Friday, 29 June 2007

A Soggy Interlude

After the euphoria of the book launch, I went with him indoors up to Edinburgh. It was very lucky that we took a plane, because the floods in the midlands would have made the journey impossible.
We flew into Scotland and drove straight out again, heading for Berwick on Tweed. It was raining. The reason for our visit was to celebrate a friend's sixtieth birthday, and he didn't know we were coming.
Found the campsite - yes, I was going to have to camp for three days, and him indoors knows that can only spell trouble where I'm concerned. Give me a hotel any day. It was still raining, and there, hiding beneath the awning were our friends. The champagne was open, the beer flowing and the rain chucking it down with a vengeance. Much later, after a game of pool - not the watery one, but the one involving long sticks and coloured balls - we retired to the caravan. The rain was thundering on the roof, and I actually found it rather soothing, for I began my life in a caravan on a site at Bluff Beach in Devonport Tasmania, and the sound of rain on a caravan roof took me back to my childhood. Enough of that soppy stuff. It was chucking it down so loudly you couldn't even hear him indoors' snoring - but then perhaps that was a blessing.
Morning dawned. Actually, it didn't. It was still raining. Nothing for it, but to sit in the awning and drink even more champagne.
It stopped raining. We got everyone together and headed for the beach. The beach? In this weather? Only the English would be mad enough. So, off we trot. It's blowing a gale and there's definitely more rain in the offing. The sea is broiling, crashing onto the sand, rising in great plumes on the rocks and almost dwarfing the lighthouse that stands so precariously on the end of the jetty. A quick walk. Several photos. An ice-cream. Yes. Well. This is England, and I'm as mad as the rest of them. Back to the caravan. The rain has returned with a vengeance. There's mud everywhere, and I'm sure the caravan was further up the hill when we left.
More champagne, more beer and then a stagger through the downpour to the clubhouse for a steak. Greatly refreshed, and somewhat unsteady on our feet we emerge back into the rain. Horrors. The caravan has shifted. In fact we can see it slowly descend into the mire. Him indoors and his mate wrestle with it, shoring it up with anything that isn't already soggy, and after stating that it won't dare sink any more, we retire to bed.
The rain is thundering, him indoors is snoring - as is his mate - and I feel the soft, but steady sinking feeling that only comes when a caravan has had enough and has finally collapsed up to the fender under the deluge. I snuggle back under the blankets. It won't go any further now - it's as low as it can go.
Come morning we discover said caravan has slid several feet down the gentle slope and is resting quite peacefully against a tree. Much swearing and sweating goes on as it is hauled back and tethered very firmly - which of course means we have to open even more champagne to cheer ourselves up and replace used calories.
Camping's a weird practice. You get out of bed and dress so you can walk across a field in the rain to a bathroom where you get undressed, shower, dress again and walk back, getting even wetter on the way. I had warned him indoors this was not my thing, but because we were staying in a caravan he didn't class it as camping. I'll just say this. If I'd been forced beneath canvas for those three days I would have killed him - unless the rain drowned the pair of us first.

Book Launch Blitz

The sky is darkening as the day finally succumbs to clouds and the threat of rain, and as the final pale tendrils of light disappear beyond the horizon comes a sound that is older than time. The deep, reverberating throb of the didgeridoo and the enticing beat of the African drum breaks into the stillness of the garden and silences the chatter the hotel. One by one we emerge into the night, drawn perhaps by the primal urge of the music that our ancestors once heard.
A blaze of flame soars into the sky - and then another. Two dancers appear with their flame-sticks and so begins the courtship of night and fire and music. Sensuous, mesmerising, their slight figures weave in the flames as they juggle and dance. It looks so easy, so effortless - and yet we know it's not.
Several of the male guests are taking lots of photos - hardly surprising as the girl is scantily dressed and almost feline as she dances with the poi. The ladies of the party are eyeing up the young man beside her. He's tall, dark, tattooed and shall we say perfectly proportioned. All in all, everyone enjoyed watching them both.
So now it is over. I can breathe a sigh of relief that I could manage to get into that skirt. That the rain held off. That nearly every guest arrived, and that I sold lots of books and had a very good time.

Thursday, 21 June 2007

Life Gets Really Complicated

You'd think a day at the races would be a simple pleasure, wouldn't you? WRONG! It takes organisation, travelling, worrying about hat, shoes and handbag never mind the dress, Jacket etc., because I'm talking the first day of Ascot here, and that is never simple.
Having agonised over what to wear, I changed my mind a dozen times, then saw a hat. THE hat, which of course didn't go with anything, so, oh, dear, had to go off and buy a dress and shoes to go with it. Finally sorted, I was wizzed up to London to a lovely B&B. The day of the races dawned, and the promised rain has been banished by a blazing sun. Breakfast is eaten, and I wait to be picked up. I carry on waiting. And waiting. Three quarters of an hour late, my hostess arrives in her usual state of panic and we're off. No we aren't. Have to drop the dog off first, go to another friend's for champagne - and then we'll be off. No we aren't. A last minute panic over hair. Up, down - what. Tights, no tights. Which handbag - what about the shoes. Hair again - hat - you get the picture. I feel I must have forgotten something as I sit in a lovely garden with a glass of champagne. I check. Hat, shoes, bag, dress, jacket, nails done, camera, money - yes all seems in order.
Two hours later and WE'RE OFF! A bit like Frankie De whatsit, we're tearing down the motorway, the people carrier working like a thoroughbred as we head for Ascot. Traffic jams and the air conditioning doesn't reach that far back into the car and it's stifling. This is not helped by the perfume being sprayed liberally about and the smell of different makeup as it is applied along with the nail varnish that had been forgotten earlier.
We're here! At last. Two glasses of champagne and we head for the Royal Enclosure. Uh, oh, someone's already got blisters, so what should have been a quick trot across the field turns into a stop go affair. The gate we need is in sight - I can smell the strawberries and pimms. But we aren't going in there, someone has decided that we HAVE to go in the front entrance, which involves a mile trek over lumpy ground, dodging all kinds of nasties on the way. Not easy in high heels.
We've made it. Champagne again, sun beaming down - and the sight of so many hats and some bizarre outfits is wonderful to see. I do love people watching.
We were supposed to get a place by the bridge where I could see my Queen - I am a loyal Commonwealth subject of hers, and I know she would have been pleased to see me - but the champagne took over and we nearly missed her as she arrived in a coach. I got a photo, but she's so small, she's almost invisible.
The weather got hotter and hotter. The viewing stands in the Royal Enclosure were full so we couldn't watch the race, and I managed to pick the one horse in each race that came in last. But the champagne was good, and after waving to Frankie and getting a whoop of delight in return, we repaired to the car and had our picnic. There were some very sore feet and we were all hobbling by now, so as we sat on the grass there was a collective sigh of pleasure as bare toes were wriggled in the sun. No, wait a minute, the sun has disappeared. Oh, Gawd, it's starting to rain and if this hat gets wet it will be ruined. Back into the car - back onto the motorway - back into traffic jams and a return to my host's house for more champagne. There will be sore heads in the morning - but that doesn't matter. We all had fun, and the memory of daft hats, corny outfits and men sweltering in top hats and tails, plus waistcoats, will live with me for years. Now, what do you think I ought to wear next year?

Thursday, 14 June 2007

Book Launch Trials

Don't let anyone ever tell you that the life of an author is easy. There is very little time to sit about and contemplate your navel - no time to dream away a warm afternoon thinking about what to wear for the launch party - and definitely not a minute to spare to go to the gym so that the body is toned so that the new dress will fit! Telephone calls, missing books. Fire eaters who might or might not turn up. Didgeridoo players with asthma. You couldn't make it up. Did I want sandwiches, canapes or a four course dinner? Are there vegetarians or vegans expected? Will everyone really need a bottle of wine per person - or can we get away with less? My head is spinning, my inbox is overloaded - I know how it feels - and all in all I wish I hadn't started this. But it's too late now, the party is a week away and the steamroller that is the organisation is way out of my control! Who said a book launch was a doddle - it certainly isn't in my book. That was a pun, sorry, but the brain is in overload. A launch should be simple, and usually is. A group of people are invited to come and drink cheap plonk and eat soggy sandwiches or stodgy sausage rolls while they stand about talking nonsense, or trying to outdo each other in one-upmanship. This usually happens in a back room of a restaurant - can't have authors making a show of themselves - the middle of a very busy book shop where the customers stand about open-mouthed wondering what all the noise is about - most writers seem to be able to make a great deal of noise, must be all the time we sit in silence, so that when we get the chance we rabbit on and on! I decided long ago that if I'm going to invite people to a party, then give them a party, and so of course that means having to sort one out. I've had dancers to do a cabaret, even him indoors sang for the karaoke we had one year - he and his son did a dodgy version of House of the Rising Sun - but we prefer not to discuss it. I've had mad DJs yelling and dancing and generally overacting, with music so loud the ears are still throbbing six hours after it's all over, school bands which were brilliant and discos that brought back all the lovely memories of those days when the feet didn't hurt, the head didn't throb and the skirts could be as small as pelmets over a tight little bottom. Days long past, unfortunately. Anyway, to move on to this year's bash. I decided that because this is the first part of a trilogy, and because I have a lovely new publisher and a fantastic couple of editors, I would really push the boat out.
Now the first thing is the venue. A lovely hotel in the heart of the Sussex countryside, with antique houses leaning about on all sides, an ancient church and a river running through. Perfect. Books are an integral part of the launch, goes without saying. We very nearly went without - but after a fraught three weeks and far too many telephone calls, glasses of gin and tonic and a promise of a heartattack, we have the books ordered with a promise they will arrive on time. Entertainment. It's the longest day of the year, so why not have fire dancers to bring in the sunset? With the sound of the didge and the drum in the background, it should be awesome. Music? They don't have their own music. Sound system at hotel? No. Oh, Gawd, I give up. I'm off to the pub for a drink, him indoors has just come home and I'm in need of G&T and TLC> Bye.