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Tansy Rayner Roberts

Of Jam and Valets

June 25th, 2011 at 20:53

It’s amazing how fast it returns. A week of writing 1000 words a day, and it’s already feeling a lot easier, both to sit down at the computer, and to stay there for the full 1000 words without getting all twitchy and restless. The book is coming easier, and I’ve solved some major problems with it that had been bugging me for a while. Funny how writing a book actually makes the book, you know, get written. It’s a foolproof method, really.

Jem’s speech, which had been lagging behind her climbing, hugging and animal impressionistic skills, has recently been coming on in leaps and bounds. She has two two-word phrases now, ‘more toast’ and ‘Doctorrrrooo’ (generally while pointing at any pictures of well dressed Englishmen). We have also discovered that ‘jam’ and ‘yum’ are indistinguishable terms. Her favourite so far is quince jelly.

The cutest thing in the universe may very well be when I ask whether the girls want cereal or toast for breakfast, Raeli says ‘both!’ and Jem echoes, ‘bofe!’ These are the things which do not last, and need to be pinned down in memory.

Also this week I have inhaled the entirety of Downton Abbey, thanks to the encouragement of @zeft as well as the rest of the internet.

It’s a simply glorious costume drama, like several years of Upstairs Downstairs distilled into seven incredibly plot-rich stories. I love the complex characters (very few out and out villains, though many of them are villains to a selected handful), the focus on domestic drama and social detail, and the gorgeous frocks. Also, Mary’s eyebrows, which are a character in their own right.

I do love the younger characters, especially the trio of daughters. but it took many of them several episodes to grow on me. It’s the older characters who really sing in this show, with lovely crunchy roles like Mr Bates the damaged valet with a secret past, and the war of queens between the Dowager Countess Violet (Maggie Smith) and the intelligent, infering Mrs Isobel Crawley (Penelope Wilton). Oh, and the butler. Truly the best of butlers!

I came away from it wanting to write and/or read an Edwardian house drama with magic. For now I am holding off cravings by listening to an audio drama of The Forsyte Saga, my favourite historical family saga of all time. I still love it, but can’t help feeling it would be much improved by a magic system, and possibly some manticores.

Reading-wise I have been making my way through How The Dead See, the new Pufferfish novel by David Owen. I’ve always loved this Tasmanian police procedural series, partly because of the use of so many familiar details and setting, but mostly because of the protagonist, cranky old fat DI Franz Heineken (called Pufferfish by his colleagues but never to his face except by the woman he loves). I have a deep if select love for cranky, witty, macho detective stories, with added food porn. Considering that the last Puff book was published 14 years ago, what I found most interesting about this one were the modern touches, and the details about how policework and indeed crime has changed over the years. Plus of course I was hoping to get my brain into more of a noiry crimey place for more effective Nancy Napoleon writing. Which worked just fine until I OD’d on costume drama. If Nancy ends up in a crinoline, blame @zeft!

In feminist SF news (there always has to be a bit!) Kirstyn McDermott located an online copy of “When It Changed,” the short story we’ll be reading and discussing for our next Joanna Russ special episode of Galactic Suburbia, along with The Female Man and How To Suppress Women’s Writing. It’s a fantastic story, and well worth either a read or re-read. Check it out! (and hooray for the SciFi.Com archive)

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One Response to “Of Jam and Valets”

  1. Sean the Blogonaut Says:

    Mr Bates is a a favourite of mine. The actor played a part in North and South if I am not mistaken. Maggie Smith, no more need be said.

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