Sunday, October 01, 2006

There's never not a hitch...

Forget your posh pens or your slick laptops: a writer's best equipment is a damned good sense of humour.

Yesterday we kicked off the Bitch-Lit tour. Drive from Manchester to Ilkley, leave in plenty of time, but the traffic is dire, backed up for miles, and I know others are cutting it finer. Will they make it? Will the folk of Ilkley miss out on the revelation of a row of bitches bitching? And what about the parking? Lucky for me, there's a space right outside the Ilkley Playhouse where we're performing. Grab costume and bags, rush in to find Mary Sharrat our editor there already, and I no longer need my sense of humour: lovely ladies ply us with cups of tea and a bottle of wine (before a performance?) and lead us up to a plush green-room with glorious mirrors and a big plate of fruit and enough hairspray, as Mary said, for Margaret Thatcher if she lived another forty years.

We're already changed when the others arrive in a breathless dash. 'Hi Mary,' they cry and fling their arms around her, but they don't speak to me, just glance at me uneasily. 'You bitches,' I say, and at last they see it's me beneath my wig and in my vamp's jacket and killer heels...

But there's no time for laughing, and in a very short while a sound engineeer who looks all of sixteen has excessively politely spoilt the line of our costumes by sticking mics up our jackets, and we're being led downstairs to the stage. The show begins, it's going well, and Cath Staincliffe is two minutes into her reading, the first. The door opens at the back and a tiny elderly woman in a sharp grey trouser suit bursts in. The usher jumps up to direct her to a seat near the back, but she booms that she has to sit at the front 'because I'm deaf', and, still booming over Cath, is led all the way to the front row.

Hitch over, the show seems to go well. The audience is a gift, laughing at all the right moments and very appreciative in the Q & A session afterwards. We're walking out to the foyer for the signing when I realise the hard-of-hearing lady is right in front of me. She turns and snaps at me: 'You want to invest in a microphone.' 'We had microphones, actually,' I tell her kindly and sympathetically, and then realise I might not be speaking up enough. She heard all right, though: 'Well, they didn't work.' She turns, scowling, to Mary who chaired the event: 'I didn't hear a thing and I'm demanding my money back.'

Hm. Everyone else seemed to enjoy it, however, and we sold a fair few books, the main point of the exercise, after all....

Four bitches, from left to right: Mary Sharratt, me in my wig, Char March and Cath Staincliffe

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