Benylin, Windolene and less than perfect timekeeping

The day kicks off with another fried breakfast, only this time Agent Phil (who didn’t get out of his scratcher until gone ten the day before) actually appears before they finish serving! And he doesn’t look like an extra from Dawn Of The Dead either. In fact, given the drunkenness that went on last night, there are a lot of people down for breakfast today. This is because Reginald Hill is kicking off the proceedings with a nine am chat with Natasha Cooper, that’s worth a little early-morning hangover pain. And it is too – this has to be my favourite event of the whole programme, if you ever get the chance to chat to Mr Hill, definitely make the most of it. Very clever man with a dry and generous wit. Natasha is also well worth a chat.

There’s a round table on Raymond Chandler that I’d like to go to at 10:30, but I have another mission. Remember I said Agent Phil (are those really your knees?) had a DARK SECRET? It’s the fact that today’s his birthday and he has no idea I know, so I’m off into Harrogate to pick up a birthday card, cake, candles, a present, and some wrapping paper. That and the wrapping mean I’m not able to get back into the swing of things until the Historical Perspective thing kicks off.

After that, it’s back to Harrogate for me, along with Agent Phil (still none the wiser) and Gerry, one of his other clients who writes for the Telegraph in between working on what sounds like a very interesting novel of Dublin Noir. We have lunch in a Café Rouge -- mussels a la crème avec frites for me -- and take too long to get back to see Alexander McCall Smith, which gives me time to mill about, getting people to sign Agent Phil’s card while he’s in the Writer’s In Translation thing. Then evil Mr Rickards mugs some poor soul of her lighter, and we do the whole ‘Happy Birthday To You’ sing-along. Poor old Phil, now everyone knows he’s THIRTY FIVE! I run off before he can throw anything at me, hiding in the Humour in Crime panel.

Tonight, at six, HarperCollins is hosting a champagne bash in the hotel and jolly fine it is too. Alex (who isn’t a man at all) Barclay has put on a posh frock which gives her the air of a bondage air hostess, much to the delight of many of the male attendees. I’m really glad I opted for my David Hasslehoff impersonator’s outfit, because otherwise I’d be wearing the self same thing. Shaved me legs and everything. Alex is one of those people who you just know is going to be massive. Not just successful, but bloody huge, and she deserves it too. Michael Marshal (I still have difficulty thinking of him as a Mr Smith) has also forgone the posh frock option, but we’re all getting stuck into the champers and canapés, prior to disappearing off to have dinner with the rest of the HC crowd at eight. I feel more than a little guilty about abandoning Agent Phil on his birthday, but I hope the cake and card and present and song make up for it.

Dinner is in a swanky little barbecue place where Fiona McIntosh proceeds to chuck wine about drenching anyone unfortunate enough to be sitting opposite. Luckily it isn’t me. We have to be back at the hotel for ten to take part in the Crime Pub Quiz. Over dinner I have a chat with Mr Hill, who’s even nicer in person than he was on the panel. We will be in time to get back for the Pub Quiz. Nearly sixty percent of the table disappear off for a cigarette between courses. We’re going to have to watch the time, don’t want to be late for the Pub Quiz. Good googly-moogly, the restaurant actually serves crème Brule without ‘bits’ in it! No, rhubarb, or strawberries, or shortbread, or any of that muck. It’s after ten o’clock: we’re late for the Pub Quiz. Fuck. Cue frantic scramble for taxis back to the hotel.

We arrive just as they’re reading out the last two answers. Again, Fuck. Val’s dressed up in a billowing red satin dress with black spiders on it, the ensemble topped off with a sinister spider hat. It looks like the quiz has been a lot of fun. And we missed it. Thrice more Fuck…

The rest of the night is spent drinking the bar dry of vodka. Three in the morning and Michael, Alex and I are making up our own cocktails. Double Vodka, a dash of blackcurrant and a sploosh of Appletise. We call this the ‘Benylin’, because that’s exactly what it smells and tastes like. Which is lucky, because Simon Kernick’s voice sounds like the bottom of a birdcage. We force a couple of Benylins on him and make up another. Double vodka, Blue Curacao and Appletise. This looks like Windolene, but doesn’t taste as nice. Simon runs away, before we force any of that on him.

Come four-ish Alex is singing ‘You’ve lost that loving feeling’ with Michael and I acting as backing singers, complete with synchronised dance moves.

Come five, things have deteriorated even further, but someone postulates that breakfast will start serving in another hour, so we’re as well hanging on.

Half five and Alex tries mixing Benylin and Windolene in the same glass, takes one sip, goes a bit grey and has to wander about outside to get some fresh air.

Six in the morning and we ask the poor beleaguered hotel personnel, if they’re going to start breakfast soon. They tell us it’s not going to start till seven. Stuart gives up and goes to bed. What a wimp!