As poor backpackers travelling around Australia in the mid-nineties, my friend, Melanie, and I attended quite a few book launches and readings in Sydney.
I would don my cleanest t-shirt and slip on the Birkenstocks. Mel wore her iconic red dress. And we’d head into Gleebooks in Sydney. We usually got there early–the first to politely accept some wine and nibbles. Then with a couple of spare glasses of red tucked under our chairs, we settled down to listen to the author read from his or her latest novel. Too poor to buy the books, we were an enthusiastic audience, and I’m sure the authors were pleased to see a packed room.
One of those readings was an author from Melanie’s neck o’ the woods, and she decided he should be presented with English cheese. How she came up with this wacky plan I’ll never know but she purchased, kept refrigerated and politely presented the cheese when the author sat at his book-signing table. He managed to retain his composure. He thanked her. I’m sure nobody had every presented him with a cheese before. I’m also pretty sure he binned it when we’re turned our attention to the glug glug of a freshly-opened bottle. I wish I could remember who he was.
A couple of weeks ago Mel presented me with a cheese. The honour! She came to see me receive my prize in the Writing West Midlands Short Fiction Competition in Birmingham. I was delighted to win a competition, to have people come to meet me and to hear me read. Delighted that Mel could take time out to come up from London. And I was chuffed to be presented with a cheese. The Oscars are next I suppose.
If only–IF ONLY–she had worn her red dress that night, because later in the restaurant, Chris de Burgh serenaded us with a snippet from his most famous Lady in Red. The memories, ah the memories…