Saturday 22 November 2014

Postcards over Ramsbottom or Don’t ever cross a novelist – you might get put into a novel or How novelists make use of just about everything

So, I go to my study to look at my phone, just like I do every morning. To find out what the weather’s going to be like and how I should therefore dress.
Except that my handbag isn’t its usual place by the desk in my study. Perhaps I left it somewhere else. I did have rather a lot of luggage to bring in from the car last night.

It’s not downstairs by the lounge door. Did I leave it in the car? I go to the spare room to look out onto the drive to see if I can see it on the passenger seat of my car. My car is not there. Neither is my husband’s.

We panic a little. I must have done something really stupid like left the handbag on the front door step. Oh Gawd.   
Then I notice a cupboard open in our lounge. My husband notices the curtains are open a little. He opens them fully and we can see that they forced their way through a window – a window that has four locks on it, into a house that is alarmed. I’ve walked past that window four times already today and not noticed anything. 
Later still I find that they did indeed go upstairs. My Kindle, which was next to my computer in my study, is also gone. At the weekend we discover that we are also missing a bath towel. Our newest one, in fact.     
At least now I am relieved that I didn’t do something stupid with my handbag. We contact the Police, my banks, my phone provider and the insurance companies for my phone and our cars. Then I phone work. 
(No, this isn’t the beginning of a crime novel. This really happened to us last Tuesday. But you never know …)

 Yes, I phone work. I go through the switchboard. I get no reply. I open my emails to get a “real” phone number. They need to know I won’t be in and they need to know my office is vulnerable. 
 Bizarrely, I spot a problem in one of my emails and immediately want to deal with it. I contact the colleague who has alerted me. “I’m going crackers I say, but by the way, I won’t be in today …”
 “Is that Gill?  Someone has found your handbag…” I hear in the background.
 Yes, my handbag has travelled ten miles. North of Ramsbottom.    
Our police officer fetches it back. They can’t get fingerprints because it’s been in the rain all night. It’s lighter than usual. Bizarrely my credit cards, my memory stick and my uni ID are there.
Later I panic. Someone has accessed my bank account. Turns out it was the robot that reconciles my account. I’ve now changed all passwords just in case. And I was so right to cancel all of my cards.
Our insurance assessor for the cars endorses this.  They have probably cloned my cards and copied my stick. They left the uni ID because they wanted to me to find my bag and not report the credit cards missing.
The Police are less sure.   
They took the inhaler (may that affect the number of years they go down for once they’re caught) and my passport but left my lipstick, various membership cards and my driving license.  
The next day another police officer arrives with other items they have found in Ramsbottom. Repeat prescriptions and some of my postcards about my book The House on SchellbergStreet. I share this story with a fellow writer who visits my MA class.  “Postcards over Ramsbottom.  That has a ring to it.” Elaborate marketing ploy or what?
All of my lovely colleagues are informed and express their sympathy. The newest is the first to do so. “Thank you,” I write. “It’s surreal but kind of interesting.”
As the day settles the reality kicks in. The locks are changed. The window is made safe. Everyone who needs to know is informed. I find writing a couple of lectures very soothing. And gradually a story forms in my head. 
I never saw myself as a crime writer. Now I think differently. By tea-time the story is fully formed.
So guys, if you’re reading this, come on now, ‘fess up. Otherwise you’ll be immortalized in a novel and I’ll probably make you out to be even worse that you actually are.
Never cross a novelist.   
And isn’t it amazing how we novelists can turn pretty well anything to our advantage?    

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