Saturday, December 10, 2005

The Spoken Word

It was a cold bright day in London on Wednesday. I spent some time in one of the carrels in the Rare Books Reading Room in the British Library listening to sermons in Welsh, reminding myself how they sounded - the highs and lows in both pitch and volume and the dramatic pauses. There are so many ways to change a voice. I also listened to a sermon in English from the 1950s by Reverend Gordon Franklin on the theme of love. He had such clipped business tones - strangely these had the effect of making what he was describing even more touching and appealing. Then I heard about the early life of Sir David Davies in Ebbw Vale which was interesting, part of a series of interviews about the history of the steel industry in the UK called LIVES IN STEEL. Sir David Davies was an important Trade Unionist, and one of his biggest regrets seems to have been that he left school early even though he'd passed the 'eleven-plus' which would have entitled him to go to grammar school. Listening to him being interviewed was quite funny. He had an old man's tendency to stray from the subject and go into his own reveries, and the interviewer seemed to have had quite a struggle to keep him on track, and then from time to time his wife Else would chip in with her opinion and the recording would suddenly go silent only to pick up again with Sir David Davies talking again.

Since my booking to use the carrel didn't start until 2.15pm I had time to take a walk along Euston Road to my publishers' huge office block - 'Hodder Tower'. There are glass elevators and a large glass atrium at the front which of course houses a Christmas tree at this time of year. I dropped something off for Amber - my editor's excellent assistant who is leaving Sceptre after being there for five years and is looking for some new adventure. I am sorry that she is going and shall miss her, but she has promised to tell me where she ends up next so that is good.

All the buildings along Euston Road are massive office blocks, lots of glass and futuristic-looking buildings and outside each one was a small clutch of smokers intently and silently sucking up nicotine in as short a time as possible.

But the main reason for my trip to London was the A P Watt Author party. I enjoyed this even more this year than I did last year, although I was feeling like I shouldn't go since I felt I had nothing much to celebrate, and I doubt that I would have gone in at all if my agent's assistant, Philippa Donovan, hadn't spotted me so then I had to go in then and I was very glad I did.

I talked to many people but have little memory of much that was said because the wine flowed pretty freely as usual. But I remember laughing a lot which was a great relief and meeting some very interesting people including Michael Cox (and his daughter Emily) whose book I am looking forward to reading called THE MEANING OF NIGHT. It has been sold in 19 different countries and had been lurking inside the author's head for 30 years. It is set in Victorian London and is a type of literary mystery.

I also enjoyed talking to Giles Foden and Tim Dowling - who was very funny, especially when Philippa brought a contract for him to sign in the middle of the party for a novel he hasn't actually written yet. Then, at the end when a lot of the people retired to the Groucho club, I decided to stay on at the bar downstairs and had a good time talking to some more people including my agent Natasha Fairweather. By this time I had drunk much more than the recommended daily allowance of alcohol but even so managed to stagger back up the Tottenham Court Road to the St Giles Hotel, find my room, which was like a cell in an insect's nest, and managed to unlock the door. It felt like a major accomplishment.


Post a Comment

Comments are subject to moderation.

<< Home