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!’
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!