I paid a quick visit last week to the Cheshire Show, a major event for the local rural community that benefited from truly glorious weather. There were countless stalls (even local solicitors were represented – hence my presence!) and many displays and exhibitions, as well as musical performances, motorcycle displays (see the middle photo) and processions. The mood was as sunny as the afternoon.
Although I’ve lived in or near to Cheshire for most of my life, I can’t claim to be deeply versed in the ways of the county’s many farming communities (and I’ve always found the very idea of fox-hunting a complete turn-off), but in recent years, I’ve come to value some aspects of traditional countryside lifestyles much more than I used to.
I used to think of myself as an urban writer, and my first eight books were set in cities. But, in writing the Lake District Mysteries, I’ve learned much more about the countryside – and the many threats that it faces. In working on The Serpent Pool, I was influenced by that sense of threat – in the book, there’s a palpable tension as pubs, schools, and post offices close, bus routes are scrapped, and people are almost tempted to feel they are living under siege. And from a crime writer's perspective, as Sherlock Holmes pointed out in 'The Copper Beeches', the smiling countryside can be a place where evil deeds are done in secret.
But at the Cheshire Show, there was no sense of menace, evil or fear. I found
the whole event thoroughly enjoyable. Though I wished I'd brought a sun hat.