Last year, during the mad run-up to Christmas, the Legion played host to a gaggle of local writers.
We had never had a Book Fair before but it felt like a good time to experiment with culture and get to know those who were on intimate terms with the zeitgeist.
Unfortunately, on many levels, there was a massive fire in Exeter the night before, so the Book Day didn’t really receive the sort of attendance or support it might otherwise have enjoyed.
On the morning of the Book Day, the writers appeared and swiftly got to work, moving all the furniture inside the Legion, setting up their novels in vast stacks and papering the edges of their tables with artwork from their books.
They draped their jackets over the backs of chairs that never felt a buttock, and drank weak tea for the whole day. Clearly, my interpretation of the writer as borderline alcoholic was rather outdated. Imagine my disappointment. For myself, I have the alcoholic capacity; I’m only lacking the publishing house to back it.
After an exceptionally quiet day, buying books from each other and having a chat, the writers put the room back together and left with loose smiles and promises of a return.
Perhaps understandably, we didn’t see them for many months. However, with the time of year, Legion Membership has come up for renewal, and one of the writers has returned.
Here’s where it gets a bit thorny.
She began by speaking to me. I was the first person she met at the Legion and she hears from me weekly with Movie Night information, so it was quite understandable that she would seek me out in the first instance.
The writing group had hoped to have another event at the Club, she told me: a writing workshop. Well, that caught my otherwise limp attention. They weren’t certain of dates or times, as yet, but she would contact me as soon as she had something more solid. She asked if they could hire the Clubhouse for free, as they had last year, and assured me she’d paid her Legion subs.
And, indeed, she had. I explained to others from the Club Committee that we could let the writers hire the building for free because I would work the bar voluntarily that afternoon, thereby cutting costs. Also, between pourings, I could learn something from the writing workshop which could (fingers crossed) improve my novel.
I heard nothing more until our building manager told me that the writer had been in touch with him and informed him that she wanted the place for Saturday, 8th December, from 11am until 4pm.
Quick glance at the calendar, and the 8th December this year is a Friday.
So, I got in touch with the writer.
She told me she wanted the place on Saturday, 9th December (good-oh, but still better to check whether she wanted the Friday or the Saturday, I felt), from 9am until 4pm (that’s a lot of hours to be working for free, I thought), also, she added, it would no longer be a writing workshop but a Book Fair-slash-Sales Drive (bugger).
It was fine, she said, because she’d squared it all with the building manager, Cliff (that’s not his name).
Incidentally, she asked, could I knock up some advertising posters for them, as I had last year?
I have given myself a dubious task, in which I will learn nothing, and if they have the same woeful turnout as last year, my posters may be blamed. Fabulous. My disappointment knows no bounds. I was polite, of course, and said none of this because I walked into it myself.
If they can give me details, I can make posters, I said.
Thank you, Katrina, she replied.
(Weekly emails for over a year, and she still hasn’t learnt my name.)
So, you may ask yourself, what do I intend to do to make the afternoon worthwhile?
I may have to plaster the building with the artwork from my novel.