Most of the Warriors of Love novels are set in what is now south east England. The names England and English are never used, and seem long forgotten. The ghost of the word English appears in Daisy.
My sentence remained unfinished, Liz had already gone – slipping away as unobtrusively as she’d appeared. At almost the same moment, Heather approached, bearing two plates of fried food. The smell stronger, now, I realised how hungry I was. With pleasure, I saw that there was plenty to eat: three sausages and two eggs for each of us – plus mushrooms and thick slices of fried bread.
“Wow!” Sally said. “I haven’t seen the like of that since… well, not for years. It’s what my genny calls a full and glesh breakfast.”
“Glesh?” Heather asked. “Is that a Welsh word?”
“No, I don’t think it is… and, come to think of it, I’m not sure what it means. I’ve never heard anything, apart from a breakfast, called glesh.”
“Back in the bad old days of the Democracy, and in the wicked kingdoms,” I said, “people used to eat slaughtered slaves. They called the meat blesh, which sounds much the same.”
“Are you trying to say, Daisy,” Sally asked, “that these sausages are made from slaves?”
“They’re more than half bread,” Liz said, having reappeared. It was almost as though she flickered into and out of existence. “With pork, and a few herbs.”
“So take your plates,” Heather added, “and no more silly talk.”
With a full English breakfast corrupted to a full and glesh breakfast, the date is clearly in the distant future – though how distant is a good deal less clear. We, in twenty-first century – and all of the previous centuries – live in the Old Time. In Jane, Alison thinks that was one or two thousand years ago.
Nicola picked up the pink folder, and we followed Alison from the room. She led us up and down staircases, and through a labyrinth of passageways. Aware that we might need to visit Lady Jenna repeatedly, I tried to memorise the way. Given my poor sense of direction, the attempt would have been futile had our route been less than half as complex. Not for the first time, I marvelled at the ability of ex-slaves to navigate through the palace.
“Whoever designed this place must have been crazy,” I said.
“What the Palace Victoria?” Alison asked. “Or just this bit of it?”
“The whole palace, really. Who would have set out to create such a maze?”
“I don’t suppose that anyone ever did. The oldest parts are supposed to have been built during the Old Time. Over the last thousand years, or two thousand, or however long it is, people have been adding to it, making changes. It’s grown more like some monstrous vegetable than a set of buildings.”
“Or a fungus,” Nicola added, grimacing at a growth of mould near the ceiling.
In Jane and Daisy, Nicola regards the Old Time as an era vanished for two or three thousand years. Since Nicola’s mother is an historian, perhaps this reflects scholars’ estimates.
“Boys at the university,” Sally said, “it seems like the sort of thing that would have happened a million years ago – back in the Old Time.”
“I think,” Nicola corrected her, “that the Old Time was only two or three thousand years ago. Well south of a million years, anyway.”
“The Old Time,” Penny said firmly, “was an age of wickedness and blasphemy. The only good thing to come out of it was the modern age… and, if you ask me, it’s better to avoid anything anyone wrote in those days.”
Penny is far from the only one to think that the modern age – the age of the Warriors of Love – was the only good thing to emerge from the Old Time. As Tuerqui says:
Most certainly, I should not reiterate criticism of a great artist, a noble lady, a generous and kindly woman. For all of that, I continue to feel troubled by the fact that she freely admitted to picking up such notions from Old Time books. Whatever some clever persons might believe, I am sufficiently old fashioned to think that the only good to come out of the Old Time was the modern age.
So, what do we know of the Old Time and its fall?