Tuesday, July 25, 2006

I can't function on four hours sleep

Which is why, when my alarm went off at half past seven, I was in no fit state to do anything about it. Neither was I in any fit state at nine, half past ten, or eleven o'clock. I missed the entire Friday morning session courtesy of Simon Theakston, but by one, thanks to the miracle of Neurofen Plus, I was beginning to feel something akin to human. At least I was showered and dressed when Stuart phoned up from reception to ask if I was still alive.

Since I was, we headed off, me in search of breakfast, Stuart in search of lunch. We were joined by John and Vincent, fresh off the train from Leeds. Having missed all the fun of the night before, Vincent seems to have been confused by the sight of so many hard-boiled crime writers wandering around with glasses of water and fruit juice. Where was the reputation for cirrhosis-inducing levels of drunkenness? It was there on the Thursday night, Vincent. Trust me.

I actually managed to make it to some of the afternoon sessions, aided by endless pints of tap water and the miracle that is codeine. At one point, I forgot to specify tap when asking at the bar for water, and was slightly taken aback at being asked to pay £2.20 for a small glass of mineral water. Prices for wine and beer were similarly eye-watering - perhaps another reason why many a hard-man reputation was being risked that weekend. It was almost too hot to drink anyway, though Kevin Wignall was knocking back the Pimms and holding court to anyone who would listen.

We were all just about to head into the main hall to hear Ian Rankin chat with John Harvey about his upcoming children's fiction project when Agent Phil appeared, looking like he'd just rolled out of bed. To my intense embarrassment, I didn't recognise him at first. Too many painkillers, I suppose, and scant brain cells still operational.

The kind fellows at HarperCollins and Little, Brown organised a party for the Friday evening, and by some strange administrative error, an invitation found its way into my hands. Free wine was provided, which was apparently as rough as old nails, and the canapes brought a wry smile to Stuart's face - big slabs of cold pizza that would have done a school dinnerlady proud, cold greasy meatballs, heavy cold vol-au-vents, cold pork pies, breaded fish fillets deep fried and served cold. I stuffed my face; I never turn down free food, and I didn't much mind that nothing was warm either - the room was like a Turkish bath anyway. At this point, around about eight in the evening, I had drunk nothing but water all day and was beginning to feel a bit more normal. Constitution of an ox, that’s me. Just a very small ox with a bit of a dicky tum and a sore head. Still, it meant that my mind was clear when I met Alex Barclay, so I didn’t make too much of a fool of myself.

The evening’s highlight – perhaps the highlight of the whole weekend, was Foul Play, a murder mystery with a suitably Agatha Christie feel to it. Mark Billingham and Stella Duffy provided an excellent cast of thousands, with Laura Wilson and Shane Maloney trying to work out who dunnit. I thought it was the butler, but I was wrong. Everyone else in the audience knew it was Lady Perpetua; only the panel failed to pick up the obvious clues.

After the murder mystery, everyone adjourned to the bar, and again spilled out into the cooling night. Only this time it wasn’t so much cooling as hot and steamy. A bit like Singapore, only seen from a distance. I finally succumbed and on the orders of the Horse Doctor, who had finally answered the phone for a change, I had a pint of beer. Halfway down I had to admit to myself that I wasn’t really enjoying it very much. It was past midnight, and though I had only been up since around lunchtime, I was tired enough to call it a night. From the looks of my fellow festival attendees, I wasn’t the only one.

Sloping off to the Swallow St George with legs in full working order, I found my room even more stiflingly hot than before, with the added undercurrent of damp stickiness in the air making it feel like there had been some horrible accident earlier that I’d forgotten about. I stood under a cold shower for about ten minutes, until I was shivering, then lay on top of the bed and went to sleep.

Sometime in the early hours, an enormous clap of thunder woke me up. It was followed by several more, a few minutes apart, each sounding as if they were directly outside my hotel. I’ve been inside a wire mesh covered playground when it was hit by lightening before, so I know just how loud thunder is when you hear it at source. After about half an hour, the rain came. Light at first, it built up to a wonderful downpour that I felt sure would clear the air and make life more pleasant. But no. It kicked up a feeble draft, which only managed to make the rain come in through the open window and onto the table where my laptop was lying. I got up and closed the window, slumped back down on the bed, then went back again, moved the table and opened the window wide and stood in front of it. Only the faintest gust of slightly cooled air came in, but the rain on my feet was nice.

I just hope no-one was looking from the nearby houses, since I was completely naked at the time. At least it was the middle of the night, unlike certain bearded writists parading about in their birthday suit at all hours.


Blogger Sandra Ruttan said...

I can't function on four hours of sleep either, but somehow, I'm still up.

I'm going to bed now.

July 25, 2006 9:16 pm  
Blogger M. G. Tarquini said...

This is the strangely funniest account I've yet read of this event.

July 26, 2006 1:55 am  
Blogger JamesO said...

Is that a compliment, Mindy?

July 26, 2006 2:38 pm  

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