“Nos Da, Cariad”, means “Goodnight, Sweetheart” in Welsh. And that should tell you almost all the is to know about this story unless you DON’Y know that “Goodnight, Sweetheart” was a popular song during World War II and the title of a comedy series about a man who found a time portal between the 1940s and the present day. Armed with either of those facts you should be able to work out that this story is about Ianto’s eight months in 1940/41 while his ‘cariad’, Alun was in 2009 waiting for him.
Quite early on in planning this story I decided on the format of telling it all through the letters kept in the archive for Alun to read. There were several reasons for doing it that way. First, because I wanted to do it that way. An epistolic story is actually a tricky piece of literature because it means that the action is all told second hand through the writer and third hand through the reader of the epistle. The classic epistolic novel, incidentally, is Dracula. If you haven’t read it, do so, and you’ll get what I was aiming for here.
Cardiff in the Blitz is, for most of us, a second hand tale, anyway. Those who remember the 1940s are fewer and fewer and it is much more remote for those born afterwards. So in a way, it was an appropriate way to tell the overall story of Ianto living in the fear, the hope, the uncertainty and expectation of those times.
I originally intended him to arrive on the day war broke out and to stay until mid-way through 1940. But in order to put him into the Blitz I actually had to move it on to late 1940. Much of the first year was quiet for Cardiff. It meant that I couldn’t use one of my first ideas for the 1940s Torchwood, which was a ghost boat arriving in the port from Dunkirk, and the story of Ernst the German with visions of the future had to have some dates altered.
Mrs Bydder, the landlady who thinks Ianto needs feeding up is a bit of a caricature, of course. She owes a little to the landlady of a dismal Dublin boarding house who is the centre of many of the sketches of Flann O’Brien. If you have ever read O’Brien, you know what I mean. If not, don’t worry about it. I rather liked the idea, though, of the older woman feeling motherly towards Ianto and bringing him food.
Lydia, of course, is also an older woman in his life. And she really DOES have a thing for him. He has a bit of a thing for her, too. I toyed with the idea of them sleeping together. But decided in the end to keep the relationship close, tender, but ultimately platonic. Ianto waits to get home to his real lover.
I’m not sure when Weevils arrived in Cardiff exactly, but I do get the impression they’ve been around a while. So having their first appearance take place during Ianto’s visit opened up some possibilities. First, for that Darwinian discussion which was perfectly feasible for the time. Secondly, for the drastic way they were killed, which in the context of the war was utterly horrific.
Charlie Dwyer was, originally, going to be an IRA man with home made bombs under his bed, as they suspected him to be. I decided, instead, to make him an alien because it was easier to be sympathetic to an alien than an IRA man, really. His story is just one more in this sequence of little stories all coming together in a similar way to the Fragments episode of Torchwood Season Two on television, but without being a direct duplicate of that idea.
Then there is the big uncertainty. Can Ianto get back? Thinking up a plausible idea why he couldn’t was complicated. The idea of three trips being deadly came together first. THEN I realised that he COULD just freeze himself. So I had to come up with the excuse that all the cryogenic freezers were in use. Then there had to be some medical reason why Hardinge died. He is named, incidentally, after a girl from school who I didn’t get on with very much. I very often use people who annoy me as baddies in my stories. Many of the so-called technical experts at MSN came to thorny ends in my fiction.
But to get back to the point, I looked up the functions of the kidneys. I knew, generally, that they cleaned out impurities from the blood. But I found a list of the impurities and made a guess that if those elements were significantly increased by the act of travelling back and forwards in a time slip, then it could kill. But not if it was possible to start a dialysis treatment immediately. I looked up mobile dialysis machines and discovered that there is one in South Wales. Whether it could be put on standby in that way, is another matter. But, anyway, I needed to get poor Ianto back!
The final part where they get him back was rewritten a few times. Originally I intended a scene where Ianto comes through the time slip and then him waking up in the hospital. But really that would have been too much. It only really needed the scene with him waking with Alun beside him.