'Burning rubber and black smoke': Bridget Hilton-Barber on how she almost lost her manuscript - by baking her laptop
Published in the Sunday Times
Student, Comrade, Prisoner, Spy
Bridget Hilton-Barber (Zebra Press)
I have lost many laptops to theft, and my external harddrive was recently pinched, so in the end throes of writing my latest book I became very protective over my laptop and its contents. I emailed myself the latest changes to my book every day and whenever I went out I hid my laptop – in different places to avoid the possibility of thieves and pilferers detecting my hiding patterns. I hid it in the bookshelf, I hid it under the bed, I hid it in the vegetable rack, I hid it in the clothes cupboard and then I hid it in the oven.
One lazy weekend I took a break from writing. A good friend was visiting in the guesthouse next door, and we decided to make a collective Sunday lunch. I was tasked with cooking the sweet potatoes, so I slicked down said potatoes with olive oil, draped them in sprigs of fresh rosemary, set them aside, turned on the oven to preheat and went for a glass of vino next door. After 20 minutes I went back to my oven to load the potatoes …
As I walked into the kitchen I was overpowered by the smell of burning rubber and the sight of thick black smoke curling out of the oven. Nooooo. The laptop. I stopped dead in my tracks, I screamed, I leapt many metres in the air, I went pale and sweaty, I clutched my madly beating heart. This was all in the nano second before I yanked open the oven door, seized the steaming laptop, tore off the burning rubber case, prised it open and stabbed at the “on” button.
OMG it was working! All downloads, documents, photographs and yes, my entire book, were still intact. The laptop’s CD drive had melted completely as had most of the bottom casing, giving it a rather Salvador Dali-esque appearance, but everything else seemed just fine, albeit hot and steamy. I dropped to my knees and gave thanks to every god and deity I could think of, tears of sheer relief sliding down my face.
Then I took a deep breath, put the sweet potatoes into the oven and went unsteadily back next door. Wine, I cried, wine. Now. There were shrieks of laughter as I recounted the sorry tale of my near death experience and downed several glasses to steady my shattered nerves.
You’re lucky it wasn’t an Apple Mac, chortled my friend, they have metal cases and you could have blown up the whole house never mind the entire block. But my laptop is a Samsung, which also makes a range of cooking appliances – haha – that promise a reduced cooking time and an even, thorough bake.
Mercifully I didn’t have one of those. Just a squishy, working laptop and its rubber case with my desperate handprint indelibly melted upon it.
As one of the founding fathers of the United States, Benjamin Franklin, once self-righteously pointed out, diligence is the mother of good luck, but then as English novelist Thomas Hardy said, some folks want their luck buttered.
- Student, Comrade, Prisoner, Spy by Bridget Hilton-Barber
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