Saturday, 13 November 2010

My Imaginary Dinner Party - a welcome break from Novelling

I signed up for the lunatic craziness that is November; National Novel Writing Month. So, for all of this month, every day is busy, fun, gruelling, back-aching, but very, very rewarding as the word count goes up each day. By mid-night on the 30th, all of us ‘Wrimos’ aspire to have 50,000 words written; a possible novel in the making.

It is a solitary pursuit, but something I love doing. Writing is never a chore to me and here in the hills of the Ariège Pyrénées, I try hard to make the time to write, and not allow too many interruptions during the month. (I learned to do this from my last disastrous effort, when writing took second place to everything else, and I ended up with the word count done, but what a load of rubbish it was; I never wanted to see it again.)  

This month - two more days and we’re half way there - is going so much better; it was worth making the effort to move my writing up to the number one spot.

When the word count has been achieved each day, I tend to sit back, blink a bit and do nothing more than think about what I will eat that evening. Since I live in a fairly remote part of southern France, my nights tend to be simple, quiet affairs. With the big oak shutters closed, a merry blaze in the wood burning stove, a bottle of red open and my television programmes for later chosen; all is well with the world.

Or is it? I’m doing other writing projects as well, and I am determined to get them all off my desk before year end. I need to be spurred on, by a few heroes and heroines. I feel a mad urge not to have quiet evenings. Au contraire, I am in need of a large table, full of people I have long wanted to meet. 

My group will inspire me, egg me on, boost my confidence, entertain me with hilarious stories, play music, dazzle me with their sparkling wit, be glamorous, lovely to look at, and the one or two I might be in awe of, well, they would surely have a humbling effect; never a bad thing?

So, my twenty people at my imaginary dinner party reads - in alphabetical order - Maya Angelou, Melvyn Bragg, Gay Byrne, Billy Connolly, Jilly Cooper, Judy Dench, Frankie Dettori, Edge, Stephen Fry, Ian Hislop, Richard Ingrams, John Inverdale, Joanna Lumley, Oprah, The Queen, Maggie Smith, Keith Richards, Meryl Streep, Terry Wogan, Keith Wood.

When I look at that list, put together fairly quickly, it occurs to me that perhaps I’m up there with the great Elsa Maxwell. When it comes to mixing a group of people, as well as a decent Martini, I’m not too bad.

In the group, although I didn’t intend it, are people who will immediately find they have things in common, can plunge right in and chat away.

Let’s start with the Queen. She meets people all the time and has done so all her life. She is at ease everywhere and even if she wasn’t, the chances are she has already met lots or even all of my guests. Perhaps Frankie has been to Windsor for lunch? We can safely say that Her Majesty will not feel out of place with this lot, having met everyone who matters in the world during her wonderfully long life.

I‘ll take one end of the table; Joanna can take the other. I’ll have Melvyn and Billyon either side of me, and we’ll put big John and big Keith, the two rugby men, on either side of Joanna, to keep her safe from Ingrams and Wogan. 

Obviously Maggie and Judy will entertain us with tales from the theatre; just hearing their voices is heaven to me. And Jilly and Stephen will no doubt, feel the need to exchange and maybe give us, some juicy bits of gossip over the aperitifs.

Two of the world’s greatest guitarists will surely have lots to discuss, hats included. 

If Maya Angelou and Oprah haven’t an affinity with each other, then I’m a Banana, as Ian famously remarked back in 1989, when we all dug into our pockets and sent money so that Private Eye could keep going.

The most sued man can congratulate Richard on his soaring readership over at The Oldie. The link continues, with Joanna having (ridiculously!) been voted Oldie of the year. Introducing her at the lunch was someone she freely admits to adoring, as we do, the great man, Sir Terry. The connection carries on with Terry knowingGay from years back, having worked with him in Irish Radio.

Gay Byrne. What’s left to say? Except that he brings my table full circle really, in that he is right up there with the Queen, having met everyone of note during an illustrious career spanning decades. It’s a fact of Irish life that if Gay ran for President, the other candidates might as well stay home. He will be unfailingly polite and have a word for everyone, but, and it’s a big but, with Meryl there, I don’t fancy anyone else’s chances of a long chin-wag.

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