Friday and Saturday were back down to earth with a slap. 6 am starts. Cold and driech, autumn is well and truly here. The days past in a patient list full of caffeine and tiredness. I was not in Florence Nightingale mode, I was in the mode of my other great medical hero. Gregory House. 'It's patients who get in the way of treatment!'
Sunday was a confusing day, too many kids, too many dogs, high heels, blisters, trouser legs too long. A big charity do that could be an all day affair, but sore feet and sore throat had not recovered from the launch. The do was 40 miles away... and I had to do my face.. and look human despite the lack of sleep.
I've seen other guest speakers turn up as if they have just finished mowing the lawn but it seems a little disrespectful, unless you are Alan Titchmarsh of course.
It was a ladies who lunch type of thing, lots of cleavage and flowers. (Not mine. I do not posses the first and am allergic to the second.) But they tend to talk, a lot. As if they have been let out from somewhere after a period of captivity. They are lovely and very welcoming, even the lady with the job that would normally make me produce an AK 47 - a home economics teacher, but she was quite normal. I normally class them with Douglas Adams 'B' ark, ie the sort of people the world is better off without... Telephone sanitisers, Simon Cowell, Big Brother, anybody who says 'spelled the Gaelic way etc'
There is always a intrinsic difficulty in these events, the audiences are an unknown quantity and indeed, quality. My 'audience' know that they are going to get a sad sick pervert giving them verbal shrapnel. Crime audiences don't mind us talking about chopping up prostitutes or nailing household pets to the neighbours door and they will laugh. We might be SSP but we are nice with it.
Talking to the general public is always slightly more difficult. People have paid a lot of money to have a nice afternoon, it might be a mistake to stick to the script if folk are getting scared. Chris Brookmyre does not alter his style at all, what you see is what you get, usually with both barrels. I don't mind yielding a little. If people have paid money to come along and I am part of the deal, the deal is to entertain them.... and get money out them. Would I say that if my granny was in the audience? If not then I will keep stumm.
They were all very nice ladies, even the HE teacher, all dressed as if going to a wedding, some of them hyphenated. I very quickly got the impression that they were under the (wrong ) impression that I was a nice, chick lit writer, a bit kind of Colin Firth and Shades of Jane Austin.
My fall back plan was to poke fun at Mensa ( a great crowd pleaser that one!)
Then address questions that I was casually asked during the dinner. Folk are curious about writers. They like to know things! They want to know how to kill their husbands, then they want to know how to get away with it.
The lady in charge of me ( there has to be one!) is from the 'north of England'. I am not good at accents but I would place her somewhere between James Bolam and Cheryl Cole. We were running late so the raffle was in double quick time, she was desperately trying to say 'Yuille' 'Crainlarich and Achencouchen' and I was desperately trying not to laugh. Maybe we should just make the raffle a comedy double act. If we vote for independence, I think she should be allowed to stay.
There was a bit where I did have to bite my tongue and dig my fingernails into my palms to stop laughing. I have a very weird sense of humour and will laugh at at the most inappropriate things. I have spent much of my life around professional musicians, indeed HWMBI is one. People never think that they can stand up and sort out the Higgs Boson unless they have studied physics, so why do people think they can play the drums or sing? In here please just insert my usual rant about the X factor. The X factor is a success because so few who think they can sing actually can. They are usually tone deaf and have no friends to tell them the truth. Often what passes for singing is a noise that can be auto tuned to sound less like a cat having a hysterectomy. And there is a narrow range of song they feel is acceptable. Which is worse than a shame.
So after my wee bit, a young girl got up to sing us a couple of songs. This was fine. She could sing. She could hold a tune. She had a beautiful lyrical very pure voice..... so why did she sing along to a crap backing CD with crap backing vocals? At that point... with her standing behind a lectern, nodding at the instrumental break with no guitarist to look at during the guitar solo, I just got a bit French and Saunders.
She had a great voice, we were on the banks of the Bonnie Doon. I think one of the greatest song writers in the world had a wee ready made song for her there, a melody that is so beautiful it is tear jerking. She could have done it unaccompanied, I think she is that talented. So why did she sing that American shit?
However all that is just a personal opinion. It was a great day, the committee worked very hard to make a success of it. Action For Medical Research is the best known charity that nobody knows anything about, they just politely go on their way raising money. And the research they make possible and the medical advances they fund are well documented and worth every penny donated. I've been in practice for 28 years and I see, in my lifetime, the difference that this charity has made to the public profile of conditions Rett's syndrome. It is good stuff, check out the website.
They used to be ' help a crippled child' - remember the wee boy collecting box that used to stand outside shops with a polished head as every body patted him as they walked by... and put money in. They are still much loved, and cherished. Probably to the annoyance of the PC nazis. There was one such collecting box outside the fish mongers in Paisley Road West. I would not go in because of the kipper eyes ( still freak me out, the eyes of dead fish). I would stay outside and my gran would give me an old thrupence to put in the box to help the wee kiddies. I'd stand and chat away to him, waiting. I think some times, I even heard him talk back. But I was only five at the time.
I think there might be a short story there!