Having built a bridge and told myself to fucking get over it, on Thursday I went to London.
If you are in any way even slightly kickarse, this will not seem like a big deal to you. But to me, it assumed massive proportions. I haven’t been to London for four years, back in my previous life when I had to suck an awful lot of corporate cock and used to attend Big Important Government Department Meetings. Back then, everything was on expenses, so I’d arrive at King’s Cross, jump in a black cab, spend the day being professional, then catch a taxi back to the station again. Now, obviously, things are different, because I am an impecunious writer. So I’d have to navigate the tube, then make my way along unfamiliar streets before arriving at a party where I would know no one, and where I would do my best to sparkle and impress Important Writer Types, before having to make the return journey, arriving back in Norwich at the very precise time of 23:29.
Frankly, I was bricking it. I left the house stupidly early to make sure I reached the train station in time and I was so jittery that I half-jogged most of the way there in my far too warm wool coat, and was a sweat-sodden mess when I arrived at the station, fifty minutes before my train was leaving. Alistair phoned to check I was on my way (there had been an awful lot of bolstering me in the days leading up to this) and I appeared to have adopted the voice of Beaker from The Muppets and lost the ability to form a coherent sentence. I tried to eat a baguette and my throat was so dry it actually creaked when I attempted to swallow. Luckily I had my pen and notebook with me, so I was able to lose myself in a project I’ve been working on and it was a bit of a shock to look up after two hours and find that we were nearly at Liverpool Street.
I made my ways into the bowels of the Underground, successfully made my way to the right platform and boarded the next train, feeling stupidly proud of myself. Then I realised I was on the wrong bloody train and had to humiliatingly get off at the next stop, and get on another train (the right one this time). At Hammersmith, I wandered around aimlessly for ten minutes, trying and failing to locate familiar street names, before I found what I was looking for. Only forty minutes early this time, so that’s an improvement. Oh look, there’s a pub.
And at six o’clock, quivering with nerves, I made my way here.
Harper Collins. Harper bloody Collins! (yes, I was a bit shaky).
Harper Impulse (the digital romance imprint of Harper Collins) were throwing a party, an Autumn Fete, to say thank you to their writers, their reviewers, guest bloggers and for all of us to meet. Although quite a few of us follow each other on twitter, I had never met any of them and I was terrified. Terrified. I made my way into a massive atrium, up a flight of stairs and into the most fabulously glamorous party I have ever underdressed for. Clutching a glass of Pimm’s, I turned slowly on the spot, wondering if anyone from twitter would recognise me. And then two complete strangers entered, and from their faces, I knew exactly how they felt. I joined them and blurted out ‘I DON’T KNOW ANYONE ELSE HERE EITHER!’ We all burst out laughing and here we are:
The very lovely @MiaHoddell and @stephanie_khani. That’s yours truly in the middle, my claws gripping my glass of Pimm’s (from my cold, dead hands…). I don't know what I was squirrelling away in my cheeks. Then Liz-Sheena from @fivegoglamping arrived and I had just the best evening with my new friends. I met the writers Lorraine Wilson and Jane Linfoot , the incomparably bright and bubbly Harper Impulse team,
all of whom are so friendly and so much fun that when I grow up I want to be them, and the CEO of Harper Collins
(yes, he does look like Mr Big).
There was Pimm’s, prosecco and painted pumpkins, canapés and nibbles, beautiful sweet treats, music and a wonderful speech from the head of Harper Impulse, Kim. My favourite part of the evening was when the authors came face to face with copies of their own books, specially printed for the Fete. To see their faces, absolutely aglow with bashful pride at seeing their creations in real life for the first time was really very touching (may have had a vicarious tear in my eye there). It was almost as though the reality of their achievement finally hit home and was, if it doesn’t sound too gushing, inspirational.
Sadly, it was all too quickly eight o’clock and time for this fangirl to set off home. But one further surprise
– GOODY BAGS! And not filled with any old tat, oh no.
Books! And the type of books I actually want to read! It was a very happy me that boarded the train at Liverpool Street at half past nine. And just to round off my utterly brilliant day, I’d booked myself into first class (it was only an extra £5). I had a table lamp and free refreshments
An acre of space to sit and write in
And a dangerously giddy mood that led me to take an ill-advised selfie to prove that this actually happened.
A massive, massive thank you to Harper Impulse for hosting such a wonderful get together, and allowing me to meet so many fantastic and insanely talented people. I haven’t stopped smiling since.