After a seven hour car journey and a near-death experience in the Cambrian mountains where an oncoming driver is trying to create a dual carriageway in the narrow pass, we arrive at our hotel in Bury St Edmunds.
‘You’re in the chalet with the four poster,’ the receptionist tells us cheerfully. I’m less thrilled, ‘chalet’ being something I associate with Butlins not the lovely old building on the hotel’s website. Making our way across the courtyard I hear what sounds like an orchestra warming up from the other chalets; that’s because an orchestra is warming up in the other chalets. Once inside though the chalet is quiet, clean and cosy - if a little reminiscent of eighties suburbia. Still we’re not here to admire the decor, it’s a quick wash and brush up before heading into town for the Choc Lit authors (well, four of us) ‘Girls’ Night In’ at Waterstone’s Bury St Edmunds.
Stand by your Books! Sue, Christina, me and Margaret
It’s not true that all my nerves evaporate when Jen, the manager, greets me, but I’m certainly reassured that I’m in safe hands. Jen and her staff have done us proud, drumming up an audience of fifty, chairs from the coffee shop opposite to sit them in and plenty of wine and chocolate to keep everyone happy. My happiness levels receive another boost when I see the beautiful, smiling face of fellow blogger SuffolkMum coming towards me. We’ve never met before but recognise each other straightaway. Chatting to her is just like meeting up with an old friend. Lovely Lucie Wheeler and her friend Kate, Choc Lit reading panellists are there too and all the friendly faces really set the tone for a good evening.
Christina Courtenay, Margaret James, Sue Moorcroft and I all say a bit about ourselves and our books whilst Tom, the only man in the room, dashes round acting as official photographer. We then take questions from a really interested and interesting audience, leaving just enough time to mingle and sign some books. I hear some inspiring stories from some of the people who’ve been kind enough turn up to hear us and it strikes me, once again, how enjoyable it is to meet new readers. A wonderful evening and huge, huge thanks to Jen and all the staff at Waterstone’s for making us feel so welcome.
Christina and me - looking more relaxed now!
The next morning it’s up and away because Tom and I are heading to Norfolk to meet some friends. We leave our chalet, trying not to trip any members of the orchestra labouring under the weight of their instruments and bags, and look forwards to enjoying a hearty cooked breakfast in the old part of the hotel. ‘Sorry,’ says the waitress. ‘The kitchen’s closed today – didn’t anyone tell you?’ Ah well, I suppose it would be too much to expect everything to go according to plan.