Tuesday, 18 September 2012

fish, chips and crime

Just got back from my world tour of all over the place, including a brief trip to hell and back through high water and all kinds of other metaphors. There was no email access anywhere. No phone signal. Just blame hurricane Jordan. The actual hurricane that is not the page three model in a strop.

Bumped into a few celebrities on the way, some are just as lovely or not lovely off stage as on but they are what they are. Some are just dure money grabbing gits off stage yet on stage they are all bon homie and lovliness dahling and butter would not melt. Off stage they will snub you, stab you in the back as easily as they would steal your last Rolo. They snap their fingers at their PR people to get them a taxi ( just asking would do!), they are as nice as ninepence on stage and really horrible to the other panellists afterwards. Daft to do that to a crime writer, as they will just write about them and get their own back in the next book. Not brutally slaughter them in fiction as they might enjoy that  but write about them and give them a mullet  or make them a Take That fan or something equally awful.

I am refusing to acknowledge the sock puppetting scandal. There is a good reason for this. I  don't understand it. But Tony Black and  Zoe Sharp and  I ( three crime writers who should have been making better use of their time! I just put that in in case my agent reads this as she thinks I am blogging instead of writing my next book but this is a freelance stream of consciousness- typing rather than dense plotting while really having to  concentrate and do big  thinking, I am able to eat  pringles while blogging! ). We three invented a  new word... fingerbobbing. That means writing over the internet about folk and being NICE about them. 
Let's start a trend!

Firstly, the lovely but extremely stressed Susan. She is stressed every time I see her. She runs the Milngavie  arts and book festival and is a little superstar.  I might be talking rubbish but she owns the book shop in  Milngavie that used to be owned by Magnus Magnusson. Each year she has run this festival for arts etc and on the last night it reaches it's climax. The culmination of all that is great and worthy about the  world of high brow literature.. the fish, chips and crime night. It is  hosted by the  marvellous Len Murray- every body's favourite grandad. That is not the trade union one, rather the QC one. The  man is a natural wit,  he needs no mic (  just as well as one minute in to the event the sound system was making noises like a cow having a spasm of the vocal chords.) Len does not need a mic, he said that if he asked a question in court two, the answer came from court four. In fact, you could probably hear him in Quebec. The other panellist was Sophie Hannah, a great girl if I can call her that . She said that any gig where you get chips is worth doing! She was funny, witty, informative, and a  general all round good egg, ad libbing with the rest of us as we waited for the secret signal that the chips had arrived.  If you ever get the  chance to go and see her do so. I’ve read a few of her books,  more observation and psych thriller than the specifics of forensically who did what to who  and  why. I was telling her that I watched a  programme on TV,  getting forty minutes through it before I realised it was a TV adaptation of one of her books. She said that she watched the whole thing and did not recognise it at all!
 She did ask me an interesting question though. She asked me which of my books was my  favourite. I answered and then she asked.. but which do you think is your best... and the answer was different.
We had rather a good natter about that over our chip butties.

The three of us kept going -  ready to be cut off in our prime the minute the chips arrived... just imagine all these  posh folk, crystal glasses, champagne, chandeliers, then  the fish suppers arrive.. what joy! And they all turn into finger lickers ( not to be confused with fingerbobbers ) 

Poor Susan, stressed no doubt by being driven slowly insane by the health and safety Nazis, has said No More festivals.
Boo hiss, but  I do understand. it's too much.
Go and visit her book shop. It has a wee coffee house  at the back. Great  latte and the best egg mayo sandwiches  I have ever tasted. And that is true.
Not just a  fingerbob!

Sunday, 9 September 2012

Pic; is it over yet?

The Great Lord Lushfield experimenting with his flashing. By now I just wanted Marmite.

before the launch

Before it starts, with singer and songwriter CKB.

picture; the launch

the launch of blood of crows!
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.

Oh dear.

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!


Wednesday, 5 September 2012

the big day!

When  I was normal, before I was a published author, I thought that publication day would go like this;

One would rise to birdsong, the sun would be shining, the sky would be blue and my hair would sit right.  I would sink into a hot bath full of bubbles and swan around doing bugger all as bluebirds flew round my head in a disneyesque manner. I would wear a silk dressing gown when I opened the door to receive the bouquets of flowers being sent from grateful publishers, agents, acolytes etc.
I would spend the day being generally marvellous, eating handmade chocolates and sipping champagne, then I'd get dressed, everything would fit, my feet would slip into my shoes as if they were made of glass. Then a car would come for me and I'd be driven into town, where my adoring fans would wave as they waited outside Waterstones for me. I would be witty, erudite and fantastic and I would not swear. The queue to buy books would be out the door and the supply would be plentiful. My pen would not run out and I would not get RSI in the right wrist. Somehow I would lose any medical qualification that I ever had and my handwriting would become legible. I would leave them begging for more, I'd get back into the chauffeur driven car and be taken home, there would be no roadworks outside ASDA. The house would be warm and cosy, the pitbull would not run away with her friend Mr Fox. There would be toast and Marmite and a big comfy bed.

The reality was out of bed at 6am, dog out, met Jack Shit (cross between jack russell and a shit zu) and his mum who was nice... but I was watching the clock. Then I met the obnoxious woman, who always looks at pitbull as though she is an illegal immigrant with ebola. The pitbull just gave her a dismissive look but we had to stand back from the path while she wandered past with her pedigree rat.
Cleaned the cat hair out the bath, etc dressed and packed bag as can't spend all day in good shoes and  BBC radio want me in the middle of Glasgow at half ten.  Had to drive car laden with wine, glasses, water and orange juice to Glasgow and park as close to Waterstones as I could. Then swing around the railings in Blytheswood Square as the linen cupboard in the hotel was too noisy for the recording. Alex Grey persuaded me to do secret things that I cannot blog about but it has a sherlock feeling about it.  Chris Brookmyre and I chatted about the Borrheid mafia.  Then went to M and S for a coffee, it was empty, peace, quiet then  woman with screaming child came in and sat at the table next to me... the kid screamed and screamed. I am allergic to children- when they come near me they come out in bruises.
 Then I was sick.
 Then I had to redo my makeup  but I had my trowel with me so that was OK.
Then to Waterstones for filmed interview with Daily Record ( Google Caro Ramsay chapter and verse 2012 if you want to see it), John is making me laugh, asks me the same question twice and we are trying to ignore the small crowd behind the camera. I was determined not to use the phrase 50 shades of grey, but I did.
 Then the faithful PA arrived, laden with bookmarks and receipts. James from Waterstones produced a trolley and we pushed it up and down Sauchiehall street laden with boxes of glasses and Pringles, two blondes trying to bounce it up and down the kerbs. Did we drop any ? Nope! I think we were a bit too conscious of the £90 deposit which I promised HWMBI could spend on chocolate raisins in B&M stores if he washed all the glasses. He didn’t really mind the washing, it was the taking them back to Silverburn on the Saturday that required Cofe Annan type of negotiation.
Back at Waterstones the PA and I hid in cupboard and got changed, before we went out and put out the 200 glasses, the wine, the juice, the Pringles. People started arriving ( no bus).. my pal arrived with tears in his eyes having got the all clear from nasty things just that day. So we had a hug, then he saw somebody else he knew and hugged him. Then joe bloggs appeared and he gave me a hug thinking that was the done thing. Still no bus.
The place was filling up... can we get started said the Waterstone’s guy. He looked a bit concerned when I told him that the bus was not here...yet.
Then they arrived, wandering down the stairs in a dazed and confused way, like slightly pissed Zombies  ( they had been singing on the bus) The bus was more than a bit late,  then somebody  got locked in the loo. I had put out reserved seats for a pals with mobility issues - I had printed them out on the back of a friends edit. Little old lady sits down, turns over  paper and reads the words ..".'F... off you cow,' she said." Much hilarity.
The BBC lady was interviewing folk, including my 82 year old friend who could easily have said...'Well I do like Caro's books but like books with much more sex in them.'
Then I started... so I finished as Magnus would say.  The Mensa folk turned up an hour late and got confused between the queue to buy books and get books signed, after the shop closed they were escorted away by an off duty cop in case they could not find their way to the street.
Sore hand, pen ran out, lost my good pen, couldn't spell any of the Gaelic names and Waterstone’s ran out of books.
The hotel did us proud in the end and the bus took the home team away, pissed and happy, singing Achy Breaky heart all the way back to the small fishing village on the Clyde.  I received two thank you cards... to be passed onto the bus driver.
I got home... sixteen trips in and out the car to empty it of all the detritus of the day, the various furry ones sat and watched me, heads moving from side to side like they were watching Murray V Federer. It was well past midnight by the time  I was finished.
Then I collapsed in a heap,  it was cold, there was no toast and no marmite.
Now I understand Michael Jackson.
He turned to drugs due to lack of Marmite!

Sunday, 2 September 2012

the day before the day before the day..

It has all been a little fraught as you may have gathered, every blog I have typed has been full of expletives and unpublishable. But now, after the event, after the big day that was today, we are all back to normality and nobody died.  This is five days after the first attempt at this blog... at some point I was staggering up the street at one AM, having lost my shoes, my voice and the will to live.  And perfectly sober I may add.
At this moment, when a degree of normality returned, I am lying under the dog and the duvet, sipping red wine and trying to get warm.  So now, kiddiewinks, I will transport you back to the Tuesday before the BIG DAY.

 It was an effing disaster of a day.

 I was treating the patients as usual, they seemed to sense all was not well and bore more gifts that usual- the croissant were almond crusted, the sandwiches had mayo and not salad cream. The FPA was trying to firm up arrangements for the launch- arrangements that were already in place and were all moved a month forward as publication date changed.... then... well,  the FPA was trying to keep control of her bowels  as the day wound down from bad to worse.

 We opened the boxes of books that had been delivered from the publisher... there were a few missing....well 33% missing. No copies at all of one of the books. And I had a major charity event on Sunday... and they need the books to sell. My poor editor only came back from holiday on Monday and we have done nothing but moan at her.... another few emails.

Lots of coffee and almond croissants!

 Then the FPA phoned the hotel. They had lost the booking. Her face went pale, and I think she stopped breathing.  I think as her lungs collapsed, her bowels went into over drive. She didn’t tell me at that point, she asked the young lady, very pointedly to PHONE me BACK WHEN YOU HAVE FOUND IT.
Or die. I think was the subtext.

The girl did find it eventually and she was very apologetic, but by then the FPA was on life support. We did ask what would have happened if 100 Glaswegians had walked in looking for free booze and no function room was ready for them... oh we would have sorted out something she said.

Well good luck with that one pal!

Hiring room? Can we have one table, loads of chairs? How many chairs round how many tables? She said. Only one table, but a lot of chairs- they will move them around as they want? Yes, but how many tables do you want in the room?

 More than zero, less than two.

Why are they so many numpties in employment when there so many unemployed.  My pal had a border collie that would have grasped the situation quicker.

 But she was honest enough to admit it when the booking email was eventually found and the FPA was jump started by an adrenaline injection right into the cardiac muscle. Less than honest were Tesco, Sainsbury and some other glass hire lot. Unbelievably wrong on everything they said on the phone and then deny that that was what they said. Twenty pounds is not sixty pounds as they tell you.  Or was it forty?   So you want 300 glasses? Well we have twelve. Yes but on the phone you said you had 300. The response to this is a blank stare. And 12 glasses.

Ok said, faithful PA? Please give us twenty bottles of wine and three hundred straws.
Or a horse trough and they can just sort themselves out.

Maybe if I was a member of Mensa I would be oblivious.

Some of the guests seem to be mistaking the complimentary bus for the hokey cokey. They are in, then they are out.   Very confusing if you are the Bold Oscarina with the clipboard and the microphone. Her job was that Falklands thing of counting them out and counting them home.

There was one ray of sunshine. A patient had got hold of an advance copy of Blood Of Crows, started it at 8pm, and then read it until the wee small hours, he was enjoying it so much. And he was a wee bit scared so he thought he had better read on. He finished it in matter of hours, he said it was my best yet, real thrilling thriller.
 And I didn’t even owe him money.

Ps, he wasn’t a member of MENSA either.