Thursday, July 27, 2006

Sunday already

And I was starting to get better at the mornings. Outside my room, a couple of cleaners were scrubbing away at the stains on the carpet.

'Look where you put your feet!' one of them shouted at me as I walked past, well away from any vomit. I smiled at her, unsure whether she thought I was responsible for the mess or not. That I was showered, dressed and heading for breakfast at eight o'clock should have suggested to her that I was innocent on that count, but the night porter might have told her I came in after four.

Back at the Old Swan, things looked remarkably similar to how they had when I left. Probably because most of the reprobates were still up, and at twenty past nine still drinking beer. I can't be too judgemental; if I'd been getting a train home I'd probably have stayed with them.

The morning session were perhaps not quite as good as I had hoped. Nicci French were* interesting, but hopeless at speaking on a panel. No doubt I would be hopeless at speaking on a panel, too, but it's hard to listen to someone struggling to put their thoughts into words, harder still to cope with a husband and wife team who finish each others sentences.

Later, Jeffrey Deaver turned out to be a very nice person, even if he does look a bit like an extra from the Addams Family. As with a lot of the writers in these sessions, I hadn't read any of his books, so much of the talk was lost on me. John Connolly, another writer whose work I'm going to have to pick up now, was strangely subdued after his rant on the Friday afternoon.

And then all of a sudden it was end of term. Latest check-out time at the Old Swan was eleven o'clock, even though the festival didn't officially end until half past twelve. They ran out of space for people to store bags behind the reception desk, so there were a lot of suitcases and general mayhem in the front. I spotted Mr Stuart, with his neat little rucksack all packed and ready to go, looking at his watch in a worried manner. Seems he had arranged to share a taxi to the station for his half one train, and the other person had lost her bag. Then one of the taxi drivers said the train went at twenty-five past, not half past. As it was quarter past by then, and missing the train would mean missing the only onward connection to Aberdeen, the bearded writist climbed into the nearest taxi anyway, willing it to leave. It must have worked, as he disappeared moments later through the milling throngs, with a plaintive 'bye, then' and a semi-regal wave.

We were both of us looking for Agent Phil, whose birthday it was. But no sign of him could be found. Whatever became of you, Phil, I hope you had a good day and didn't spend too much of it nursing a hangover.

The night before, in a fit of generosity, I had offered to drive Marsha and Sandra to Manchester Airport, thus saving them the expense and hassle of a train journey. Since my journey home took me within a half mile of the terminal anyway, this wasn't much of a hardship. We even managed to squeeze their enormous bags into the back of the batmobile with a bit of a fight. There were a few teary last-minute farewells, and then we were off.

Or we would have been, but I needed to get to Sainsbury's to pick up essential supplies, the Horse Doctor not having been able to do the weekend shop since I had the car. I'd spied Sainsbury's on the way into Harrogate on Thursday, but heat and alcohol stress contrived to make me forget the exact details of where we should be going. Realising that Pannal was in the wrong direction, I resorted to checking the map, and soon we were back on track.

I could tell you all about the interesting conversations we had on the motorway trip down to Manchester, but sometime around the turning onto the A1 Sandra fell asleep. Marsha, sitting in the back, tried valiantly to stay awake, but eventually succumbed too. Being in air-conditioned luxury for the first time in three days, I was happy just to let the cold air blow on my face, leaving the cruise control to eat up the miles.

I left Sandra and Marsha at the Marriott Manchester Airport, and as far as I am aware both made it safely home from there. It was only in the last half hour or so of the journey back to deepest middle-of-nowhere Wales that the excesses of the previous days began to catch up. I hate driving tired; quite apart from it being as dangerous as driving drunk, it seems to make the journey go on forever. But I did finally, and safely, arrive home at about six. Just in time to feed the dogs.

So was it worth it, going to a crime writers festival when I'm neither a crime writer nor a great reader of the genre? Well, in balance I'd have to say yes it was. I've been to a fair few comics conventions in my time, and by and large I've found them monstrously depressing things. I've never been an obsessive fanboy, neither do I really get a kick from dressing up as a Klingon, so the only reason to go to such things was to network, and to try and sell my writing to publishers. Seeing umpteen million other hopefuls trying to do the same thing, and usually more professionally than me, just made my natural shyness worse. At Harrogate, I wasn't trying to sell anything, not even myself. So that pressure was immediately off. There were enough people there that I knew, and a few people who I'd even met before,** so that I didn't do my usual thing of sitting in the corner looking sad and lost. And even the people I didn't know - writers and fans alike - were far more approachable and friendly than I'd been expecting.

Would I go again? Well, barring something major getting in the way, I think I probably will go next year. But I won't stay in the Old Swan, and I'll try not to get paralytically drunk on the first night.

And perhaps I'll take the train.

* there's two of the, Nicci Gerrard and Sean French.
** even if I didn't recognise one of them at first - sorry Phil.

1 Comments:

Blogger Sandra Ruttan said...

And we thank you for the ride - that was fantastic.

As was the air conditioning.

Although it was touch and go for a few minutes while I thought I'd be riding on the roof.

July 27, 2006 8:01 pm  

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