Saturday, October 17, 2009

Fay Weldon at the Manchester Lit Fest

To the Friends' Meeting House last night for my first Manchester Lit Fest event: Fay Weldon promoting her new novel Chalcot Crescent, an innovative blend of fiction and fact in which Fay's real-life never-born sister lives after all and grows up to supplant Fay in all of her real-life circumstances. How juicy!

But where was the real-life Fay? The clock ticked past the hour at which the event was meant to begin, and then we were told that Fay was delayed, having encountered at least two accidents on the motorway, but she would be there in ten or fifteen minutes. We waited. We talked: I had plenty to talk about: I had sat down and found myself next to a neighbour from years ago, someone I hadn't seen for years, and not only that, she had lived on the other side of the neighbour I'd had precisely the same experience with a couple of weeks ago at the Didsbury Arts Festival (the three of us had lived side-by-side in a row)! See, Fay is right: life is just as weird as fiction...

The clock ticked on. Quarter past... twenty-five past. Director Cathy Bolton came to the mic gain. Fay had been taken by her sat nav to a Mount Street in Trafford, and would now have to find her way back here... See, sat navs can't sort out the facts, either...

Then at almost a quarter to, the call went up 'Fay is in the building!' but since she didn't appear immediately, probably needing to go to the bathroom, a doubt about the fact settled in the air, which everyone seemed happy to accept.

And then at last she came, a little breathless, a little shaken, even, it seemed, and had to negotiate the fifteen-inch step up on to the stage, but her customary grin never left her face, and she proceeded to give us the benefit of her humour and wisdom.

No wonder we were all prepared to wait.

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