And the winner is...

No, not me silly -- the only chance I have of winning anything is to knobble the judges. Then kill them before they can be unknobbled and reknobbled again by some other unethical bastard. I'm not daft. No, this time it was the Watermill bookshop in Aberfeldy -- winners of the Scottish regional independent bookseller of the year and shortlisted for the UK title. There's another five shops in the running for the final, but obviously the Watermill is the only Scottish one, so it should win. Who are we to question God's law?

The only question is why the blue sizzling Hell they decided to ask me down to present the award. My guess is that all the good authors were busy so they had to settle for a beardy half-wit instead. Which meant a trip down on the train to the bustling metropolis of Perth (when you live in the arse-end of nowhere everywhere else is a bustling metropolis -- put a shed in your garden and you've got more buildings than we have round our house). And in true award ceremony fashion I'd just like to thank my Agent; my personal trainer; Mr Halitosis the business man who sat opposite me, talking into his bloody mobile phone all the way down from Aberdeen; and the woman with the two screaming children who demonstrated exactly why contraception is such a good idea.

The taxi ride from Perth to Aberfeldy was spectacular -- beautiful scenery and beautiful weather -- all seen from the passenger seat of Aberfeldy's only taxi. Yup, they only have the one and it comes complete with a sign that says 'Fine for soiling this cab: £30.00', so it's a damn good job I visited the toilet before leaving the station. I would have gone on the train, but Mr Halitosis looked like a sketchy bastard and liable to make off with my laptop if left alone with it for more than thirty seconds. That or he'd breathe on it and melt all the plastic parts.

Aberfeldy looks like one of those places that's forgotten to turn the clocks forward -- it's still 1960 there: a nice, quiet Scottish town with a backdrop of scenic hills. Yes, it gets a bit 'caravany' in the summer, but it's still beautiful. Which is probably why the richest woman in the country lives there. Well, has a holiday home there, anyway. And the Watermill is a lovely bookshop too -- they converted it about eleven months ago, and it's already made the grade as Scotland's best independent bookshop. Not bad for being in business for less than a year. Not bad at all.

So: in, tour of bookshop, art gallery, music shop, then down to the food bit for unusual tea and nice soup. Then the main business of the day -- presenting the award. We got a crowd of about six, including the press, but they didn't boo, or throw anything, even if my 'here's an award thingie' speech was a bit crap. Keith (who runs the place along with two other bookshops south of the border) did much better, then we shook hands in a variety of strange poses, and I signed all the stock in the shop. Well, all the stock of my books anyway, and by the end of the event we'd sold 40% of all their DYING LIGHTs, which is nice.

Then it was back in a different taxi -- held together with bits of green electrical tape and various prayers -- for a £41.00 ride back to Perth, where someone had been sick in the station toilets. Filling the sink with red, bitter-smelling chunks, a copy of the Sun and a tin of Strongbow Cider. Good job there wasn't a £30.00 fine in operation.

The train back was enlivened by Madame Flatulence, who sat behind me the whole way, making various farmyard smells all the way back. Lovely. Just the sort of thing to put you in the mood for writing. There is now no bloody chance in hell that I'm going to get anywhere near my deadline. Vwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwosh! That'll be the sound of my deadline going past so fast it'll blister your eyebrows.

Total time spent getting from Casa MacBride to bookshop: eight hours. Total time spent handing over prize: about twenty minutes. But time well spent I think. It's always nice to see an independent bookshop do well. Let's face it: it's nice to see any bookshop doing well, especially a Scottish one. Fingers crossed they get someone a bit more famous to hand over the 'nibby' (sounds dirty, but it isn't) for being the UK's best Independent Bookshop Of The Year when the thing gets decided on the 9th of May.

Vote Scottish -- you know it makes sense!