Tuesday, 5 October 2010

Magic Moments

Bookcrossers take photos of road signs. We're that cool
Isn't it great when you have a nice weekend of geekery planned, then, out of the blue, Brian Cox announces he's gonna be doing a book signing. Boo yhea! So, on Friday afternoon I toddled off to Waterstone's with a  copy of the new Wonders book tucked under my arm (I felt mildly guilty pre-ordering from Amazon rather than buying in the shop, but it was half price. And I really don't like Waterstone's much at all... too much of a corporate atmosphere). I'd intended on hooking up with Emma, but our travel plans went a bit skew-whiff so we ended up queueing separately - and oh my what a queue it was. Britishness at it's very best - no one talking to each each other but exactly the right amount of head nodding and polite smiles to acknowledge mutual interests. Plus, as a bonus, it was so long that the shop staff commented on it! Which was great for Coxy (I can call him Coxy now, I've met him - I've *gulp* touched his hand - we're basically best friends) but forced Emma & I to cancel our post-perving coffee plans - a shame.
Absolutely worth it though - Coxy was charming and polite (if a little bewildered looking); happily signing books, not laughing at my request that he use the silver pen I'd brought (it's prettier than black Sharpie, OK? I'm allowed to be girlie sometimes)  and even letting me get a picture with him (for which neither of us were ready, so we both look like mongs. Hurrah).

Given the queue length (not a complaint. I love a good queue, and this one was in a bookshop. That's two of my favourite things. I read half of Shappi Khorsandi's biography - am planning on finishing it in WHSmith's this week while waiting for the train) I had to totter straight off to meet Martha for our trip to Swindon, dragging a quintillion books (approximately) because it was Uncon time. Oh yes.
Moment #1: a school playground, kicking out time, huge bags of books in tow, peering around to locate Martha. About a billion knee high things running around when I realise one of them is taking books out of my bag. When it's mum noticed, she explained that the girl had assumed that the stuff in my bag - a stranger's bag (and lets face it they don't come much stranger than me) - was a present for her. This clearly defies all reasoning, and confused the bobbin-pin out of me
Moment #2: after 2 hours on the south circular on a Friday evening, hitting the M4 Martha cheered about how we were 'nearly there.' Clearly my friend had been driven (boom boom. I'm on fire tonight...) mental by a combination of traffic, diversions and my incessant Wolf-is-God chatter.
Moment #3: Swindon. The Magic Roundabout. What the fuck is that all about then?
Martha & I had been nonplussed at all the pre-Swindon magic roundabout banter, assuming it to be some sort of decorated roundabout. Little did we know. It's so much more than that. Best part is, the town planners down at Swindon HQ, in their infinite wisdom, decided to give unsuspecting tourists about 100 yards notice that the thing is approaching, and even then the sign manages to simultaneously confuse, terrify, explain nothing and over-simplify everything. Congrats. Our recommendation, should you find yourself in the middle of this hell-vortex (and it will be the middle. You'll be in the middle before you know it's there. You can't back away and hope it won't suck you in) is to point the car in approximately the right direction, close your eyes and put your foot down.Good Luck.
Once we actually made it to the hotel, we headed off to the pub as arranged, for an 'Icebreaker Event'. A combination of words which strikes fear into my very heart, and it seemed rightly so, for immediately upon arrival at the pub we were attacked by one of the more deranged Bookcrossers wanting us to help her complete her 'Getting to Know You Quiz'...
*A Short break from the advertised programming*
Bookcrossers are all a little bit odd. It's a good thing, because who the hell wants normal? But some of us are a little further along the spectrum than others. the Uncon is basically a weekend long game: try to find as many of the relativity normal people, whilst avoiding the total nut-jobs (further complicated by two facts: the freaks sometimes go in disguise, so you don't know that's what you're dealing with til too late - you need to keep an 'oh no, my allergies are playing up, I'd better leave' excuse to hand at all times, and also the oodest ones are like the ghosts in Pacman - they will seek you out.) and all the while resisting the lure of the book buffet.
*we now return to our scheduled viewing*
... which we thought sounded about as much fun as ice fishing in our underwear, so we quite simply ran away. Back in the hotel bar we hooked up with a few fellow escapees who were already known to us, so we could safely sit down for a spot of rum. As events at the pub petered out and everyone returned our allergies started playing up, so we invited Becky up to our room for a couple of bottles, a catch-up  and to smoke out of the window. We're such rebels.
Despite out best attempts, none of us were hung over the next morning, so we headed off to breakfast.
Moment #4: Becky, eating sausage and bacon, without benefit of either cutlery or crockery...
I'd have liked to hear Joseph D'Lacey speak, but, as it was at 9.15 in the morning that was just a non-starter. By all accounts he was very nice despite the ungodly hour. 
So my first official activity of the day was The Ffordian Bus Tour around The Seven Wonders of Swindon - expertly guided by Geoff and utterly hilarious. Why is there a statue of Diana Doors outside the shopping centre? Who the hell is Diana Doors?
Moment #5: kneeling, in a kind of Muslim-at-prayer position alongside a B road in a provincial town, taking a photo of a dodo reading a book in front of a road sign
Moment #6: realising, having been reminded by car hoots, that stockings and a miniskirt is not an ideal outfit for this activity
Off the tour bus and on to lunch...
Moment #7: Being expected to believe that a toasted baguette is a panini. I'm never leaving London again.
Jasper was an excellent speaker, very funny, quick witted and informative. He built a good rapport with the audience and created a nice informal atmosphere (despite the woman who got so excited she nearly jumped up on her chair in attempts to answer a rhetorical question). After the speech, he kindly signed my spoons (red handled, Shades of Grey fans should notice).
We pottered off to the raffle draw, and predictably failed to win anything, and were then treated to a surprise poetry reading
Moment #8: a slightly overweight lady grabbing her own boobs in front of a room full of strangers
Our little posse of bookcrossing renegades had to whip off for an early dinner at this point as Rachel was driving home after we ate, and didn't want to be too late - so off to the local Indian we tripped (literally in my case - when wearing my beautiful-but-impractical Kurt Geiger's, tripping is the only method of foot-based transportation available). The food was tasty and the d├ęcor nice, but the waiter's were a bit rude
Moment #9: getting Bitchy looks for talking from a woman sat near us. It is not permissible to engage in conversation with your friends within the town borders of Swindon, apparently.
After our nosh we returned to the hotel bar where Ali taught us Shithead, a very silly but entertaining card game
Moment #10: Card games as a spectator sport. More people watching than playing. All the spectators maintaining complete silence (obviously they knew the rule about talking in Swindon).
The card game eventually fell apart and various elements headed off to bed, but not me, nocturnal badger that I am. I headed over to join a contingency of Irish BCers, who, aided by a Belgium and an Ex-Aussie, kept me entertained until the early hours of the morning. I'm definitely heading over to Dublin 2012 :D
Moment #11: Meeting a Belgian who was not weird. Well, not too weird. I didn't ask if he likes jazz...
Sunday morning got off to a good start as I thoroughly confused everyone by going to breakfast in my pyjamas. I really didn't think it was odd, but according to the various bamboozled faces it must be. ho hum.
Given the bleedin' English weather and my general intolerance to mornings, I opted out of the release walk, but buggered off back to the room to have a long hot bath and sink into one of my newly acquired books, before heading to lunch with my favourite South-West England based Kiwi
Moment #12: Swindon does not serve food on Sundays after 1pm. What did I say about never leaving London again?
I suspect that narrating the rest of our evening would mean giving away details of Alan's private life that he'd rather I didn't tell (bet that's piqued your curiosity) - needless to say I I used a combination of alcohol and physical torment to wheedle a few tasty titbits out of him.... about which my lips are sealed ;)
Noisy, Nosey Noodle xx


  1. You get all the good stuff, Noodle! No one ever comes to my part of Texas. Well, quite alot of tourists, but no authors of note.

  2. Bookcrossers are weird? Now you tell me! All this time I thought I just didn't handle convention crowds well. *intentionallynosmileyface*