Deepest, Darkest Fife

By the time I get to Leven – 15 minutes early for my Library delflowering – it’s dark and rainy. It’s been like that all the way down the road from Aberdeen (100+ miles away), with the occasional outbreak of fog so thick it could stand for parliament. And roadworks like unto an hairy bastard. On the plus side – I got to experience rush hour in Dundee, so I suppose it’s not all bad. Ahem…

This is my first ever library event, so I haven’t got a bloody clue what to expect. But I have learned my lessons from Huntly – I’ve brought a box of books with me, just in case anyone feels daft enough to buy one. I’ve even got my David Hasselhoff impersonator’s outfit on, just in case it all goes badly and I have to leg it. He’ll be getting the hate mail, not me. Bwahahahahahaaaaaa. Leven Library comes as something of a shock. It’s, like, the most organised thing I have ever seen.

June Souter is the lady in charge of pretty much everything in Fife – the godmother of the library mafia. Petit, dark-haired, friendly, and if you piss her off, she can have you beaten to death with shop-soiled copies of the Davinci Code. She’s the one I’ve been chatting to via email for about two months, and she and her team of Library Ninjas have done me more than proud. In fact, I’m pretty bloody speechless when I see what they’ve laid on. Not only is there wine (which is impressive enough in itself), there’s a huge display board that they’ve had up in the library for ages. A display board about me. With pictures from the website, and quotes and reviews and stuff. Odds Bodkins!

No one’s ever done a display board about me before (well, except for that one time on Crimewatch). It’s like being suddenly turned into a celebrity for an evening. There’s even a microphone and a lectern and a stack of Cold Granites and wine glasses full of Jelly Babies! How cool is that?

Stuart and the lovely library ninjasOn the scary side, there are lots, and lots of seats. And each one has an ‘event evaluation form’. EEEEEK! Hope I’m going to be graded on a curve, because as I hang at the drinks table with the lovely Jennifer Stewart and Loraine McIntosh, I’m told that the last guy they had got a 100% satisfaction score. Damn. And possibly blast.

There are a HELL of a lot of chairs in here… maybe I should kick off with a big glass of wine? No: want to have one during the interval and have to be able to drive home afterwards. Have some orange juice instead. BUT ORANGE JUICE IS NOT WINE. Shut up! Shut up, or I’ll kick you! And then you’ll be sorry. Oh yea? You and whose bloody… It’s about then that I notice Jennifer is looking at me funny.

The audience start to arrive not long after. It’s a good sized collection of ladies from all over Fife. Well, there is one bloke, but he’s wisely hiding at the back. I can’t: I have to go out front. Eeeeek. Just as soon as the troublemakers from Kirkaldy get here. June has readers’ groups from all over Fife attending tonight, so I’d better be on my best behaviour. Or hope my David Hasselhoff disguise is up to the challenge.

As soon as the ladies from Kirkaldy are seated at the front (punishment for being late) with glasses of wine (anaesthetic for having to put up with me), we’re off. Lovely introduction from Jennifer – which includes the line ‘Stuart likes to make fun of Fife’ (so I might not get out of here alive) – and then it’s my turn.

Beardy-boy holds forth
Bearded Write-ist holds impromptu sing-song - all together now...

I have to say they’re an excellent crowd, couldn’t ask for better. They ask a lot of questions, don’t throw anything, and even laugh when they’re supposed to. Which is nice. To kick off the audience participation part of the evening I launch into my ‘how I plan a novel’ bit. Picking an elderly lady from the audience, I ask her for a title to go in the middle of the mind-map. And she sits there and stares at me. In total silence. And I say “It’s OK, don’t be shy – give us a title.” More silence. Tumbleweed. Distant sounds of coyotes howling. OK… “Fine,” says Stuart, trying to make light of it whilst everyone else looks on, “I’m not offended.” And picks on someone else.

At the interval one of the Kirkaldy delegation comes over and apologises – her friend (the woman I picked on who gave me the silent treatment) is really quite deaf and has forgotten her hearing aid for tonight, so hasn’t heard a word I’ve said. And probably didn't even know I was talking to her. Ah well, win some, lose some.

But the rest of the evening goes well. I tell a whole heap of anecdotes, ramble incoherently, make strange noises, and get propositioned by a lovely ex-journalist. Yes – she’s one of the Kirkaldy lot. Then we have a raffle and I donate one of my precious American edition hardbacks (as it’s something you can’t get over here) and follow it up with a signing.

Then it’s a two and a half hour drive home to stagger in at the back of midnight.

And the scores on the doors? Well, the wine must have worked its magic: I got 100%. Some lovely comments too:

So, if you ever get an invite to do something at a Fife library: jump at it. It was a great night, they’re a very friendly audience and the organising team are top notch. It’s like being a superstar for a night, only without the spandex jumpsuit, drug habit and funny haircuts. Maybe next time...

Leven – rocks.