Some bastard seems to have played a cruel trick on me. No sooner have I clambered into bed (having consumed fifteen gallons of water and some fizzy make feel good) than the bloody phone goes off with one of those automated ‘This is your twenty past six alarm call’ things. Arrrrrgh! I phone up reception and ask them to instate my proper one at half seven instead. The plan is to grab an hour’s sleep, go eat a huge fry-up to get a nice lining of grease on my innards, then retire to bed for a couple of hours. The last panel doesn’t start until 10:00, I’ll be relatively human-shaped by then. Only when half seven comes around, there’s no way I’m getting out of bed for anything short of a fire alarm, so I reschedule for nine. That’ll leave me half an hour to feed my face before staggering back to the room for a shower.
Only I can’t get back to sleep, can I? No I bleedin’ well can’t. I must confess that I feel fine, other than being completely knackered that is. I was shrewd and drank a lot of water the night before, in between and alongside drinks, but that doesn’t stop three very late nights catching up on me. Thursday: 03:00, Friday: 02:30, Saturday: 06:00. What the hell was I thinking? Actually, I know what I was thinking: ‘this is fun!’, that’s what I was thinking. You have to remember that we spend our professional lives sat on our own in front of the computer. All day. Every day for AGES and ages. Any chance to get out and actually speak to real people is to be grasped with both hands and squeezed till it squeaks. That’s my excuse anyway, and I’m sticking to it.
So up I get, into the shower, then pack up my troubles in my old kit bag for the trip home. Checkout is at 11:00 and I’m planning on attending the Forensic Science Experts’ panel which doesn’t finish until then. Downstairs is not very busy (surprisingly) except for next year’s Harrogate committee, who for some unfathomable reason are already embroiled in a nine o’clock meeting to go through the guest list for 2006 when Mark takes over the chair from Val. I, of course, have my mind on more important issues – scrambled eggs, sausages, mushrooms and hash browns. Mmm, breakfast. I’m nearly finished by the time Mr Rickards stumbles in with eyes the size of pinpricks and flesh as pale as a winter’s dawn*. And what does this bastion of noir and monkey testes have for his breakfast? Danish pastries. Big girl’s blouse that he is.
The forensic science thing is extremely good. They’re down one panel member, because DS Callum Sutherland has been recalled to London to attend the bomb scenes, but the remaining three people more than fill the available time. Next year I’m going to suggest a much longer panel for them. Nice people.
I’m just getting ready to head off for the train, when a nice lady asks if she can ask me some questions for her website. Of course she can, he says looking at his watch and trying to figure out what’s the last possible moment he can leave in order to catch the 13:33 to Leeds (if I miss it, then I miss the connection and the one after that – I’m on a long chain of station changes in order to get back home by about 22:00). We spoke briefly on the Friday night and she’s bought a copy of CG since -- must be my manly beard, gets them every time -- her friend tells me that she tried to get one this morning, but the festival bookshop’s all sold out. Hurrah! Take that Dan Brown. The weirdest bit is when I’m asked about a small passage at the start of the book: hearing it read aloud by another person I’m suddenly struck by the thought that it’s actually not that bad. Maybe I’m not the talentless hack I think I am? It’s a slim possibility, but I'll take what I can get... I have to make my excuses at quarter past one. I reckon if I run like buggery, I’ll make it to the station with a couple of minutes to spare. Not an easy thing to do, run with a rucksack full of books and pilfered hotel electrical goods. In hindsight, the 21 inch telly was probably a mistake, though I wrapped it in socks to make it look like dirty laundry.
By the time I get to the station, my legs feel like rubber and the rest of me feels like squeezed poo. Not only am I fat, bearded and Scottish, I’ve also passively smoked about three packs of cigarettes since arriving on Thursday. My throat feels like someone’s wedged a dandruff-ridden hedgehog in there. Pant, wheeze, cough, cough, wheeze, collapse.
It’s been an extremely good weekend. Very, extremely, outstandingly, synonym-isticly good. I wholeheartedly recommend Harrogate 2006 to any and everyone. But, by Christ am I glad to be home. My liver needs the down time.
*see, I can do literature