Friday, 10 February 2012

A fatal flaw and the flow of words

Since this week included Charles Dicken’s two-hundredth birthday, a misquote seems allowable.

It has been the worst of weeks and the best of weeks.

On Tuesday (yes, the exact day) I booted up the computer and found myself staring at a very scary error message. A quick telephone to Graham (our local computer doctor) confirmed that I should be afraid, very afraid. He told me to touch nothing and he would be over as quickly as he could.

He found a near fatal flaw on the hard disc and discovered that the cause was almost certainly started by our modem going faulty. Don’t ask for I do not understand. All I know is that Graham rang our ISP and asked them to see if they could see a problem and it seems that the modem was clicking in and out in a way that it shouldn’t. Anyway, whatever caused what and in which order is of academic interest only. Putting things right was the priority.

I have an external hard drive and he backed everything up onto that, switched the computer off and took it away to replace the hard disc. It is horrific how difficult life becomes when something like this happens. You feel as though part of you is missing which is ridiculous – if we had been going away for a few days we would not be able to receive any emails, Tweets and all the rest of it so the obvious thing was for me to chill out and wait until yesterday when it came back home. Obvious, yes: possible, no. I spent the whole time fretting unit lunchtime yesterday when the computer was back home and working well and the time came to install the new modem. That took rather longer than I expected and we weren’t fully functional until early evening. Still, all that is in the past and the time has come to relax and catch up.

I am afraid we lost a few emails on the way through. If you sent us one or left a message on one of the web sites and have not had a reply, please accept our apologies and send your message again.

It was also the best of weeks for Marcia has been hard at work on the new book and passed the forty thousand word barrier yesterday. The best part of each day for me has been to read what she has written. Already I am totally engaged in these new characters whose lives she is unfolding and, as often happens, delighted to see some old friends.

Obviously it is far to early for me to reveal anything at all about this new story but I can say that the pictures on this blog may give you a few clues - except for the last which was sent to me by one of Marcia's readers,  Naomi Bates who has these exotics in her garden in Australia.

Meanwhile I am sure you will remember that Marcia had a lovely review in Le Figaro which I tried to translate. Well, a very kind French teacher called Lesley Eyre has sent us a far, far better translation by email and it gives me great pleasure to share it with you all.

Willa Marsh is Jane Austen with the humour of Blake Edwards. She knows how to portray the English countryside which, since Austen, everybody imagines to be inhabited by spinsters looking for love, and by single landowners out to seduce. In her latest novel, Murder at the Manor, the author imagines two disgraceful old aunts who are quite happy to lace their tea with hallucinogenic plant extracts and ghostly spirits worthy of Conan Doyle. That’s the British touch. And as for the humour, it pops up regularly, black and caustic. The most wicked characters are never the ones you suspect, and the good ones always end up revealing a somewhat twisted nature. Here, Clarissa thinks she has won the lottery when Thomas, a charming widower, offers her his heart and his beautiful manor house. The young Londoner is very soon disenchanted. The countryside is very dull with no friends and no entertainment. And isn’t the beautiful manor haunted? Enter a handsome cousin. There is an accident. Then Clarissa’s best girlfriend arrives and becomes involved.
Willa Marsh has the reader wrapped round her little finger. She goes from burlesque to tragedy as coolly as an English aristocrat, with humour tempering the cynicism of the story. Welcome to the manor!

Much, much better. Many thanks, Lesley.