Technologically Challenged

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Technological Challenge

The phone rang as I was leaving for London last week. It was to cancel the appointment I was going up there to attend. Two minutes later and I would have been out of the door; ten minutes later I would have been on the train.  ‘You must give me your mobile number,’ the girl said, ‘in case I miss you next time.’

Ah, but you see, that’s the point! We have no mobile reception at home. Unless we sit in the attic. Even on the train it doesn’t kick in for about ten miles.  All round the carriage you see people texting furiously, then they sit, seemingly frozen into immobility holding their phones on their laps, almost embarrassed by the silence, until we reach  the magic place where the rails begin imperceptibly to climb and suddenly the quiet space is loud with the pinging of sent messages!   And, alas, the ringing of incoming calls!

It is the same at my cottage in Wales. Quite simply put, the mountain is in the way. I can get reception at the top of the garden. We have a bench there so when, as happened a few weeks ago, a neighbour cut the underground BT line with his plough, I had to sit up there under an umbrella  (yes, it was raining again,)  to make all my calls on the mobile. In the dark as it happened so no one could see, if there was anyone there to see, the glass of whisky perched on the arm of the bench, diluting slowly with clear cold rain water!

This phone-disenfranchised life is an everyday occurrence to many of us. A great many of us, if recent comments in the press are anything to go by, those of us who live in ‘not spots’.

So, imagine my wrath and indignation when last year a reviewer criticised Warriors Princess as stretching credulity too far.  I could cope with her criticising all sorts of things in my books, that is her right and her job if she had not enjoyed the book, but not the technology! When my character, Jess, finds her landline (on a Welsh mountainside!) is broken, and discovers that she has forgotten to charge her mobile, she is cut off from the world. It happens.   To me and to loads of other people but not apparently to this lady who, presumably lived in a town. Lucky her!  She probably had dozens of bars on her phone and a speedy Broadband as well. (Don’t get me started on Broadband. Suffice to say, owing to our foolishness in living nearly 8 miles from the exchange we are in one of those trendily-labelled ‘not spots’!

I know authors are not supposed to take offence or indeed respond at all to adverse reviews, and we should maintain a lofty distance from any remarks which might cut to the quick, but oh boy did that one hurt!

And so it came to pass, a couple of months ago, my editor read the first draft of my new novel ‘Time’s Legacy’ and within hours I had an agitated message. ‘You’ve made Abi leave her mobile in her handbag in the kitchen, when she goes out!’


‘No one does that!’

‘No one? I do it all the time.’

‘And remember what happened with Warrior’s Princess!’

Remember indeed!

And so, my critical friend, you have had a hand in directing the course of my new novel. I have given Abi a pocket. (Something, incidentally, so few women’s clothes seem to have unless they wear jeans or have some kind of jacket. Have you noticed how many characters in TV films and sitcoms are carrying their phones in their hands when they need them?  As do kids, of course. And City people... Perhaps they don’t need their hands for anything else.

But, oh dear,  and I don’t think this information will spoil the story for you, when Abi carries her phone triumphantly out into the countryside she finds, as will you gentle reader if you venture far from technology  super hubs, that there  is no signal to be had.  To my mind, just like real life!






Rowena on 05/12/11

I love your books. Cellphone left behind .. SO WHAT!!!! don't change the way you are writing a story because of one stupid woman. Jeepers I often leave my cellphone behind.. What have we become to be so damn reliable on a damn cellphone. All I can say is she needs to get a life. If I want peace and quiet.. I often turn the phone off. Tranquilty .. write as you will .. I LOVE YOUR BOOKS and can't wait for the next one .. which by the way .. soon I hope..

Mrin on 06/01/11

I have been known to routinely leave my cellphone on 'silent' and inside my purse. I think it's something most people do every once in a while! Love your books...haven't read 'Times Legacy' yet, though. Hope to pick up a copy as soon as possible.

Pam Kennedy on 30/11/10

Times Legacy just read absolutely brilliant in my opinion the best book yet and I have read all of Barbara's books 30th November 2010

Pam Kennedy on 30/11/10

Times Legacy just read absolutely brilliant in my opinion the best book yet and I have read all of Barbara's books

Francess Jones on 16/08/10

Loved The Warrior's Princess, I live in Llanpumsaint,Wales, which until recently was a 'not spot', we are surrounded by hills which makes a signal quite weak at times . But give me one of your books anytime and I do not care if no one can reach me.
Thanks for great entertainment, my imagination knows no bounds living in this area. Francess

boopyboff on 13/08/10

Your blog is so informative keep up the good work!!!!

Diane on 09/08/10

Mobile? What's a mobile?

maureen lacey on 26/07/10

I have just finished Time's Legacy, another wonderful read, thanks so much, and the edition I read from Harper Collins was beautiful,the volume was a pleasure to hold and read.The cover was a delight in itself.

Shelagh G on 06/07/10

I live in Somerset, some 30 miles from Glastonbury and yes - the area is indeed a not spot. I am always putting my mobile down and forgetting it and the charger! Love the books, have read all of them since I picked up Lady of Hay on the off chance in a newsagent when I was hunting for something to read! I think it had only just been published then. Thanks for all the hours of enjoyment.

Christian Louboutin on 04/06/10

Thanks for good news!

Christian Louboutin on 03/06/10

One again, your article is very nice

Ledguaxyalula on 06/03/10

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Antony Sanchez on 21/02/10

You have really great taste on catch article titles, even when you are not interested in this topic you push to read it

Abel Jones on 20/02/10

I really like when people are expressing their opinion and thought. So I like the way you are writing

Allen Young on 19/02/10

Your blog keeps getting better and better! Your older articles are not as good as newer ones you have a lot more creativity and originality now. Keep it up!
And according to this article, I totally agree with your opinion, but only this time! :)

Kerri on 04/02/10

ah!!! the total frustation of no service. I've moved to a rural & remote part of Queensland,Australia - 9 hours drive to our closest city. I purchased a new mobile phone for the purpose but alas, "no coverage in certain areas along the long dirt roads" exist even if the advertising states differently.
But to more important subjects, I completely love your books. I have been told by friends & my partner that I stopped reading them along time ago and now I just inhale them. I can't put them down, needless to say nothing gets done when a new novel is released.
I wait constantly for news of a new book, I have read everyone of your published novels so far and cannot wait until the new one is released.
Thank you so much for all your hard work and effort that you put in to your novels. Looking forward to June.


PQ on 08/01/10

It's not just remote areas - I live in suburban Essex and also only have mobile reception at the top of my garden!

Love the books so far, and looking forward to the new one!

hazel singleton on 06/01/10

I am enjoying reading your books so much so I can`t put them down. I started with the Warrior Princess and since then The Lady of Hay and have just finished reading The Child of the Phoenix and have ordered more from Amazon. Have passed them on to my daughter who is also enjoing them . Thank you for such fascinating reading.

Regards Hazel Singleton

Kelly on 30/12/09

well put , I live in a not spot too ,I have left my phone home and not charged the battery as well and I live a real life !!!

laurel hosking on 29/12/09

I love this. it made me chuckle. I am currently reading " Warrior Princess" and loving it. I never noticed anything wrong with the phone aspect.... black spots ( as we call them in Australia) happen all over the world. In fact I thought it was a clever and subtle way to demonstrates Jess' isolation.

Cheers from OZ

Liane Richardson on 23/12/09

I so agree with you! I am so excited about your new book and cannot wait until it comes out. What period of history are we to look forward to this time?

Diane Taylor on 22/12/09

How picky is that! I occasionally leave my mobile in another bag or on the chair or anywhere. Maybe it's because my life doesn't centre around having a mobile constantly stuck on my ear. I'd much rather be reading a good book! Speaking of which I have read & enjoyed all your books & so far haven't any criticisms about any of them - they are fiction after all. I look forward to Time's Legacy & hope to see you at the Essex Book Festival.

Joy Renzi on 19/12/09

Dear Ms.Erskine,

I had to write to thank you for your stories.I have read all your novels since coming to the UK from Canada in 1994...and just now finished reading The Warrior's Princess.I have loved each and every book.I am looking forward to the next one.

Hope you have a wonderful winter,and a lovely holiday season.

Much love and warm regards,
Joy Renzi

Lynn Johnson on 18/12/09

Call me old fashioned then because I often leave my mobile behind/gorget to charge it - or worse, the person I am trying to contact has done precisely that. Natural barriers also get in the way - inconvenient, I know. Some mobile companies have better coverage than others in some areas too.
I live in Orkney and so perhaps some people would say I should expect problems. There are lots of areas of Scotland I pass through on journeys to the Midlands that are 'notspots!'
Looking forward to reading about Abi, Barbara.

Benedita on 14/12/09

HAHA! Barbara, you are so absolutely right about cell phones and the likes...I constantly forget my phone in the car/kitchen/pocket of the other coat; I often forget to recharge it; and there are so many places in my native and beloved Portugal without a signal, one wonders about angels trying to protect the Portuguese from too much information....
I LOVED the Warrior Princess, as I do all your novels. They're GREAT!

Gerald Hornsby on 09/12/09

Hi Barbara
Leaving phones behind in the house is an all too frequent occurrence around here. I often leave it on charge in the kitchen, blissfully unaware as I saunter out of the front door.

My wife always complains that she has no pockets, and therefore I need to carry the phone, purse, and other detritus in my Bloke Pockets. Perhaps Abi needs some of these?

Kate Broadbent on 05/12/09

I love your new blog Barbara and I totally agree with you. Why take your mobile with you everywhere - it has an off switch for a reason! :-) I live in a town (its too small really to be called a town) but its so nice not have the thing switched on (although I would be lost if I mis-placed it). Perhaps your reviewer is just jealous of your location and surroundings.

I'm really looking forward to your new book being released - that definitely is a time when the mobile gets switched off. I'm trying to fill my reading time with other books and they just don't live up your standard. If I ever get chance to come to one of your book signings or talks - you'll know me . . . . I'll be the one with all of your books wanting to be signed . . lol. :-)

Don't take the reviewers critisism to heart, she obviously lives through her mobile phone and misses everything in life that you portray in your books, the beautiful landscapes, the feeling of the day, the quiet sense that you're not quite alone. Feel sorry for her and just think your books will help to give her an imagination.

Kit Berry on 05/12/09

Oh Barbara - this really struck a chord with me! Imagine trying to write Romeo and Juliet if there'd been mobile phones about. There'd have been major plot failure if our star-crossed lovers had been able to text each other.

When I wrote Stonewylde I was up against the same problem as you in that it was important that several people were incommunicado. So I had to make Stonewylde a non-signal area, which as you say with Wales, is actually quite common in many parts of Dorset. I haven't had any critics pick up on that but would have felt just as put out about it as you did because there really are such places. Certainly having or not having a mobile phone/signal has huge implications for plot lines. And I'm looking forward very much to your next book!

Carole Blake on 05/12/09

Love it! Well done on getting revenge on that smug critic! But oh, poor you re. the phones and broadband ...

elizabeth chadwick on 05/12/09

Oh boy that rang true (pun intended!) Barbara. I have a thoroughly good mobile signal where I am, but I don't use my mobile phone unless I am going to be in London for the day. I never have it with me when I'm out walking etc and frequently I don't know where it is and the situation stays like that for days on end. I have no idea how to text. In other ways I am switched on, tech-savvy woman, but mobiles - no. I hate the bloody things. My best friend suffers severaly from sensitivity to mobile phone masts - new generation are going to be 3 gig, so it's only getting worse for her.
So anyway, you won't find me getting hung up on not being connected and not everyone has a mobile phone/connection or even wants one!
And to add I just loved the image of you sitting in the dark in the rain at the top of the garden with a whisky and an umbrella!

Bru on 05/12/09

ah the frustration of 'no service'! Happens to me each time I travel to Port Isaac in Cornwall. I wander around cliff tops checking for bars and the only place one can be sure of finding 'service', is on a particular spot on the hill between PortGaverne and PortIsaac. There you can be sure of always finding a friend - arm held aloft, mobile phone pinging. Yes, the wonders of technology. Shall look forward to 'meeting' Abi ..
Now - where did I put my phone charger ....

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