Indian summers for elderly and ‘Useless by James Joyce’ on menu

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Hotels have played a key role for author Deborah Moggach in recent years.

These Foolish Things – adapted for the big screen as The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, starring Dame Judi Dench – saw the elderly “outsourced” to a new life in India.

Her new book, Heartbreak Hotel, sees retired actor Russell “Buffy” Buffery hatch a cunning plan to teach “divorce courses” where the recently-separated learn everyday tasks previously performed by their other halves – and do up his run-down B&B in Wales at the same time.

These Foolish Things came from the question – what do we do with ourselves when we get old?” she told guests at yesterday’s Yorkshire Post Literary Lunch, held in association with Harrogate International Festivals. “We’re living too long and getting in the way. So why not outsource the elderly to India, where they would be respected?”

Heartbreak Hotel grew from the realisation that: “If you split up you don’t just lose the person – you lose someone to unblock the sink or mow the lawn.”

Also speaking was Gervase Phinn, who recalled anecdotes from his career as an education adviser and schools inspector. Mangled English is due to be published in October and includes a wealth of malapropisms – such as the lady overheard in a book shop asking for Useless by James Joyce.

“We shouldn’t be too particular about language,” he said. “I’ve yet to meet somebody who speaks perfectly. I was lucky to have a father who read with me – not at me or to me. I’m passionate about books and reading and we need to nurture that in our children.”

Crime fiction writer Henry Sutton, winner of the J B Priestley Award and former literary editor of Esquire, was the third speaker.

His latest novel, My Criminal World, is the story of mild-mannered crime novelist David Slavitt, under pressure to produce more successful books.