Tuesday 17 August 2010

Unaccustomed As I Am....

Just back from staying at Swanwick Summer Writing School where I was an after-dinner speaker! That was a first for me - well, two firsts really. I've never been to Swanwick before and I've certainly never been an after-dinner speaker. Think they were VERY brave to ask me...

Swanwick is amazing! What a fabulous place! What elegant surroundings! What incredible food and hospitality! And such fantastic, enthusiastic and completely crazy people... THANK YOU to everyone - especially Xanthe and Joyce and Fiona and Ann and Roy who invited me and looked after me brilliantly and made me laugh all the time, and to Fliss and Jan for suggesting I'd be a good speaker (are you insane???), and to Della for everything, and to everyone else who made me feel as though I belonged from the moment I arrived and who will now always be good friends.

Mind you, if I'd known that the after-dinner speaking involved being in a theatre, on stage, with a microphone and an audience of hundreds I'd have turned tail and fled back down the motorway - but as it was, like the proverbial lamb, I trotted happily into it without having a clue what I was doing. Par for the course, I know.

I'd written a speech. I'd practised it over and over again to the Toyboy Trucker and the cats who were all fairly unimpressed. It lasted 30 minutes. I had an hour - a whole HOUR - on stage... And, I'd torn my speech up because it was rubbish and just had a few scribbled notes... Still, I thought as I gazed nervously at my cheerfully expectant audience, I'll never have to see any of them again...

In my new-from-the-market long frock and B-I-G ear-rings I took a deep breath and trying not to meet anyone's eyes in case I spotted boredom, sleep or even death, I just launched myself into the story of how I started writing, the ups and downs, the ins and outs, the good times and the bad. Oh, and I told everyone about my life, and about the neighbours and about the cats and just anything else I could trawl from the depths of what was left of my brain.

Mercifully, they were a brilliant audience and they laughed at the first sentence and carried on laughing, and the more they laughed the more indiscreet I became until they were chuckling all the time and I'd convinced myself that a career as a stand-up beckoned. The hour simply flew by. I answered all sorts of questions and told more tall tales (actually true stories, but even to me some parts of my life sound pretty impossible) and incredibly got a standing ovation.

Now, I'm ashamed to say, this all went to my head a bit. Afterwards, having signed and sold loads and loads of books and been congratulated on being funny a lot, I practically preened and flounced. I was an inch away from snapping my fingers and throwing back my hair and demanding roast swan and the finest champagne. Happily, because I'm a vegetarian and only drink beer, it didn't quite come to that. But almost. As I clutched my pint and my cigarette and skipped round Swanwick's glorious grounds in the moonlight, I was very nearly getting above myself.

Thankfully The Toyboy Trucker brought me down to earth with a "your bra straps are showing, you've got lipstick on your teeth, your hair looks all funny and you've lost an ear-ring - you look like you've been in a brawl".

Now I'm home again, all diva-ness forgotten, and as is the way of my life, the TWTAWH proofs have arrived in Pdf format and have to be done online and returned by Thursday and we're having the bedroom renovated (posh way of saying the 1970s built-in crap wardrobes are being pulled out and the one measly electric socket is being - er - extended and the funny little wash-basin thing in the corner is being turned into something altogether more swish) which means intermittent electricity so I really ought to get on with them... Have to say that even after severe editing, TWTAWH is still standing at 455 pages!!! 455!!! That's almost War and Peace! I've got to proof-read War and Peace!!!! Aaargh!!!!