|The literary legend|
Sometimes one has to write a blog post immediately: everything else can be put on hold (even watching the new episode of Fresh Meat which is about to start!) And despite being exhausted and hungry, I can’t concentrate on anything else other than sharing how excited and buzzing I am! This evening I very unexpectedly met my hero; the author Alexander McCall Smith.A week ago I found out he was giving a reading at Foyles bookstore but that it was ‘sold out.’ Not one to give up, I turned up anyway. When I arrived and my name wasn’t on the list I was looked at suspiciously (I think they knew I was lying when I said my name was Momtaz and I had booked!), but was then told there was a couple of spare seats at the back.
I took my place, and seconds later he entered the room, wearing the biggest and warmest smile a gentleman could ever have. He laughed from the moment he arrived to the moment he left. And so began a most fascinating hour where he was interviewed about the characters in his books, all of whom he gave insights and tales about; from Precious Ramotswe, the star of 12 No.1 Ladies Detective Agency Books, Bertie, the six year old Italian boy from the 44 Scotland Street series and amateur sleuth Isabel Dalhousie from The Sunday Philosophy club, revealing a few secrets on what’s in store for them (but I’m keeping zipped about those!)
He threw in anecdotes from trips abroad including people he’d met in Bali and Australia, tales of olive oil and sausage dogs as well as his early career in children’s fiction and previous career as a medical lawyer.
But what I will remember most, is that he had the most incredible presence. The only way I can describe it, is like the man who appears in Mary Poppins, who floats to the ceiling every time he laughs. He was the kind of grandpa everyone wants; so full of wit and stories and interested in people.
He is one of the greatest writers of our times, yet so down to earth and likeable. What I admired most was hearing him talk about how much he liked his characters. He takes so much pride in the lives he has created, and as a reader it makes his work feel so much more special knowing that.
After the interview he took questions from the floor, but I was too stunned to think of any. Then we were told he would sign books! And to top it off, it wasn’t the usual ‘only one thing can be signed, it must the latest book, no photos and the author is strictly here for 30 minutes’; it was like him, very welcoming. We could browse his books before buying them and take our time as ‘he was here for a while’…such a nice thing to hear!
The Perfect Hamburger sprung to mind. It was my favourite book when I was a child. It's about a boy who discovers a very old, strange jar of spice. He adds it to a burger recipe and discovers he has cooked the tastiest hamburger in the world ever; trouble is, how can he recreate it? The spice jar doesn’t say what it was! When I was at school, I read this book continuously and kept getting it out from the library. Sadly I never owned it so I raced downstairs to get it but alas, it wasn’t in stock. I did however find ‘Precious and the monkeys’, which is the first in a set of children’s books about Precious Ramotse growing up. (A bit like the No.1 Girls Detective Agency.)
The queue moved swiftly even though he spoke to every single person. When it was my turn, I explained about my love for The Perfect Hamburger and he seemed very touched, explaining he doesn’t normally get that as a comment.
To be in the presence of someone you have utter respect for and it turns out they have utter respect for you too is an amazing experience. I don’t know this man, or much about him. I’ve just grown up reading his books. They’ve fuelled my imagination and I think in some way, shaped the person I am.
Today was a most inspiring day and I won’t forget it in a long time : )