Me and the Archers, we're like that...

Well, today is the day of the big party - the one with the fluorescent green plastic invite - and am I down in London, preparing for a celeb-studded boozeathon? No, I'm at home looking out at a crappy Tuesday morning full of rain and cold. Yes, it's summer in Aberdeenshire...

I got another 'talking to' last week about my rendition of the glorious Aberdeen weather at a book group in town. They invited me along to talk about Book Number the Fourth and for once everyone had actually read the damn thing. Now, you might think that this was a given, yes? If you're a book group and you've got a book to read, and you've invited the poor sod who actually wrote the thing, you'd think people would get off their backsides and actually put in the effort to read it. Well, you'd be wrong. I think in the whole time I've been doing this, it was only the second time everyone in attendance had actually bothered.

And it really makes a huge difference: being able to talk about the whole thing without having to be all coy about plot twists.

That said, the evening didn't exactly get off to a flying start. When I turned up there were about 19 members of the Posh Club* present, and I squeezed in on the edge of the group. Everyone had a little badge with their name on and a round sticky label. Some of the stickers were red, some green, some yellow. But the name badge of the person sitting next to me was naked. No sticker. Just her name. I smiled and pointed at her absence of round sticky thing. "Why haven't you got a sticker?" I asked, "Have you been naughty?"
She looked at me. "I wanted one with an upside-down smile on it. They didn't have any."
"Oh..." And that was when I realised the significance of the stickers - it was a traffic light thing. "Didn't like the book then?"
"I hated it."
Which is always a good start to any event, don't you think?

Still, give her her due, she didn't seem to hold it against me for more than about twenty minutes. To be honest, I actually quite like it when you get a couple of people who really don't like the book in a book group. Yes, it'd be nice if everyone loved it to bits, but in a real world that's never going to happen. And if someone really hates the book they're not usually shy about letting the rest of the group know, whereas someone who just didn't care for it is much more likely to keep their mouths shut, not wanting to cause offence. I'd much rather have a good debate on what's going on than an hour of people blowing smoke up my delicately fuzzy behind.

Apart from anything else, when someone's complaining about things it makes the group members who loved the book wade in with why, and then you get both sides of the argument. It brings out a lot of things I wouldn't have thought about otherwise. Which makes for a much more interesting life.

Of course the problem with admitting this, is that people suddenly start thinking I want them to hate the book. Or at least pretend to. I don't. It's not the same if you don't really mean it: I don't want your pity hatred. Actually, what I want is a cup of tea. And maybe a nice biscuit.

Anyway, it was a good evening - they were a very nice bunch of ladies (with one poor bloke sandwiched in at the back**). They bought me a pint and offered me mini sausage rolls. What red-blooded man can resist when plied with beer and pastry-wrapped pig byproducts? And I even managed to escape before the pub quiz started (because I bloody loathe pub quizzes). Result!

Mind you, none of this explains the title to this meandering post. The Archers and I are now buddies of a bosom-like nature, nestling as we do in the warm cleavage of BBC Radio Four. I was asked to write a short story as part of the Afternoon Reading series to commemorate 100 years of people using the acronym S.O.S to indicate that things have gone seriously poop-shaped. THE FISHWIFE'S LAMENT is a wholesome tale of dementia, fish factories, and Strawberry Mivis, and it goes out on Thursday 3rd of July at 15:30. It's also going to be available on the website for about a week afterwards as well.

In case you're wondering, it's not me reading it. You can tell, because I'm a man and the person reading the story isn't. I suppose I could have shut my privates in the door to create the necessary change in pitch, but I didn't really fancy the resulting bruised genitals and cowboy walk it would cause.

There are limits how much I'll suffer for my art***, you know.

* If you follow the linky link, you'll see a photo of me and my pint (I'm the fat beardy bloke in the middle, and my pint's in the glassy thing in my hand), with Posh Club founder: Suzanne on the right of the pic, and the lady who wanted an upside down smiley sticker on the left.
** For some reason, there's usually a maximum of one man in any given book group. Maybe he's there because he's been dragged along by his wife/girlfriend, because she thinks they should do things together not involving socks or lubricant. Or maybe he's hoping that it won't just be the books' covers he's slipping between - if you want to meet ladies, a book group's a pretty good place to do it.
*** Using the word 'art' in it's loosest possible sense.

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