Friday, 10 January 2014

When the night wind howls

When the night wind howls
In the chimney cowls,
And the bat in the moonlight flies,
And the inky clouds,
Like funeral shrouds,
Sail over the midnight skies . . .

(From the comic opera Ruddigore: lyric by W S Gilbert)

This last week, it has been the weather that has dominated the news and, as you can believe, our lives. Without wishing to become embroiled in the arguments surrounding global warming or climate change or what have you, I am convinced that there is much more energy in the atmosphere than there was. We seem to experience more gale force winds for longer periods of time and with even more powerful gusts than hitherto. These gales seem to be carrying more rain which must have been picked up by the wind as it crosses the sea. We are told that this is due to the jet stream being stronger than usual. I am happy to accept that but where is all this extra energy coming from?

After a good deal of thought, I realise that other than there is only one sensible photograph to put here other than the blog dog so, instead, I am showing you some rather self-indulgent pictures of the sky.
For the record, but mainly because we have kept away from the places we knew to be affected, we have come through unscathed. Having said that, there was a tree down over a lane we use every time we go into Totnes which, it seems, missed a passing car by inches.

One of our problems (if that is the right word in this case) is that Marcia enjoys a worldwide readership. This means that we are acutely aware of the effects of extreme weather events no matter where they are happening. It seems such a short time ago that we were worrying about people in Australia whose homes were threatened by the forest fires which resulted from a prolonged drought. Now it is North America that is taking a hammering - and not for the first time. We have been watching the weather maps for the other side of the pond with growing concern and we find ourselves worrying about you all.

We are also thinking about readers in the UK. So much water everywhere with people being flooded time and time again as rivers burst their banks or in coastal areas by high spring tides made even higher by low pressure and the strong winds overpowering sea defenses.

We seem to be over the worst now and so yesterday we popped into Totnes to do some shopping. Incidentally, while we were there we bumped into Storm who, as you may remember, was our blog dog back in August. He and his people live on a barge that is moored up Old Mill Creek. Despite the awful weather, they all seem to be thriving.

We had heard that the High Street had been blocked because of problems with a property. It turned out that this was the one in which the shoe shop “Conkers” lives and which is next door to the bistro we often use (and used yesterday) called “Rumour”.

"Conkers", between two bistros, Rumour up the hill and La Fouchette, is now the site of intense activity. They are getting on very well and it should be as god as new within a few more days.
It seems that the front was thick plaster on lathes of wood nailed across timber frames - all has been there for a few hundred years so you can be sure that over that time all the nails had rusted away and the timbers had begun to rot. Then came this awful weather and I am told that the whole of the front started to shake away with bits of plaster hitting cars and falling into the road. Rapid response by the authorities ensured that the road was closed before anyone was hurt and a team of scaffolders arrived on site very quickly to shore everything up. Now builders are busy seeing what needs to be done by way of repairs.

People love the old medieval houses we have in places like Totnes and Dartmouth. What they don’t always realise is that the reason we have them is that until very recently nobody could afford to tear them down and build something more sensible. Then they began to be cherished (rightly so) as a window into the past but the costs involved in repairing them when things go wrong can be astronomical – especially if you bear in mind that they have to be repaired in accordance with some very strict laws laid down in regard to what are called “Listed buildings of historic interest”.

On the wall under East Gate was this. Why?
Now for some rather more cheerful thoughts. Not surprisingly, we have received lots of emails from readers who have loved Postcards from the Past. Marcia is, of course, delighted that people are enjoying it and really thrilled when told that, as a result, they have re-read The Christmas Angel. These emails are arriving at a very good time. Most authors dread “the desert” or the middle bit of the book. The excitement associated with having a new group of characters has worn off and the finishing line is far to far away to act as a motivator. That leaves self-discipline: getting in front of the computer and hitting the keys even when the very last thing you want to do (ever again) is sit in front of a computer and hit the keys. Marcia, as you would expect, has that self-discipline which is why every year, on time, she delivers another wonderful novel. You help hugely by leaving comments here and sending her your emails: please keep it up.

This week's blog dog is a Jack Russell who answers to the name of Rizla. When we were in Totnes, we bumped into Storm who, as you may remember, was our blog dog back in August.