Saturday, December 09, 2006

Party Animals

'Would you like to come to the Random House Christmas party?' they asked me. Hey, is the Pope a Catholic?
So there I was, Thursday December 7th, walking along the street to my destination, looking at plaques saying things like, 'Lord Pilkington Smythe was born here in 1887' and who do I see coming along the street towards me? Only Rita Tushingham!

Now, I appreciate that people of a certain age will be saying, 'Wow, Rita Tushingham!' while those under a certain age will be looking blank and saying 'Rita Who?' Let me just say that Rita was one of the brightest stars of 60's Brit-cinema and her lead role in Tony Richardson's A Taste Of Honey alone, would qualify her for superstar status. I once wrote a little poem about Rita. It goes like this.

As I was rushing home
through Rusholme
in the rush hour.
I didn't see Rita Tushingham
rushing home,
but if I had
I would be glad.
For there's none more neater
than our Rita.

So I took a liberty, pretended I knew her and had a nice little chat with Rita, before going on in to the party. I didn't mention the poem, in case she thought I was a dangerous maniac or something.

The venue was incredibly swanky, to be honest, all cut glass chandeliers and parquet floors. I was literally the first person there, but within minutes the place was filling up and my goodness, just look who it was filling up with! I recognised (and in many cases, chatted happily with) the likes of Philip Pullman, Terry Pratchett, Jacqueline Wilson, Jonathan Stroud, Keith Grey, Dean Carter, Paul Stewart, Chris Riddell, Joe Delaney, Sam Enthoven... and a chap who looked exactly like Hugh Fernly Whittingstall but wasn't. Luckily, I'd actually read books by some of these people and when I was introduced to them, nobody looked at me and said, 'who the hell are you?' which was a relief.

And then, what a surprise, who do I bump into but Steve Webb, from Manchester, who once came to the Writers Group and who I last saw at a Society Of Authors meeting. And I knew of course that he was an author/illustrator but hadn't realised he was with Random House. Weird! We stood there and talked about the wonder of it all, two Manc scallies in amongst the quality.

Then it was time to head in the direction of the nearest pub and the party really began...

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