It happened at Sandown Racecourse, of all places. I had taken 16 people from the High Park Tavern in Ryde, on my home base of the Isle of Wight, so they could have a flutter on
the gee-gees. The High Park Tavern is the pub next door to my place, in fact, and I have lost many an hour of my life in there.
Now, I usually stay in the bus on long-haul jobs, and kill time by reading and/or writing, but as I dropped them off at the entrance – my eyes searching for a spot in the nearby coach-park to put my feet up and break my book out – the owner of the High Park pulled out a spare ticket for the Solario Suite for my good self!
“Ya didna think we’d get yous oop here wid-out one, eh?” said Brian.
A free day out at the races for Jode?
It did mean I’d have to cart around a backpack full of netbook, a book, and The Book. Unfortunately it was a ‘Family Day’ as well, which meant that I managed to clump a few kids around the backs of heads with said backpack. Accidentally, of course. Except for one. But he didn’t count. He was French.
AFter an hour of watching (and shooting my bolt to the tune of £30) I decided horse-racing wasn’t for me, despite the (surprisingly) fun atmosphere and being surrounded by wannabe-Ascot-ladies everywhere.
So I sat down at the back of the stands, content to people-watch and soak up the smells and surroundings of a foreign (to me) area. Admittedly the aroma of horse shit was a tad strong, but I took it as par for the course.
Anyway, I was sat right above the finish post, opposite “The World’s Largest LED Screen”, which was showing highlights of the races, then other race meets around the country, interspersed with adverts for restaurants, food, etc. Suddenly a Sandown Park Twitter site advert blazed up so I reached for my camera (as you do).
I snapped and missed so decided I’d wait for it to come around again, and – as I did so – a
new advert popped up announcing that Charlie and Lola author – Lauren Child – would be hosting a book signing between 3 and 4pm in the Surrey Hall.
Hey, I thought, I’ll get Bam a signed book and also meet a fellow author. And by ‘fellow author’ I mean ‘multi-millionairess successful author’. Still, she’s a writer and me can too write.
I killed half an hour before wandering in to join the queue of mothers, pushchairs and children.
Never has a middle-aged man in a hoody and covered in tattoos looked more conspicuous.
Luckily I fell in with a couple of families and their kids and we chatted about the books as we watched the line behind us growing ever bigger, very quickly.
“Oh yeah,” I said, trying to fit in. “My son loves her books.”
“Really?” cooed one of the mums. “Which one is his favourite?”
“Er… all of them?” I smiled.
Suddenly feeling like a nonce in a playground I knew I had to divert the conversation away from book titles I had no idea about.
Luckily, my keen eye realised that we were the only people in line that weren’t clutching Charlie and Lola books. To the left of the queue stood a table on a platform (next to Ms Child) where a young man in a suit was busy selling copies to all and sundry who then returned to the queue to have their wares signed.
I pointed this out to the ladies and they quickly realised that we needed to purchase said books to make our time in the line worthwhile.
Like a real man, I came up with a suggestion.
I sent one of them off to by me a book while I waited in line. Y’know, to hold her space.
This plan backfired, however, when she returned with a book and asked how old my son was.
“He’s three.” I replied, and suddenly she looked sheepish.
“Oh,” she winced. “I should’ve asked before. I think this book is slightly out of his age range.”
I’ll fucking say. The boys’ only just learnt how to draw people so he’d have no chance with the prose I flicked through quickly.
I’m pretty sure that mum had just shafted me back…
So, now I made her hold my place while I tottered on up to buy Bam a book.
Prize in hand, I rejoined my place in the queue, a couple of quick disgrunted glances passing between us all.
And, finally, there she was before me. Lauren Child. Author and Illustrator to over 20 books, winner of 15 awards for her talents, and former painting assistant to Damien Hirst.
Plus, most important of all, this woman is hot. I think I have a crush on a children’s author.
We chatted briefly, and I dedicated the book with the flowing prose to my niece, Ruby, as the main character in the book was also called Ruby, and I asked for the bigger, more illustrated book to be made out to Bam. A brief chat, and I was on my way, content with my signed purchases, proud to have met a really real writer, and also with my heart all aflutter. Or something.
But it got me thinking. It made me more determined to become a writer. It made me realise that with a lot of hard work I could be sat behind a desk, signing my work to people who wanted to meet me – even for a brief moment – and acknowledge the work I had done. The words I had spent months churning out, researching, living and breathing.
I got something I need to give people… and this time it isn’t an STD.
And I wonder if they’ll dress up like zombies when they come to the book signings? Now that would be cool.
Oh, and does anyone know if Lauren Child is single?
2 thoughts on “Horses for Courses”
Your determination will payoff because not only do you posses an exceptional talent, but heart too. A combination of both will ensure success. I see a screenplay adaptation and a world tour in your future. And I’ll be the first in line for a signed copy when you hit the Sunshine State.
Marni, it’s a date. I promise you.
And thanks for the kind words 😉