Friday 24 June 2011

The Two Towers

I stole the idea for this title from Elaine who was one of the bloggers who joined me at two venues two days ago, courtesy of the lovely people at Harper Collins. Or possibly HarperCollins, I'm not sure which is de rigueur. Nor am I entirely sure what de rigueur means. Let's move on swiftly.

The two towers in question were the Oxo Tower and the Tower of London - neither of which had I been to before. I met Elaine and Claire outside the lifts to the Oxo Tower, and we went up to the top floor and the brasserie, to be greeted by some friendly folk from Harper (let's settle on that for now - sorry Mr. Collins, I do appreciate your work) and introduced to the authors whom we were meeting. Step forward Fanny Blake and David Nobbs, both of whom were funny, charming, and great fun to chat with. Fanny Blake's first novel What Women Want is out soon (or possibly out now) more info here - and I was fascinated by her previous career as a literary editor. I think the editor's job is remarkable - I could read a novel and say which bits I did or didn't like, but the ability to suggest how to reshape a novel or a character is far beyond me.

David Nobbs (famous for TV writing, as well as novels - he wrote for The Two Ronnies, Reginald Perrin, etc.) has a book out now called It Had To Be You - more info here - spot their deliberate mistake; they refer to the novel by its working title Life After Deborah(!) David is a great conversationalist, and I was mostly delighted to meet someone else who loves Stephen Leacock and Saki. In fact, both of us find that we never meet others who love Leacock (although I think he is still 'known' in Canada?) so we raised a glass to him.

Oh, yes, the food and drink! Cocktails were cunningly matched to trays of delicious individual desserts - photos on Talli's blog here, Talli being another author/blogger whom I met for the first time. I also met Amanda (we discovered we knew lots of people in common, since we'd both been library trainees at the Bodleian) and Mel, and saw Jackie again, which was lovely.

And then on to the Tower of London! Sarah Gristwood was talking about her latest book, The Girl in the Mirror - a telling of Elizabeth I and Essex. I would have been tempted to call it The Only Way of Essex, but that's probably why I'm not a publisher. I almost never read historical fiction, but Gristwood's talk (which was more of general historical interest than specific to her novel) was entertaining and might lead me to try it out... The canapes served afterwards included quails' eggs, so that was another first for me. As was travelling solo in a taxi! Take this boy out of the provinces, and everything changes.

It was a great day out - always a joy and a surprise that publishers know about bloggers, and want to get us involved. Lovely to meet the authors, publishers, and other bloggers, and to do more than Essex managed: go to the Tower of London, and leave it alive.


  1. I cannot believe you have never been on your own in a taxi before Simon!!!

    Glad you had a fun day in our wonderful Metropolis, hope you like the quail's egg (just where do you put the ' in this instance). As I'm sure you know, those of us who live here eat them for breakfast everyday of the week with our Jamon Iberico.

  2. I had never been on my own in a taxi until I found myself lost in London in 2009 and it was too dark to read my map. I digress.

    Leacock is definitely still known in Canada and plenty of schools bear his name. What a wonderful day you had with everyone, full of very interesting discussion no doubt! And those quail eggs sound delicious but I wouldn't want the task of peeling them.

  3. I liked your ruminations on the correct way to type HarperCollins, which probably shows how some very strange things pique my interest. I must have too much time on my hands because I have just checked how they are registered at Companies House. It appears that the Scottish arm is called "Harper Collins Publishers Limited" but that the UK wide operation is registered as "HarperCollins (UK)". I'm not a solicitor, but I believe your case can be thrown out if you spell the name of a business incorrectly in legal papers, so the issue is more important than you might first think. That said, I can't imagine that you are thinking of suing HarperCollins, after having a lovely evening with them.

    Well done on getting out of the Tower with your head still on your shoulders: I can think of at least one famous writer who did not manage that. Admittedly, the chap I am thinking of is better known as a statesman than as an author.

  4. Nice summary! I'm pleased that you got to experience so many firsts and I hope that blogging introduces you to many more. :-) It was the first time I had cocktails specifically made to match the dessert and I'm afraid I don't think I'll get to experience that delight again very often, but I'll keep my fingers crossed that I'm proved wrong.

  5. Peter - taxi-riding isn't much of an option in villages! Nor have I ever had the money to pick a taxi over a bus or my own feet... I've got to say, my uncultured palate could barely tell the difference between a hen's egg and a quail's egg.

    Darlene - I'm glad Leacock carries on in his homeland! Have you read much by him?

    David - I certainly shan't be suing them, as they've been very kind - but good to know, should I ever decide to do it(!!) And I think I've failed at your riddle...

    Jackie - yes, I doubt that will be a common experience in my life!

  6. Simon, Thomas More was the man I was alluding to. He was the author of "Utopia" but is better known as the senior official who fell out with Henry VIII over the break with Rome.

  7. I wish I'd been able to come to this event - David Nobbs! one of my favourite funny writers.

  8. It was a great afternoon/ evening, wasn't it? Fantastic to meet you and when we cross paths again, we must chat more! :)

  9. 'What's de rigueur in Godalming could be hors d'oeuvre in Head Office' - David Nobbs


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