Last Thursday I attended a meeting – a brain-storming session, actually – of Unbound authors, in a room upstairs in the theatrical pub The Swan at Shakespeare’s Globe, on the south bank of the River Thames in Southwark. The last time I’d been there was back in, I think, 2001 when I was invited to an authors’ party at HarperCollins, shortly after I’d published my first book, Seahenge, with them. The great Sam Wanamaker’s reconstruction of the original Elizabethan theatre (which was demolished in 1644) had only opened two years previously, and it was by no means finished. One gets to meet the Great and the Good at such gatherings which is sometimes a pleasure. My first of several encounters with politicians was with Edwina Currie. Ms Currie had just ceased being a Conservative Member of Parliament, although we didn’t yet know about her affair with the former Prime Minister John Major. And for the benefit of my non-British and younger readers, I should point out that she was still rather notorious following a disastrous decision about salmonella and eggs when a junior health minister – and which led to her resignation. I shall say no more. Anyhow, she had become a novelist and had published books with some (so I’m told!) very fruity sex scenes. Again, I shall say no more.
So you can imagine Ms Currie’s surprise when somebody at HarperCollins introduced her to a scruffy archaeologist that nobody had heard of. The man from the publishers then vanished, leaving us alone. I don’t suppose it helped that I began our ‘conversation’ with the news that I kept three chickens. In retrospect, that was almost certainly a mistake. I’m not stupid – or at least I don’t think I am – so I tried to make matters better by mentioning that we also kept quails. Again, this was a big error. I could see she wasn’t enjoying our one-sided chat. So I studied her face for some clue as to what to do, but throughout our brief encounter she studiously avoided all eye-contact. Instead she looked past my shoulders (she was much shorter than me) for somebody more interesting to talk to. I even started to feel sorry for her. She was so DESPERATE to escape. Then something odd happened. Instead of feeling resentful, I began rather to enjoy her discomfort.
It was a strangely surreal moment. I felt I was observing our discourse from above. Next I discovered that I had begun to give her an account of recent theoretical developments in Bronze Age archaeology. I tried to enliven it as best I could, but as topics went it was on the dry side of stimulating, and very different from a bonk-buster. Anyhow, by now she was making absolutely no effort to conceal her anxiety-ridden stares past my shoulders. She had to talk to somebody – anybody – else. And I must admit, I didn’t help, either. If she was looking to my right, I’d gently move my body in that direction. Then she’d switch left and I’d react. But it was much, much better if I could anticipate her moves. That really was good fun! After about five minutes of this – which must have seemed like five hours to her, poor woman – you could almost cut her frustration with a knife. Then eventually some kind person came to rescue her.
Hey-ho. Happy days. But I digress.
I’m pleased to report that the Unbound authors’ meeting was a huge success and I’m sure there’ll be many more. I think I was the oldest person there by some years, yet I managed to score a big tech hit with the business card I’ve had printed for my second Alan Cadbury mystery, The Way, The Truth and The Dead. It features a QR code, the black-and-white square at the centre. QR stands for Quick Response and the codes were developed by clever tekkies in the Japanese automotive industry, or so Wikipedia tells me. Anyhow, you must download a (free) QR reader for your iPad or smartphone. One you’ve done that, you can point the camera at the QR square and you’ll be taken instantly to the bit of the Unbound website where you can have the huge, the vast, the enormous pleasure of subscribing to my book. Try it here and now. I have, and it works!
Finally, I’ve included a couple of shots I took of London from the Millennium Bridge, which I had to cross to get to The Globe. It was raining, not hard, but persistently. And I think London looks its best in the rain. Why are we so obsessed with sunshine in the modern world? Oh dear, I feel a digression is creeping up on me. I’m being stalked. I shall escape to the garden and cut some asparagus.