May 27th 2009

There you are.

Sorry I’ve been longer than usual, but I fell into the trap. I could see it coming but I couldn’t stop myself. I had managed to avoid it for a few years now, but in a weak moment I was caught and I succumbed and agreed. You see, I have always boasted that the queen can have anything she wants. And she can. She’s already got everything (everything that can be bought with money, that is), so it wasn’t a difficult commitment to make. But she thought of something she said we needed and, at first, I didn’t know what it could possibly be. She was of course referring to DDD, the Dreaded Disease of Decorating. And of all places, she wanting doing, was the kitchen. Yes, the kitchen ... the hub of domestic comfort and organization of the house.
Well, I wished I had emigrated.
For a start, we had quotes from all over the place and, of course, finished up with the dearest!
She had me running up and down looking for wallpaper. Not that colour, not that with roses. I like that Italian style with a jug and plate on it, she said. Not that. It looks old fashioned. That one is too modern. Who wants paper designed using a motif of squares and triangles? That cream one. Might as well get white, it’ll be cream soon enough! Too cheap, she said. How much is it a roll?
Fifty pence? Eighty pence? Oh no. Surely not a pound?
More than a pound?
Twenty pounds? she said.
For the whole room?
No. A roll. Twenty pounds a roll!
It has to be waterproof you see.
Yes, but does it have to keep out the North Sea? I asked
And it didn’t finish there, did it? We had to have plasterers in to tidy up a damp corner and while they were here, they replastered an entire wall in the pantry.
There’s more.
The queen said that the big kitchen cupboards screwed to the wall are a bit too high. A bit too high. After 38 years, a bit too high?
Could they be lowered?
Could they be lowered?
Lucky old Roger. They couldn’t be lowered because there was an electric socket in the way. And no, the electric socket could not be moved.
Well, you’ve got to put your foot down somewhere.

Anyway, the decorators came and went like a barium enema.
The kitchen looks lovely and clean. They’ve broken the TV aerial and banged the kitchen TV about that much so that I can’t get a picture anymore. And the new DAB radio is all spotted with white Dulux. And they’ve hidden the wall clock. I think they’ve papered over it.

What's more important to me is that they’ve also put a stop to my book. I can’t write with people running in and out like MPs at the Fees Office. Also I can’t stand the distraction of the smell of paint and a big bill hovering over my head, like that. This happened to me last year, I remember. I can’t recall what it was, but it took me a month to get my mind back into the right atmosphere and pick up the plot.
If the queen has a rush of blood and this daft idea comes up again, I have threatened to leave home, and stay in a posh hotel on a warm tropical island to write until the agony is over.

Moving on ...
I got an email from Jack Lindsey who lives near Stratford-On-Avon. He was a copper in Mexborough. (That’s about ten miles from here). I know Mexborough as having a great hospital there, the Montague, which relieved me of great pain in my back a couple of years ago. A surgeon used a specialised technique incorporating X ray and pain relieving injections. It is absolute magic.

Jack began criticising some of the things I had the pathologist do in IN THE MIDST OF LIFE. Also he pointed out that police cars now have blue lights flashing on their tops in emergency conditions not amber, as I had written. I’m sure he’s quite correct. Also he doesn’t have much of a good opinion of people from Barnsley. But he sugared the pill by saying, ‘My wife Mary and I are both avid readers of yours and find it difficult to discover an author that we both enjoy. Inspector Angel is a real gem and Mary sits there chuckling at your descriptive phrases.’

That’s nice, isn’t it? I shall tell Angel next time I see him.

Enjoy the rain, and come back soon.
May 9th 2009

Thanks for coming back.

I say, on Monday last, I was working away on my laptop as usual, when it started making a strange ticking noise, then an information box came up on the screen that I didn’t understand. I never understand what it says in those boxes anyway. They’re written by chimpanzees crossed with computer geeks who live in boxes like battery hens underground in California. They are thrown bananas and sugar-coated pep pills every six hours. Anyway, among other things, it said that I had done something illegal. Well, I haven’t done anything illegal for years!
Anyway, I quickly stuck a memory stick into the thing and fortunately saved all my work.
I couldn’t close the laptop down in the conventional way. The machine wouldn’t have it. It kept throwing up more information boxes full of threats, insults and telling me that I needed permission to do certain things.
These days I do pretty well what I want ... I don’t reckon I need anybody’s permission ... except maybe the queen’s.
Anyway, I switched off the electric at the plug, pulled out the cable, pulled the wire out of the transformer socket and the one out of the machine, but it still kept on throwing out orders, information and telling me I was doing everything wrong. That’s nothing new. I’ve known that for years. The little lights on the outside of the case kept blinking furiously showing me that things were desperate.
I knew there was a battery in it somewhere, so I turned it upside down. It didn’t like that – and sent out a groan. I quickly found the compartment where the battery was hidden and after a struggle with two catches that you have to operate simultaneously, managed to take it out. The laptop made a small hopeless resurgence for a second or two, then its lights went out, the screen went to black and it finally expired on the table in front of me.

That was that. It was caput. And so I was out of work. I needed a laptop, and I needed it straightaway. I dashed into town and had a quick look round, saw over fifty different models and came home with a beauty. New design. Fully guaranteed. Ideal for a writer. Every feature you can think of. Programmed ready. Just plug it in. As the man said, all I had to do was press the keys. It was so up to date, it would practically write the stuff for me! Magic.

I got it unpacked and followed the simple diagram enclosed to set it up. Then switched it on. Big screen. Lots of colour. Great sounds. It was like Wonderland. But to my horror I discovered that everything had changed. And I mean everything. I had been using a computer every day for about twelve years and suddenly I was lost. I couldn’t find anything that I understood. All the sequences had been changed and all the names of the moves had been changed, the jargon had changed. Only the mouse was the same. I am plodding through and with help from James who looks after the website I am disciplining the great monster and trying to get back to writing my book.

To something else ...
I had a super surprise in the post this morning. A voucher copy of MURDER IN BARE FEET in audio. It’s chiefly for the blind or registered blind, of course. It was recorded by the actor, Jonathan Keeble, who has recorded many other writers books ... he does Reginald Hill’s DALZIEL AND PASCO and others, so I am in good company.
I listened to a bit of it and it sounded just great. I understand it is out in the libraries and shops now.

You’re going to get more Angel in future. The publisher is changing the format of the Angel books to make them 30% bigger. I will therefore be writing the stories appropriately longer, which will be much better. I will have more space in which to develop the plot. And, for the same money, you will get more Angel. As I write this, I have just realised, everybody wins, except me. I won’t be getting any more money!

Got to go. You wouldn’t believe it. The queen wants me. Unusual. There’s a nasty smell on the patio. Grant, who does our garden has lifted an inspection cover and found that the drains are blocked. Will I do something about it? Yes. Find a plumber.

I’ll never get back to writing my book.

If you can stand the tension, come back soon.