Monday, June 16, 2008

When Coza Met: Petite

When Coza Met: Petite

[As I'm away in London Town for a few days - for Director Boy's Birthday Party, a little bit of theatre, dress hunting and, eek, an academic interview at Goldsmiths - and have now discovered that blogger will hold posts back until the time you want them published I'm using this opportunity to post some of the blogs that I've written but haven't gotten round to posting in the last few months. Clearly June is the month of the good blogger].

I am slightly early as I walk through the doors to the building I have walked past so many times but never really noticed before. This being a library, however, my normal tactic of ordering a vodka and diet coke would not be particularly effective. I'd probably better settle for browsing.

Gravitating towards the 'W' section, my eyes scan the multicoloured spines until I find the required name. For good or bad there are things I mark libraries by: the number of copies of Shakespeare they have, if they have any of the Romantic poets in their poetry section and, most importantly, their quota of Ginny Woolf. I do not expect anyone to actually be reading these copies of Woolf, there simply must be some there. It is the kind of attitude that I remember, during my work experience in a library over a decade ago, that the librarians hated. The people who would complain that the complete works of Dickens were not in the library. But, the librarians would utter, no one takes out the complete works of Dickens. The person making the complaint would frown like a particularly easy equation had been missed by a primary school pupil; that, they would say confidently, is not the point.

There's a fleeting moment of disappointment at York's offerings. Night and Day and The Years. The latter was the most commercially successful of Ginny's novels during her lifetime, the former one of the building blocks that led to Jacob's Room. Needless to say they are the most prosaic and least interesting of her novels by a good distance. There is little wonder that they are sitting on the shelf. I glance upwards, there is a moment of redemption, To the Lighthouse sits in the wrong place, nestled next to copies of Flush and Melymbrosia. If only for sheer obscurity York has passed the test.

As it is now somewhere near 6.00 o'clock and my confidence in the literary tastes of the inhabitants of York have been appeased I drift towards the room which is emblazoned on my small green ticket.

"Have a drink".

My hand lingers over the orange juice which reason tells me I should take. It is some time since lunch. After I have finished here I have two and a half hours of Chekhov to sit through. Excluding opera, which makes much more sense when you're moderately inebriated, tipsy is not a state I do at the theatre. As a rule, drunks should be kept to the stage.

My hand moves. I take a glass of white wine. It is times like this when I am forced to conclude that I have a willpower problem.

Away from glasses coloured with wine and the corresponding table with copies of the book which is the reason we are gathered in this room in the recesses of York library, there are rows of blue cushioned chairs. Glass in hand I settle in the second row, attempting to disentangle the various layers of clothing I have deemed vital to stepping out of the house. Around me there is a prolonged throng of chatter, two ladies in front of me are discussing when they used to be able to go to the theatre for a price not higher than a couple of shillings, a price that not even my discounted Chekhov ticket can match.

Eventually, when a lectern has been moved into place and the room has filled some more, it is time to begin. A woman in bright purple leggings comes to the front followed by a woman with the blonde hair and black framed spectacles that tell me that this is Petite.

It is decidedly odd seeing someone in the flesh whose life you have been reading vicariously for over three years. It is the knowing, and the not knowing. There are people I regularly drink with whose lives I know less about. Yet, until possibly six months ago, I didn't even know what Petite looked like, I didn't know her actual name and my acquaintance with her was purely from what she chose to construct within the lines of her blog. There's almost a disparity between the actual person and the words, a more developed version of what I felt sitting in a bar in Dundee surrounded by people who worked for Radio One.

Purple Leggings Lady details what is going to happen.

"And then we can have some wine" Petite breaks in with.

I laugh. I suspect I am going to like the real Petite.

After the reading, with its asides and gentle laughter and during which I'm pleased to discover that the book is not, as Petite succinctly puts, simply the blog between hardback covers, it is time for questions. Why France? Why blogging? What next?

It strikes me, as Petite utters the words "on my blog" how wonderful it is to hear someone say those words in such an environment and not half swallow or half apologise for them. I've caught myself backtracking, over explaining, a drunken conversation that culminated with the sentence "I've always thought that blogs were written by people who weren't good enough to be journalists". But that's not quite the truth. Because a blog is the reason that I am sitting in this room, the reason that the engaging woman at the front who writes so well and so honestly, who has on occasion made me stop and take a deep breath in, now has the book which sits on the table at the back. To borrow a word, democratic.

As Petite finishes a story about the loos at Kings Cross I place my book on the signing table. Given the last two book signings I've attended have resulted in Libby Purves giving me relationship advice and my outing Dean to John Barrowman I wonder what is to happen here.

"Corinne - that's almost a French name".

I beam. If anything can be said about the name I was given it is definitely that it is a talking point in these situations. "It is, just with English pronunciation".

After my copy is signed and I am about to go join Chekhov I feel the need to add something.

"I'm a long term blog reader - and, well, I'm really thrilled for you about all of this".

And I realise, in that instant, that I mean it entirely.

1 comment:

Val said...

I'm impressed that you can blog while 'absent'. Glad that York library didn't disappoint! x