for some of the pictures to be blown up and displayed in a small exhibition. Unlike most posed photographs of the era, these informal mug shots looked eerily contemporary: you could really get a sense of the character of the person in each one.
Celia was fascinated. These pictures could be extremely useful – perhaps even form the inspiration for a historical crime novel. She carefully photographed each one to tuck away for later – there was no way she was going to waste this gold-dust on the bloody Theakstons Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival short story.
‘Well thank you so much,’ Celia said at the exit to the Prison museum. She over-egged the charm to underplay her relief that the tour was over and she was one step closer to @RiponOff44 and Anne Boleyn’s seat – whatever that was.