Friday, 7 October 2011


Having decided to head this blog with the title of my favourite western it will be interesting to see whether dividing it up like this actually works. Well, nothing ventured – nothing gained. So …


The sun has been shining and for a couple of days we were able to have our breakfast outside on the terrace. That seems almost inconceivable in October but then it has been a very strange year weather-wise. Some are suggesting that we are in for another hard winter but we shall just have to see. Certainly the holly trees in the garden are full of fruit – and ivy. They say that a heavy crop of holly berries precedes a hard winter but how can the holly trees think ahead like that? I suppose it is that a certain weather pattern during the spring and summer both creates the heavy berry crop and a cold winter but in that case you would have thought that the weather men would know about the connection but they appear not to. 

Although the ivy is doing our holly trees no good at all it does provide a fantastic habitat for all sorts of reasons. It provides shelter for innumerable insects, invertebrates and spiders as well as birds and bats – which also roost in our roof. At this time of the year the ivy flowers are an important source of pollen and nectar for wasps, butterflies, bees and flies. Later, during the spring, it is the berries that matter. They are slightly poisonous so cannot be eaten in large quantities but they have a high fat content which gives our birds invaluable energy when they need it most. Woodpigeons, starlings, blackbirds, thrushes and blackcaps (newly arrived having spent the winter on the continent) all feed on them. Other birds such as the tits (greater, blue, brown, coal and long-tailed), firecrests and other insect eaters also use the ivy as a handy larder.

Some people ask why there are two sorts of leaves on the ivy. The well known lobed ‘ivy shaped’ leaves (lower photo) are adapted to living in low light conditions. These are the one on the ivy found creeping along the ground or climbing up walls and trees. As the plant matures it throws out branches which include flowering shoots. Here the leaves are ovate. This only happens where there is sufficient light.

These holly trees grow on the bank between our garden and the field to our north east and shelter us from the worst of the bitterly cold winds that blow from that direction. I have a rather horrid feeling that the remaining two with their swathes of ivy are about to fall down as one did last winter. Fortunately some young hollies, some hazel bushes and a blackthorn growing on the old hedge line and we are doing all we can to encourage these.


Following our trip across to Holne, Marcia was beginning to think that we had found the location for her next book but when we paid a visit to Ashburton which would then be her people’s nearest sensible town, they didn’t seem to want to shop there. So, it seems unlikely that they are over on that side of the moor and that we are back to square one. This has happened many times before – and I shall keep you posted.

 The River Ashburn, from which the town takes it's name, can change from a gentle stream to a raging torrent following heavy rain up on the moors.

 There is still a rather lovely old fashioned feel about Ashburton.
Hard to imagine that it was not that long ago that this was the main road from Exeter down to Plymouth.

One thing that is quite surprising, and I think comes under ‘bad’, is that many of Marcia’s books refer to shops, caf├ęs, restaurants and even pubs that no longer exist. This is not surprising, of course. The loss of retail outlets as a result of out-of-town and internet shopping is a universal problem. I suppose that the fact that these places have a record in her novels is a good thing but readers who have visited the west country often email to say how disappointed they were to find that they could not find such-and-such.


An email arrived the other day. It was in the form of a comment left on the web site. This is what it said:

I am incredibly disappointed! I was on a website recently, trying to fill in book titles of yours so that I would have all that you had written. The website offered Amazon or The Book Depository. Turns out that I ordered 6 titles from the Depository, that Amazon did not have, and now I realize that I already have some of them, just with DIFFERENT titles. What a miserable trick and a horrendous expense. I have a library of over 2500 titles and love reading but you just lost a reader who was totally devoted to your work. Nasty, nasty. My family is from England and Wales and I have sent word across the pond not to purchase Marcia Willett books. How sad that such a dirty thing has been done!

I emailed straight back:

Whilst understanding your problem, it should be understood that the author has no control over the title that is used by publishers. This is explicit in all contracts. Unfortunately St Martins Press in the USA decided to use a different title from the one used by Marcia Willett's UK publisher. This is made as clear as possible on the web site.

Do not blame the author as that is unfair. Blame the publishers.

Thank you.

PS This message has NOT been passed to Marcia Willett as it would cause her great distress and there is no point in that, is there?

This message bounced back as the address the person had put on the comment form was wrong. This means there is no way of putting her right which I find rather distressing. We make quite a thing of this problem on the web site to try and stop people being disappointed but to underline it once again here are the books in question.

 'Those Who Serve': published in the USA under the title 'First Friends' and issued in two editions with different covers.

 'Thea's Parrot': published in the USA as 'A Friend of the Family'

'Forgotten Laughter': published in the USA as 'A Summer in the Country'