Friday, September 26, 2008

Ride the Word at Borders Oxford St

Two things I'll never do again: wear heels to walk in London, and go on about how convenient and quick the trains are between Manchester and London now.

On Wednesday I was off to London for a meeting over a bite to eat and then on to Borders in Oxford St for the Ride the Word reading - five Salt authors, including Charles Lambert whose collection The Scent of Cinnamon was hot off the press. Seemed a cinch: in two hours and four minutes I was in London and a forty-minute leisurely stroll later (my heels weren't that high, after all) I was at my meeting. 'God, it's so quick now from Manchester!' I said over dinner, pretty pleased with the state of the world in general. 'Amazing that it's so easy now to come and go back in one day!'

And the reading was great: I arrived as the readers were being announced and slipped into a seat in the back row right next to fellow Salt short-story writers (and fellow bloggers) Vanessa Gebbie and Tania Hershman whose debut collection The White Road is also just out. I loved the poetry: Simon Barraclough is deservedly shortlisted for the Forward Prize:

and Vincent de Souza's motorbike poems were exciting:

I knew it would happen if Isobel Dixon read her utterly moving yet restrained father poems, and it did, I cried:

Jay Merrill astounded us with her dry wit and sheer woomph:

and Charles' story was a miracle of vividness and control:

So involving were the readings that I think hardly anyone noticed that the programme overran, past nine o'clock - I certainly didn't, and then of course I was busy chatting to everyone including someone I had spotted in the audience but hadn't seen for years: Judith Amanthis, whose wonderful short stories we published in metropolitan. I went over to speak to Charles. In a moment as he turned away I looked at my watch. My God! It was nine thirty! It had taken me forty minutes to get here, and my train was due to leave in only thirty-five!

Charles emailed the next day asking what on earth had happened. One minute he had been talking to me and then... This is what happened: I snatched up my bag, I left the shop and then I fled. Well, I got there in thirty, but one thing I had learnt: it's one thing strolling in heels, even quite low ones, and quite another marching and half-running...

And as I rushed up to the departures board I was greeted with this news (somewhat ironic in view of my recently-published Horizon story, 'Possibility'): all trains to Manchester had been suspended since around 7.30: they'd closed the line because a gunman had been shooting at passing trains at Rugby, and was still on the loose and shooting at the police helicopter now.

I didn't get out of Euston till gone 11.30. I could have stayed nattering after all...

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