I left in plenty time but all the Twickenham buses were dilatory, so I was speeding towards two little figures early outside Langton’s shop door as the church clock struck eight and I turned into a pumpkin, continuing to roll till I came to a stop at the feet of these two lustrous women, who could both play Cinderella but …well, who knows? Dumpy and Skinny?
As I was unlocking the door to the treasure cave, who should I spy bearing down but John, full sails flying! like Sinbad I have to put on the light first for him and his fast fading cataracted eyes. He’s having his second book published but first things first: I uncorked the red wine. Jacqui’d brought a white which the women, including Jan, who had come after all, drank. Kevin came last, with beer, apparently less alcoholic than wine, in consideration for the antibiotics he was taking for a broken arm from being brushed off his bike by a passing truck. I forbear to moralise on his patent and wilful self-deception. Vicky with that practicality which comes from long practice spotted at once how to open the bottle with a can opener, suggesting the other end. Did I mention she was incisor-less?
I read Johnny’s avoidance of sexual abuse in a cornfield, a damn near thing as usual, and his going on to play at avoiding abusive punishment at the hands of his doting mum he runs rings round. Kevin, and John, objected Johnny was older than his years, five, and Kevin thought this the input of the writer of ‘the book’, who’d be me, and Johnny himself had thought his man then might be the future writer, who’d be me now or shortly before now…. But enough of me.
Jacqui read from her political novel which is off to her publisher who’d be a fool not to publish it. In this brilliant extract we meet the main character’s brother whose likeness to his sister is well brought out in his sparring with the doctor she’ll have a thing for. The working title for the book, Trees and Leaves or something such was uninspiring and I was thinking ‘Washington…’ when Vicky came up with ‘Washington is Dead’ that we all helpfully endorsed.
Jan read next, an exposition of spiritual healing, as distinct from faith, an energy that coursed through her from the spirits of the dead, apparently. This is a book either Kipublishing or Chomu might take an interest in once written, if ever, the one because such esoteric twaddle appeals to my beloved and esteemed publisher and the other because of its interest in anything to do with death. Jan’s repetition of the phrase ‘spiritual healing’ had the contrary effect on me, less healing than the hammering of a nail in my coffin, and I doucely suggested, endorsed by Jacqui, she seek alternative expression.
John had Jacqui read an extract from his second novel – she’s his pet – that nicely caught all the subsidiary characters being party to the establishing of a fictional persona for his main and fictitious character. He was being a bit too self-important afterwards for my taste though he’s no longer defensively picky on me now he’s being published, reserving that one-upmanship for Kevin whose style is more see-me than John’s and more rollicking with a nice turn of poetic phrase, usually in brogue since it’s a novel set in Ireland during the war. He conveyed the emotional longing of his heroine well.
Finally I read an extract from my diary on the abuse I suffered at the hands of Terry, who has pleaded guilty, that fully met the requirements of the topic set. What I do for my art!
Kevin drove me home. It wasn’t yet 10:30 but I don’t think anybody was given short shrift.