Monday, April 30, 2007

Glamour Hangover

As a Presents author I spend a huge proportion of my time thinking about glamour (to be honest, I did this way before I was a Presents author, only in then it was called 'daydreaming' and now it is called 'research') and a pitiful amount of time actually experiencing it. Friday was a very pleasant break from the norm.

Savoy experience gets off to an unpromising start when the doorman reaches into the taxi (where I am enjoying a very in-depth discussion with the driver on Turkish poetry, female midlife crisis, and OK magazine) pulls out my bags and bears them off into the plush, marble-colonnaded lobby of the hotel. Hideously embarrassing, as bags consist of an awful raffia shopping basket, befitting an elderly matron buying jam and knitted tea cosies from the WI, and a vile bright blue nylon suit carrier emblazoned with the words 'Johnsons Priority Service' containing my Sainsbury's dress, both of which look utterly incongruous in the gloved hands of the top-hatted doorman. Snatch them away from him swiftly and rush into the Ladies Cloakroom to change. Emerging two minutes later I meet lovely, lovely Susan Stephens ( when I say it like this it sounds like I casually bump into her, and have not been exchanging panicky text messages with her since before getting on the train at Crewe) looking cool and elegant and exactly like everything I want to be when I grow up. She introduces me to the wonderful, glamorous Sharon Kendrick and we go downstairs to get a drink.

Am delighted to discover that I am sharing a table not only with Susan and Sharon, but also with Kate Walker (who is wearing the most exquisite chinese ebroidered cream silk jacket, which I covet very deeply) and the wonderful BM, so go into lunch feeling hugely lucky and v excited. Lancaster ballroom glorious-- like sitting in the middle of a large, ornate wedding cake-- all delicate spun-sugar plasterwork and ravishing gilded swirls and curlicues, softly lit by candles and mirrors. Find myself seated between John Jenkins, charming and entertaining editor of Writers' Forum magazine, and Heidi Rice, newly signed ModX author, whose call story I'd read on the PHS only last week. Heidi was signed at pretty much the same time as I was, so both of us bombard Kate with constant questions, which she answers with her usual good humour, wisdom and grace. Heidi's first book is out this month, and in between courses someone comes over from another table and says she has just finished reading it and thought it was wonderful. Totally cool thing to happen, and a fab tribute to Heidi's debut novel. It's called 'Bedded by a Bad Boy' and is going right to the top of my TBR list.

I nip out in the lull following pudding (oh yes... treacle tart and raspberries. Lovely Mr Jenkins beside me is so amused by the enthusisasm with which I clear my plate he offers to ask for another helping for me) In the ladies' I spot Michelle Styles and can't resist going over to say hello. With the awards imminent, she must be terribly nervous, but still manages to be warm, welcoming and ever so, ever so nice when faced with total unkown person accosting her in the queue for the loo. (She has the most beautiful, clear, forget-me-not blue eyes and is with her teenage daughter who looks so fresh and lovely I instantly feel a little like my raffia bag must have felt in the hands of the doorman; ie. old and battered.)

Back in the glorious opulence of the Lancaster Ballroom the speeches and awards are soon underway. I love Jenny Haddon's tribute to Lucilla Andrews (her boigraphy-- 'No Time for Romance' being re-released this year and another one for the TBR pile.) Dame Tanni Grey Thompson's speech is funny and warm and insanely humble, and I hope that her retirement from athletics in two weeks time will give her lots more time for public speaking as she clearly has a talent for hitting just the right note. Find myself feeling ridiculously nervous for all the nominees for the romance prize, and absurdly tearful for Nell Dixon as she goes up to claim her award. Unsurprisingly, for if there's one thing I've learned over the past year or so it's that romance writers are wonderful, generous people, there is a huge sense of collective joy for her from everyone in the room. Well done Nell!

After that people get up, drift around, chat and hug. I am lucky enough to meet HMB editors Jenny Hutton and Joanne Carr (both of whom are so gorgeous they could very well have just stepped from between the covers of one of the novels they edit), the astonishingly talented and lovely Fiona Harper, whom I adopted last year (without telling her) as my all time Best Friend, thanks to her v useful Plot Board, and the fabulous, awe-inspiring Sara Craven. After this, full of lovely wine, treacle tart and an excess of star-struck excitement Susan, Sharon and I make our way upstairs to find tea and quiet in the perfect, refined grandeur of the Savoy's riverside lounge. For a moment it looks horribly like they aren't going to be able to find a table for us, until Sharon, with a breathtakingly admirable and utterly deadly flirtation-assertiveness combo, asks the waiter to reconsider. He doesn't stand a chance, and a moment later we are being shown to one of the best tables in the room, and sinking down onto the kind of perfect little sofa I picture romantic novelists sitting on to take tea. My delight is further compounded when we pick up our menus (roughly the same length as my novel) and peruse the selection of teas available. Eventually, dazed by possibility, I plump for one that sounds pretty.

When it arrives in a huge cream porcelain pot, my Hummingbird Vanilla tea proves to be as far removed from the tea I am used to as is possible to imagine. Delicate, scented, wonderful, it tastes of distilled cream cakes and is as delicious as it is exotic. I find myself wishing I could drink it all the time but know this is impossible-- it's rarity and glamour belong solely to the Savoy and would not translate well to home.

Reluctantly set my cup down, say grateful, affectionate goodbyes and go to retrieve the raffia shopping bag from the cloakroom. In the taxi I slip off my skyscraper heels and replace them with flat ballet pumps, but drifting down the platform at Euston I feel ridiculously happy, and am tempted to start twirling around pillars and tap dancing in the manner of Gene Kelly in 'Singin' In The Rain'. This could be a result of lunchtime drinking, but I rather suspect it is due to a combination of glamour, good company and Hummingbird Vanilla.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...


India, that was delightful. I feel like I was there - so there, in fact I'm already hoping I never run into the doorman, wishing I could have another cup of tea and wondering if it's possible to live in the middle of a wedding cake.

What is treacle?

1:22 pm  
Blogger Eva said...

India, you make raffia sound so stylish we'll all be clutching it, handbag-style, next season.

Love the last line...what a perfect summary...glamour, good company and Hummingbird Vanilla.

5:30 pm  
Blogger Annie said...

Hmph. So. I missed the party of the year, did I? But am I jealous? No, I am not. I am perfectly content with my good, old-fashioned, Indian tea (no cruelty to Hummingbirds there let me tell you) and a doorstep of lardy white bread spread liberally with the delicious loganberry and melon jam purchased at last week's WI meeting.

And raffia may be so last year in London, but here in the Provinces I am delighted to report that raffia is still hot. Only yesterday I purchased a darling light-weight raffia rucksack. Pefect for all my holidays abroad.

It only remains for me to say, I'm glad you had such a wonderful time and thank you for sharing it with us so delightfully, India.(You did remember my doggy bag, didn't you?)

8:47 pm  
Blogger Fiona Harper said...

India, you can never have enough Best Friends ;-) and I quite like the idea of being adopted. I suppose it's a bit like adopting a marmoset or a penguin at the zoo?

Now, you've done the Savoy, you have to come to the AMBA lunch in September. No excuses!

7:36 am  
Blogger India said...

Brown, treacle tart is actually made with golden syrup-- do you have that in Canada or do you only do syrup of the maple kind? If so I must send you some of the golden variety forthwith. It's thick, sticky and incredibly sweet (and I'm just going to have to go and spread some very liberally on a piece of white toast now.)

Eva, I wouldn't be without my beloved raffia shopping bag. It's perfect for carrying cucumbers home from the market (and empty bottles with beautiful labels saying 'SAVOY' home from glittering literary lunches... Oh yes, I have no shame.)

Annie, can you really get melon jam? I didn't remember your doggy bag, but I shovelled everyone's leftovers (none on my plate, of course) into my trusty raffia bag where it awaits you whenever you feel peckish. You might like to get over here soonish if this warm weather continues...

Fiona! It is just like adopting a penguin or a marmoset BUT LOTS CHEAPER. (Just thought I'd get that in before you send me the invoice...) Shall need no further encouragement to do AMBA in September, having now had a taste of freedom and metropolitan life. In fact, sitting quietly at my computer for the intervening months is going to be more of a problem!

10:19 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

India thanks for that! It sounded amazing, and yes you have to come to AMBA in sept so we can meet too...
x Abby Green

12:19 pm  
Blogger India said...

Abby, I wish you'd been there! September sounds an awfully long way off... I might even have to fill the time between now and then with some work. Glad to hear you've finished your current one!

(Ha! Did I say 'glad'? What I really meant was insanely, violently jealous....)

1:09 pm  
Blogger Michelle Styles said...

I am so very pleased you are coming to the AMBA meeting in Sept. There is always a lovely champagne reception afterwards...last year it was a t Brook's

And you looked v glamourous indeed. It was so lovely to finally meet you!!!!

2:55 pm  
Blogger India said...

Last year I just missed AMBA, Michelle, as I heard my book had sold on Sept 20th, and the meeting was on 22nd, so there was no time to arrange childcare, travel etc. That means I've had a whole year to look forward to it-- and having had such a great time on Friday I'm now looking forward to it even more!

10:00 am  
Blogger Kate Walker said...

India you do write such fiction! I think you should thinjk about becoming a novelist. Elderly matron indeed! I've rarely met anyone so naturally glamorous in my life. And no you can't have the enbroidered jacket - I happen to be rather fond of it myself and as the BM bought it for me for my last birthday he might object too. (For those who think that I might possibly be blessed with a husband who has impeccable great taste when it comes to birthday presents I should point out that he does - when I point at something in a shop and say loudly and clearly 'I would like that in that colour and that size for my birthday') (Which reminds me - must do that again this weekend as said event is looming close)

And Abby and India, you will meet well before September as you both - and Michelle - will be at another party in June. And I know you're going to get on so well together. And you'll all look so glamorous.


5:33 pm  
Blogger Amanda Ashby said...

India, yes, yes it all sounds great, but really I do need more details about this tea - I'm such a sucker for anything that has vanilla in it (though as I write this, I have a feeling that it doesn't sound quite as I intended it to!) Anyway, glad you had a great time and I hope you enjoyed those important child-free hours!!!!

10:34 am  
Blogger India said...

Tea was terribly exclusive, Amanda; almost certainly hand-blended by Madagascan virgins, stirred with the horns of unicorns and utterly unobtainable outside the Savoy. You'll just have to come right back over here and we'll go there for a cup. Did not, alas, achieve total child freedom-- there was an excruciating moment when my mobile phone shattered the hushed reverence of the tea ceremony as daughter no 1 checked in to see what I was doing... (being stared at with polite venom from all sides was the answer)

Kate, am in awe of your birthday present selection technique, and with mine approaching too am definitely going to try it. Trouble is, the kind of shops I seem to visit with dh are of the B&Q and Sainsburys persuasion, where perfect, precious and beautiful items of chinese silk are notably absent. All this must change.

Am SO EXCITED about party in June...

11:02 am  
Anonymous Kate Hardy said...

Glad you had such a good time, India - thanks for sharing. Wish I'd been there (but I will see you in June and at AMBA - and I am not glam, so we can sit and eat chocolate together).

Might have to pinch your Hummingbird Vanilla tea for my current heroine *g*

4:16 pm  
Blogger India said...

Eeek! Kate! Lovely to see you here!

You absolutely must give your heroine Hummingbird Vanilla. And we absolutely must go down to the Savoy on a research mission. Would hate for you not to get the description *just* right...

6:20 pm  

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