London by Accident, or the Long Way to Get to the Sexy Summer Reading at Sh!
Friday night we ended up in London by accident. That’s right, by accident. Oh we knew where we were going and we had a plan. We were going to hear Justine Elyot and Kristina Lloyd read at Sh! I was so excited. I love it when I get to sit in the audience and listen to my favourite authors read from their works. I’d been looking forward to this event for weeks. Now as you might imagine, I can find my way to Sh! from my house with my eyes closed, I’ve been there so often. It’s the place I love to go for a good time and a friendly natter and a cuppa. That meant, we hopped the train without checking for directions, times. Or DATES!
I had it in my head that I would work on the train both coming and going to London. Oh, I was going to enjoy listening to the readings and being at Sh! and having some catch-up time with some of my favourite people, but I’ve got a short story that I need to write and another novel that needs to be mapped out. I quite often work on my BlackBerry and email the results back home. I was confident I could accomplish a lot and then get back to work on the final rewrite of The Exhibition after we got back home. All business-like — that would be me. Anything to eke out a few more minutes writing or PR time. A writer’s work is never done.
We were nearly to Clapham Junction, enjoying a relaxed ride on an uncrowded train when an email exchange with Kay Jaybee in which I mentioned what we were doing resulted in her email equivalent of clearing her throat and saying, ‘Sweetie, I don’t want to alarm you, but the Sexy Summer Reading event at Sh! is tomorrow night.’
Eeep! Noooo! Surely I couldn’t have made such a stupid mistake, not super-anal me! But oh yes! I f*cked up majorly! My long suffering husband only offered me a lazy smile and said, ‘Well it’s a good thing you didn’t decide to get a hotel room for the night.’
The Shadow is responsibe! I have no doubt. Anyone who knows a tidbit about Jungian psychology knows that the shadow is the part of our personality that bites us in the butt when we’re taking ourselves too seriously. Well, all I can say is that I have huge bite marks all over my backside!
We were almost there, so the question became what to do when you find yourself accidentally in London on a Friday night? We tubed it up to Leicester Square to check the half-price ticket booths and found nothing that really jumped out at us, nor was there anything at the cinema that we really were dying to see, so we tubed it on over to Shoreditch in spite of the definite lack of a reading at Sh! that night. There’s a kebab place just around the corner and up the street a bit from Sh! that serves the best kebabs this side of Turkey, and I have to admit it, I love a good kebab. We’ve been there often enough the owners always recognize us and greet us with a smile and yummy food. A chicken donner kabab, baklava to die for and a double espresso later and I’m not feeling quite so stupid.
We decided to drop by Sh! anyway and say hi to the lovely Renee and the delish Jo, who were very busy with the Friday night rush and very sympathetic and kind to the crazy woman who showed up a day early. They were sorry they couldn’t offer us accommodation for the night in the yummy Sh! basement, a place we both agreed would be great fun to be shut up in overnight.
With no real plan in the works and an exquisite warm night ahead of us, we decided to wander about Shoreditch for a little while, especially since I have plans to set another novel there. Then we’d find a nice pub for a pint. If you’ve read my novella, Kinky Boots, then you’ve got a flavour for Shoreditch on a Friday night. Vibrant is the single word I’d used to describe it. Here’s a bit of description from Kinky Boots.
Still, she was in Shorditch on a Friday night. If she were going to end up alone, she couldn’t think of any place she’d rather be. It was easy to get caught up in the excitement along the streets lined with bars and clubs and interesting shops. She loved the higgledy-piggledy architecture that often involved glass and steel in the personal space of very accommodating Victorian brick and stone which had already gone through who knew how many marriages of convenience before. All around the concrete ugliness of the sixties groped and nuzzled solicitously at streets that could have come straight from a Sherlock Holms novel. It was a great patchwork of a place, heaving with frenetic humanity all bound and determined to enjoy the hell out of every last drunken, chaotic, celebratory second of the weekend. She was jostled by the enthusiastic spill-over of people with drinks and fags in front of Juno. A hen party pushed past into an off-license. People on the busy pavements crowded onto the narrow side streets impeding the odd taxi or limo.
We spent a little time exploring Shoreditch Box Park – the world’s first popup mall, which was heaving with after-work revellers enjoying the warm night, the gorgeous summer sky and myriad alcoholic beverages. Then we wandered past the intriguing mix of old and new buildings to end up in the Water Poet Pub with a bazillion other Londoners who were enjoying the summer night. We actually found a table and had a pint of Truman’s wonderfully hoppy ale while watching people come and go. People-watching in London is the best, especially in a pub in Shoreditch on Friday night.
From there we wandered down the Crown and Shuttle Pub, ending up enjoying a pint of Best Bitter out in the heaving beer garden that was surrounded by a vertical history of Shoreditch in brick and stone. We both decided we needed Kay Jaybee to give us a little industrial archaeological tour of what we were looking at in the mish-mash of bricked up windows and replastered stone walls and the spaghetti bowl of wrought iron stair cases and balconies hanging above us. It was standing room only, and we found a place next the foosball table, leaning against an aging brick wall with a strange blue door that was locked and bolted. It conjured all kinds of speculation on just what might be hidden behind. We watched people and listened to the music and laughter and clinking of glasses as everyone celebrated the beginning of the weekend. Not the night we’d planned, but as we crawled onto our train back home, sleepy and smiling we both decided maybe this was a situation in which the Shadow’s nip in the hiney was well worth it.
If you’re worried that I missed a fabulous evening with Justine and Kristina last night, don’t be! Last night, reassured of dates times, travel cards, venues, and shoe size, we made it to Sh! just in time to celebrate with Justine, Kristina, and the amazing new talent, S. M. Taylor. You may remember a short story competition Black Lace ran last year with The Daily Mail, well it was S.M. Taylor’s wonderful short story, Forbidden, which won the competition. Portia Da Costa, Kristina, and Gillian Green were judges in that competition and S.M.’s story is now published at the end of Kristina’s new novel, Thrill Seeker.
Sh! was fabuouls, as always, and last night was even better because not only were Renee and Jo there but so was the totally awesome Shelly. It was almost like a Sh! family reunion, complete with the indomitable Renee thwarting a shoplifting attempt during one of the readings. Seiously, the Sh! women are a stunning combination of goddesses and super heroes. Move over Wonder Woman!
The evening started with a special guest appearance from Primula Bond, who read from her new novel, The Silver Chain, then romped on with Kristina reading some fabulously evocative and sexy scenes from Thrill Seeker. Then Justine made the room warmer still with two very fun, naughty readings from her collection, Seven Scarlet Tales, spanking stories extraordinaire.
Oh yes! It was SO worth another trip to London! And what have I learned from this adventurous weekend? 1) If one trip to London is good, two is better! 2) Always double-check dates of events. 3) Some things are worth coming back for. 4) Life is short. Take time to play.
Hope you’re all having a playful weekend!