Saturday, 29 August 2009

Questions and mobiles

Events usually end with a Q & A session: house lights go up, hands fly in the air (or worse, don't) and front of house people sprint about with roving microphones. Audiences have the chance to ask the burning questions they've been chewing on ever since they clapped eyes on an author's work, and sometimes these can be very surprising indeed. 'Would you two care to come for dinner and talk to my grandchildren about history? You'd be very welcome.' and: 'Your shoes are wonderful. I wonder where they're from.'

Other spontaneous material comes from the dreaded sound of a mobile phone going off; despite the chairperson threatening custard pies in the face in the event of such a crime, there's often a gentle bleat to be heard somewhere in a tent, followed by a reddening face and a deft scurry into pockets or handbags. On one occasion, an author responded to those shrill tones with, 'Oh just answer it. I'd love you to tell them you're busy, but I'm not sure how engaged you really are', while a children's author stilled a teenage fan's embarrassment by squealing, 'oh, it's your dad! Let me speak to him! Serve him right for phoning in the middle!' Brings to mind the lovely story about the Queen, doing walkabout and stopping with one lady, whose phone proceeded to go off. 'Answer it', urged the Queen. 'Might be someone important.'

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