I spent the first day at the London Book Fair gadding around like a woman twenty years my junior and feeling rather as if I had landed on a strange planet: So many new things to see and appreciate! The exhibitors’ stands, the crowds of people who all seemed to know each other, and were circulating, or meeting appointment times with a sense of mission and purpose.
In the morning I had the great good fortune to hear Jeffrey Archer, and in the afternoon, Marian Keyes, both interviewed at the English PEN literary salon. Archer and Keyes are two of my favourite authors, and I was pleased to hear their insights around the processes of writing, and to learn that an editing style that takes in dozens of edits is not at all unusual, thank goodness. I’m glad I’m not the only one who wakes in the middle of the night wondering about a single word in a book…..
In the vast space of the Olympia Centre, with its several large halls and wide expanses of flooring illuminated under glass ceilings reminiscent of railway stations or the glass-houses at very large botanical gardens, it was easy to get lost, and, in the event, I walked too far on the first day, and exhausted myself. Grateful of the balmy warmth of early evening, I took my time sauntering home to my digs around the corner.
Tuesday was a strange mix of sad messages from home and exhaustion; so I took the afternoon off. (It turns out there was a seminar happening then wanted to go to, but I doubt I would have known where to find it. The Olympia complex truly is vast.) Enjoying the weather and appreciating the tantalising glimpses of a private garden nearby, I pondered the necessity for hiding banks of flowers and tropical trees behind high hedges and locked gates. I can see why Londoners need private gardens, but how I longed to appreciate the beauty they contained! It seems odd to pay to keep beauty hidden. And if it is hidden, does it lose its value? Is the value of a blossom found in its being appreciated?
I was grateful to eat a proper, sedate lunch at a nearby Persian restaurant, and to discover further along Kensington High Street, a lovely café serving delicious, fresh food.
As my energy returned on Wednesday, I enjoyed peaceful perambulations, got my bearings (at last!) and found what I was looking for, in the midst of the small presses and the writers’ hub. There I had the great good fortune to meet my friend and fellow author, Margaret Skea, who filled me in on what I hadn’t known, (and what I will know if I go to the Fair next year). It is set to be during March 14-16th inclusive, less than eleven months away.