Claudia Shiffer has been the bane of my life -- hiding in the bushes outside my house (sharing a thermos of Heinz cream of tomato soup with Trace), rummaging through my wheely bin, stealing my underpants off the washing line -- but even her ceaseless harassment and begging for sexual favours is nothing compared to the irritation of a hotel fire alarm going off at a quarter past four on a Saturday morning. Especially when you've only been in bed for an hour and a bit.
Get up, or burn, get up or burn, get up or-- the alarm stops, I lie back, groan, and start to drift off again... DWEEDLE DWEEDLE DWEEDLE DWEEDLE up again, eyes like pickled eggs. Silence... Swearing. And it's then that I hear the muffled sound of an alarm coming from the floor below. Then it goes quiet down there too. Maybe the blaze has melted the circuitry?
Sod it, go back to sleep. Warmth draws me down into the duvet, a small smile on my face as Claudia Shiffer offers to paint the outside of my house and DWEEDLE DWEEDLE DWEEDLE DWEEDLE. Only this time the alarm doesn't stop. Now they always say you should never go back for your personal possessions when there's a fire, but as I'm stark bullock naked anyway, I don't see there being any harm in taking a moment to get dressed. And pack up the laptop. I've been writing since the wardrobe-plane hybrid on the way down, so I'm damned if I'm abandoning the book now.
Plus my editor Sarah is here, and if I loose chapters she'll kill me, even if the fire doesn't.
From the looks of things as I clomp down the stairs from the forth floor, this fire could be a good career move for me. Only a tiny handful of people have bothered to get out of bed, in one fell swoop the competition will be wiped out, leaving only we glorious sensible few! And I can start bashing some of them over the head with my laptop, thinning the field out even further. Soon there will only be MACBRIDE! Bwahahahahahaaaa... *ahem*
By the time I and the other three potential survivors get as far as the hotel bar, it's become apparent that there is to be no mass culling of crime writers. So I sag over to join Sarah and Kevin Wingall who've not gone to bed yet. I've never met Kevin before, but he assures me in a voice laden with whisky and plumbs that he's not usually this patrician. Three or four times. A funny bloke, in a strange 'upper class smoking jackets pipe and slippers at dawn have you seen my butler?' kind of way. Not surprisingly the conversation turns to Opera when Zoë Sharp stomps in from the cold -- she made it all the way outside. Now I should be quite the opera buff. She Who Must Warned Not To Leave My Pants Where Claudia Schiffer Can Steal Them's sister is an opera singer with ENO. Her husband is one of their principal basses and a professional Jordie to boot, so I should be Mr Clever Opera Clogs, no? No.
My trouble is that I'm thick as two very short, very thick planks. When I was wee I was bright, had one of those IQ things and everything, but over the years I've traded smarts in for practicality. I can rewire a kitchen, tile a bathroom and put up plasterboard, but am thick as mince. But I know what I like, and it isn't Maria Callas. I know some people think she's the best thing since toast and jam, but I find her voice like a dentist drill being used on a cat. There is some disagreement on this point, but I'm the only one in the bar with a beard, so I have to be right.
To be honest this is the only bad thing about working in publishing -- everyone else is always knows a damn sight more than I do (except about Maria Callas being the singing equivalent of finding a pubic hair in your Gin). And they can remember all of it at the drop of a hat. Or in Kevin's case, his butler's hat. Me? I shared a flat with six people in Edinburgh for a year and it took me six months before I could actually remember their names. I know it looks like a brain on my CT Scan, but really it's a sieve.
By the time six am comes round I'm suffering from two late nights on top of a red eye flight and a 04:30 fire alarm call. Making even less sense than usual I slope off to bed, mumbling something about sleep and breakfast and Claudia Schiffer stealing my underwear.
Poached egg, sausage, beans, hash browns and mushrooms, preceded by an breakfast appetiser of mine own creation: smoked salmon and sliced strawberries with cracked black pepper. And I'm almost awake enough to go heckle Barclay the Irish whirlwind, but not awake enough to realise her panel started at nine, instead of half nine. Instead I shuffle off to see 'Walking The Mean Streets', in support of Mr Guthrie (we award nominated Scotsmen have to stick together you know). And it's a good one too. Which is a shame as it means I now have more books to go buy. Aberdeenshire council have already issued me with a health and safety warning for the size of mount TBR. Adding a few more foothills isn't going to help.
Lunchtime is noodles with Agent Phil in a wee place up the road from the hotel. Now I'm beginning to think that Agent Phil is having some sort of midlife crisis. When I first met him he was short, wore a suit and a shirt, had sensible shoes and a haircut, and carried a capacious man-bag. He's still short, but now he's got long hair, sideburns like a pair of rampant Brillo pads and it's all jeans, t-shirts and cigarettes. It'll be an opened-topped sports car, tattoo and a masseuse called 'Chardonnay' next. But he gets away with it because he's extremely likeable, bright (damn his tiny cotton socks), and good with small animals (which he kinda looks like these days). And tells some of the most scandalous anecdotes I've ever heard.
By the time I get back to the hotel I feel like I've been scraped off the bottom of someone's shoe -- and I'm not the only one. The whole hotel is filled with people slumping about like half-shut knives, eyes like piss-holes in the snow. But we have a bona fide celebrity staying in the hotel! Not Sam Neil -- who breaks wind in crowded elevators, and scurries about the place, head down, trying not to make eye-contact with any of these naughty writering types -- but Brian Murphy of George and Mildred fame! Yes, Mr Neil has been in a film featuring a lawyer getting eaten by a dinosaur (and that has to be a golden movie moment in anyone's book), but this is the guy from George and Mildred! And spookily enough he looks exactly the same as he did in 1976. If I looked the same way I did in 1976, my wife would be arrested.
I try to spend the afternoon writing, but only manage 754 words. What I should do is go for a nap, recharge the batteries and try again, but I'm convinced the words will come if only I try hard enough, even though I KNOW is a load of old bollocks (much like the sentences I keep writing and deleting).
Sod it: I'm going to the bar. The place is surprisingly empty -- the hotel has decided to apologise for its novelty fire alarms and comedy wakeup calls by throwing a free champagne reception before the LCC gala dinner. Did someone say 'free booze'?
The room is crowded shoulder to shoulder, and once more I'm struck by the thought that I could wipe out half the competition by poisoning the tomato salsa dip. Too late now though, I left all my strychnine in my room. Drinkity, drinkity, then off to dinner. Not the gala one, out with the HC crowd again, where there is much making fun of Alex for being an international bestseller, appearing on French TV (twice), only ever drinking champagne, and being an all round media success.
We've gone to the Loch Fyne Oyster Bar, but for some reason I'm the only one having the oysters. Do they know something I don't? I know Kernick had some for lunch the other day, which probably explains his behaviour in the bar afterwards, but he didn't seem to suffer any ill effects. Of course what I really want to order is the 'TOWER OF FISH!!!' because it looks great. Who could resist a tower made of fish? It's the stuff dreams are made of. But it's the most expensive thing on the menu and I don't want to get a reputation for that sort of thing. The thought that I could have shared the thing with someone else doesn't occur to me until it's too late. *sigh* Tower of fish...
Which means there's only one thing left to do: go back to the hotel bar where John and I try to make a very drunk Russel pee himself by doing the 'Suits you!' gentlemen at him until he's folded in two, giggling like a bearded schoolgirl.
Bed time: 03:30