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Cheating Pneumonia

You couldn’t invent last night. 


The second gig in a super-busy launch week (Touching Distance…coming to a book shop near you) took me to Taunton School, an hour down the motorway.  This turned out to be the chilly climax of a couple of weeks of events that grace the Taunton Literary Festival, brainchild of indomitable independent bookseller Lionel Ward.


Already, by the time I hit the motorway, the signs weren’t good: creamy full moon in a cloudless sky, gritter warnings on the overhead gantries, plus an alarming two degrees C registering on the camper van’s external temperature probe.  No problem, I thought.  Schools have central heating.  These guys have a duty of care.  No child, and no scribe, will ever die of frostbite. 


Wrong.  The event was scheduled for the school chapel.  The door was wide open and the meeters and greeters were wearing two heavy duty duffle coats each.  And little me?  A light sweater and a scarf we picked up in Syria a couple of winters back when – once again – I got the weather badly wrong. 


But the scarf wasn’t enough.  The audience gathered in an attentive semi-circle behind the altar, pink faces nesting in yet more overcoats.  The single radiator wasn’t turned on and no one could find the key.  I tried calisthenics.  I tried dreaming of the Florida Keys.  I even thought about begging or borrowing one of those wonderful coats.  But in the end I did what every writer does:  suspend disbelief, pretend this isn’t happening, and set about trying to explain the long years that had brought me to this freezing moment in deepest Somerset. 


The audience,  thank God,  were more than kind and the evening went surprisingly well.  We sold books, made friends, scored a laugh or two.  And God, come to think of it, may well have played the key role.  It was, after all, His House.  And so far he seems to have spared us pneumonia. 


Surreal?  Just a bit…