I am bin away, and stuff

What ho, me old Johnny muckers, and other assorted piratical folderal. Yes, I'm back from my travails in the hinterland of literature, also known as the 'one date tour'.

Birmingham was pretty cool. Nice place. Or at least the bits of it I saw were. Mr Billingham* took me on a small walking tour of the town centre, where we saw the alleyway he once had a good fumble up**, and the famous Birmingham Selfriges. Which looks a bit like a massive whale someone's pebble-dashed in four-foot chrome Smarties. It's as if the architects all got together one afternoon, smoked WAY too many naughty things, then decided to hold a contest: who can come up with a building the Planning Department's never going to pass, dude... It's freaky, but kinda cool at the same time.

We also hit a couple of bookshops to do some walk-by signing. Of course, this being his home town, there were display stands groaning under the weight of IN THE DARK, Mr B's latest. But much to my surprise there were some of mine too! At one bookshop -- after we'd watched two men beating the crap out of each other in a dispute over who's prose was more incisive: Jordan or Dan Brown*** -- he had a big table, piled hight with his latest. "Would he like to sign them?" asks the manager. Of course he would.

Me?

No table for me. But there might be some copies lurking in the back. And there were - it was a veritable treasure trove of beardy goodness, hidden away at the rear of the shop, where no sane person would ever venture. But not being one to complain, I started to sign the things in situ. Well, in red pen, but it's almost the same thing. And while Mr Billingham was being flirted with at the front of the shop ("Oh, Mark, I love your shirt. Blue's my favourite colour") what was I doing? I was getting accosted by a security guard for defacing the store's books!

"Excuse me, sir, do you work here?"
"Er... no. I'm just signing stuff."
"I can see that, sir. What I want to know is WHY are you signing them?"

Luckily I proved my identity by opening the book and pointing at the author photograph. Look, is me! See? I is not wearing my glasses, but is me!

Eventually he agreed that the sexy man in the front of the paperbacks was indeed me, and he didn't need to put me in an arm-lock, or bash my head repeatedly off a display stand of NUMBER ONE LADIES' DETECTIVE AGENCIES. Embarased, he hung about for five minutes, making awkward conversation. Secretly wishing I'd just been a shoplifter, as it would have made his life easier.

The event was good too - about a hundred and twenty people all waiting to see if I could get a bloody word in edgeways between M. Billingham and R.J. Elleroy****. And the bookshop even had copies of SAWBONES in! How cool is that?

We ended the evening with a traditional Birmingham curry, and thence to bed. Separate beds: I don't want you to think we were up to any naughty business. We're all married men, after all.

The next morning I was up at sparrow's fart to catch an obscenely early train to Edinburgh, where I was to liaise with She Who Must Be Treated To A Trip To The Festival Even If I Hadn't Been Invited This Year***** for a two day fest of takeaway, dining out, staying up till 4 in the morning talking toot, and going to see things with the Guthries. And very nice it was too.

Not to be outdone by Mr Billingham, Allan Guthrie ESQ. took me on a wee tour of his own on the Saturday night. We saw a drug deal, a man pulled over for drink driving, Edinburgh's 'cruising' central, a male prostitute failing to negotiate a sticky transaction, and the Post Office that features in TWO WAY SPLIT. How can you top that?

Of course, by the time we got home to Casa MacBride I looked like a sockpuppet that had been filled with custard, then beaten against the side of a building by a rabid nun, but that's less than unusual these days.

And to make matters even better, I'll be getting up at OH DEAR JESUS O'CLOCK tomorrow morning so I can pontificate****** over the morning papers on Original FM.

You'll forgive me if I accidentally swear like a trouper, won't you?

* He likes me to call him that, because he's threatened by my bearded sexy Scottishness.
** I'm sworn to secrecy.
*** The whole thing was carried out to the theme tune of 'Leave it, Daren, he's not worth it!'
**** The answer being: barely.
***** Not that I'm bitter. Oh no. Not bitter at all... Not in the LEAST bit bloody bitter!
****** Pronounced: RANT!!!

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