A summer drinks reception at the House of Lords - and I was invited.
No, it wasn't because the Peers of the Realm are huge fans of kinky sex ... perish the thought! I'm sure they're all as pure as the driven snow...
I actually got this because I'd been in a focus group for the Authors' Licensing and Collecting Society (which is an AWESOME organisation, and if you publish in the UK/Europe at all you really should join because it exists to GIVE YOU ROYALTIES). It's their 35th Birthday this year, and they were going to Parliament to lobby the government not to slacken the rules regarding copyright fees and suchlike.
I'm not a politcal lobbyist. I find it hard to speak to strangers. But the opportunity to see inside the House of Lords was too good to pass over - after all, I'm sure I could use the setting in a story one day!
So on a grey Wednesday I went to the Mother of Parliaments...
And I queued up at the Black Rod's Garden Gate (is it just me or does that sound a bit rude?) along with a whole crowd of other writers of every kind - fiction and non-fiction, academic, TV scripts, children's writers, technical - to go through security and inside the building.
We were shown into a long terrace-room right on the edge of the Thames. There was a string quartet. There was wine, champagne, strawberries and cream, little cakes and ranks of titchy triangular sandwiches. Writers love free food!
Sadly, photography is technically forbidden inside the House, but I did get someone to sneak me this shot on the terrace:
I met a lot of people! I had to 'fess up to what I did, of course - the first thing anyone asks is "What do you write then?" It was fun! Though it has to be said, it's the only public gathering ever where I've actually worried that my natural accent wasn't posh enough to blend in.
I talked with:
- A colleague of David Nutt, the ex-chairman of the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (he was the one who caused a scandal when he had a flaming row with the Government, stating that their policies were politcally driven and not based on scientific evidence)
- The woman who had, for a small flat-fee, ghost-written the novels for a certain extremely famous celebrity, and then had to watch her barely-literate client get nominated for the Smarties Award for children's books. (She seemed sanguine. I'd have been gutted.)
- Two Members of Parliament: one Labour, one Liberal Democrat. The Lib Dem gentleman wants to write a philosophy book on the different varieties of Atheism. I told him he should do it.
- A woman who writes rugby manuals.
- A poet who studies Western Esotericism.
- A political advisor who told me the last thing she'd ever do was go into a political career, now she'd seen the reality.
I had to tell people I didn't write "50 Shades of Grey" a few times . . . They all seemed to think I was making pots of money in erotica.
But it was just a total blast. Not me at all. I'm living someone else's life again!
And here I am with my souvenir tea-towel :-D