Five Houses and It actually started from a very odd dream I had. The key differences were the involvement of Torchwood and the location of the houses. In the dream it all took place in the street I lived in about fifteen years ago. The wishes that came true were all money-related except for one resident who wanted their child back. Yes, I have very strange dreams, usually amazingly detailed. If I wrote them all down I could cover most of the BBC drama output.
Anyway, it was obviously going to be a Torchwood story, and I quite quickly decided it ought to be a Torchwood Glasgow story with Toshiko as the one who becomes most closely involved with the affected people.
I began with a wonderfully normal setting. As with my Cardiff based stories I like to use real locations, and I put Owen and Toshiko’s house in the Tollcross area of Glasgow. This gave them convenient access to Tollcross Park and to the leisure centre with the world class swimming pools just on the other side of the park. I am guessing that a public leisure centre in the heart of a residential community would have the sort of mother and toddler swimming sessions described. Most such places do, but most of the information online about Tollcross is focussed on its fifty metre Olympic standard pool for top class swimming competitions rather than community use. As good as it is to see a fifty metre pool open to the public these days, I hope they don’t forget the ordinary people who would want to use it for much less energetic purposes.
Anyway, this is the place where Toshiko first meets Caroline and her daughter, Sally, and is curious about their story. The whole scene appears completely irrelevant to anything Torchwood related for quite some time after that. This is deliberate. I really needed the reader to have forgotten about Caroline until she answers the door in the last house in the Fauld and the story begins to come together.
The actual five houses making up the Fauld are not real geography, but they are the sort of properties that might be found between Tollcross and Shettleston. One of the roads mentioned as Munroe and Toshiko travelled to the site of the alien crash landing was Braidfauld Street. I used the last part, Fauld, to make a convincing Scottish name for a place. It is basically a Scots spelling/dialect pronunciantion of ‘fold’ meaning a sheep fold or sheep pen.
The rather whimsical title of the story ‘Five Houses and It’ obviously plays with the title of the children’s book ‘Five Children and It’ which deals with a magical creature that grants wishes to the five children of the title. In the book, by Edith Nesbitt, one of the most famous Edwardian children’s writers, the wishes only last a day. Here they last forever, but as Toshiko pointed out, they may well happen at the expense of somebody else.
I actually thought there was some mythological basis for the Psammead, perhaps from Arabian literature, like genies and other wish-granting creatures, but apparently it was invented by Nesbitt. That’s something I learnt from writing this story, anyway.
Obviously, even Owen at his grumpiest wouldn’t take a child away from a woman, so the decision to keep the alien in Torchwood custody long term is the only one possible. It’s hard on the alien, but good for the people of the Fauld.