It’s been a long three years since the last author party was held and even longer since I was able to attend. It’s a pretty hot ticket so you can guess how thrilled I was when the invite popped into my inbox. Yes, this country mouse was going to the Harper Collins Summer Party!
The journey began here, in a sleepy little railway station in Devon. Look at that gorgeous sunshine.
Even though I lived in London for over ten years, I’m daunted by the city now. It’s changed so much. No friendly hop on, hop off Routemaster busses any more – and no public transport takes cash. (Could I find my Oyster card, last used at least five years and three house moves ago? No!) I decided to treat myself and hail a black cab. God bless London cabbies, they served me well. The taxi ride from Waterloo to the hotel took me over Westminster Bridge, past the Houses of Parliament, Big Ben, Westminster Abbey and Westminster Cathedral. Had a lump in my throat as we inched along Victoria Street and past my old alma mata, the Victoria Palace Theatre. I used to work there. Happy memories flooded back, including one of the singing conductor on the number 38 bus home. Ancient history!
Booked into (not the most exciting) hotel room and dug out my glittery trainers. It was time for this Cinderella to go to the ball.
The party was held in the John Madejski Gardens at the Victoria and Albert Museum – a stunning backdrop. The exterior of the building is superb too. I had plenty of time to admire it as there was quite a queue to get in. No matter, plenty of time to chat with author friends not seen for far too long. It was lovely to see my old mucker Bella Osborne, catch up with Kath McGurl, Jane Lark, Kitty Wilson, Phillipa Ashley and lots of others.
Once in, with a glass of prosecco in my hand, it was time to do a little celeb spotting. I’m notoriously bad at this but even I caught a glimpse of Tim Rice, David Baddiel and Nigel Slater. Somehow I completely missed Martin Kemp! I managed to stop myself throwing my arms around Nigel Slater, telling him how much I loved him. I do, but it’s probably a secret best kept to myself.
As dusk fell, the gardens became ever more beautiful as they were bathed in a soft purple glow.
Glasses were continally topped up, delicious canapés came thick and fast – lobster rolls, mushroom risotto, crab salad, brioche burgers, nibbles of seared Wagyu beef, all teeny tiny and art on a plate.
There was also a cocktail bar serving, amongst others, a gin-based cocktail which was … ahem … very drinkable.
Time flew and I missed saying hi to many. I managed to have the quickest of chats to Celia Anderson, Caroline James, Caroline Roberts, Mandy James, Elisabeth J Hobbes, Linda Corbett and Liz Fenwick. Also met someone new – Louise Sharland. I’m not the best networker but it was a joy to chat with folk in real life after so long and catch up with writer friends I spend time with online.
All too soon it was time to hail another black cab (gorgeous chatty bloke) and head home to Devon via Waterloo. Not the most scenic of stations and a bit of a contrast to the one I left. Excellent people watching opportunities, however!
This morning, I left all glitter behind and was back to standing in the garden in my pyjamas waiting for the dogs to do what they had to do. All that glamour was short-lived. I enjoyed every minute though and will end with this. Proof I was there!