Sunday, 28 February 2010

This week's word is: LUXURY

Last Tuesday, it was my pleasure to visit the Landmark Hotel with the author. As you will see from the very grand exterior, this is a rather large establishment which has the wonderful address of 222 Marylebone Road, London. It’s not very far from Baker Street, where Sherlock Holmes lived. We didn’t see the great detective, but we did hear a howl like the hound of the Baskervilles when the author nearly got his hand stuck in a lift door. I digress.

We were there to attend a function. Functions are what authors do sometimes. They basically consist of two elements. The first is the meet and greet. This is where everyone invited stands around with a glass of champagne, chatting to important people from bookstores, large and small, whom the publishers hope the authors will impress, so that the bookstores buy lots of their books. The author is quite good at this. There is a phrase we have in England (though thankfully it’s never got onto my pad) called ‘talking the hind legs off a donkey’. Hee-haw! It’s very hard to shut him up once he starts. He talked about everything from squirrels to darklings. Will it sell any books? Only time will tell.

The second element is the dinner. This is very posh. Everyone sits down, usually at a round table, napkin on their lap, more champagne in their glass, and eats food from a menu that no one can understand. The courses come with extraordinary names, such as ‘Esplanade of Chicken’ or ‘Cod Pythagoras’. You should try this yourself at tea-time. Pick a food, any food, and imagine it described with the daftest word you can think of. ‘Introspection of Fishfinger, ‘An Embellishment of Carrots’. Throw a bit of French in and it gets even better. ‘Cauliflower à la Bubblebath’. Meanwhile, waiters in smart suits buzz around like worker ants, delivering food that seems far too small for the plate it’s put on. You could probably take a university degree in how to eat it, too. The first course had the author scratching his head. On one side of his plate was a dish no bigger than a chemistry crucible that seemed to be filled with some kind of brown paste. On the other side was a slice of emaciated bread that seemed to have shrunk in the toaster. Between them was a squiggle of brightly-coloured sauce. The author looked hopefully around the table, to see if he could learn from someone else what to do. But they were all doing the same as him. Finally, he picked up a knife and dug into the paste. One scoop was all he got. To be honest, even I wasn’t certain if he should eat it or use it to lubricate his squeaking chair. Finally, he scraped what he could onto the ‘toast’, wiggled the toast around in the sauce and then ate it before anyone could see. And you thought it was all just writing books!

The best part of hotels like the Landmark are the rooms. These are fantastic. The author’s room had shutters at the windows, a swing-out TV and a telephone next to the loo! (That’s the bathroom, if you live in America). They have bathrobes in the closets and little towelled slippers for use when you step out of the shower. They even put chocolate bars in your room – but you have to pay extra for them. Think of the price of a normal KitKat and multiply by five. That’s why hotels like these are dubbed 'five star'. Everything is five times the price.

To be fair to the author, he didn’t just swan about doing nothing while he was there. He used the train journey to London and some time in his room the day after the function to write still more of the wonderful Fire World. Check out Gwendolen’s barometer now! Until next time. Happy reading. Hrrr!

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