I met Beryl Bainbridge last night. Was at a party quaffing expensive booze and smelly cheese and was introduced to the chain-smoking whiskey-guzzling great Dame.
Beautiful. Remarkable. Mad as a hatter. My kind of gal.
Clare “I used to be a pirate” Francis was also there. And suddenly they proceed to have a very public spat. No fisticuffs, of course, not these dignified ladies, and certainly no ground-to-air fountain pens were in evidence, just a few choice blue words hurled back and forth across a crowded room.
As I understood it, Beryl referred to Clare as “that sailor bird…” to which Clare took great offence. Clare’s gripe seemed to be that the being a "sailor bird" days were long behind her, and now that she’s a best-selling author she felt she should be referred to as such. But Beryl seemed to be of the opinion that the title “sailor bird” was more appropriate. It was all rather interesting and definitely a timely diversion from the peculiar couple from Perth who were spitting bits of Stilton into my Rioja.
Then I get introduced to this tall, interesting chap. Long unruly hair, tweed suit, tweed waistcoat, tweed hat, round glasses as thick as submarine windows, long flappy shoes, a flower in his button-hole and teeth so long they inspired thoughts of garden patio decking. We get chatting and he tells me he's a hermit.
He said he became so inspired after reading about a Russian hermit that he proceeded to read all the books he could find on being a hermit, then procured a caravan (that he refers to as 'she' and references boat-speak when talking about 'her'), located a vast empty wasteland and moored her there. And in doing so achieved his goal of becoming a hermit. Brilliant.
But I met him at a party?
Surely that's something of a lifestyle anachronism, or at least a not-quite-right-ism? I met a hermit at a party. How do you meet a hermit at a party? That’s like meeting a penguin in a sauna. And then it gets worse. Or better. He starts telling me about all these other famous hermits around the world. Exactly how does a hermit become famous? How does that work? As I stood amongst this group of well-heeled individuals, all desperately fascinated with this tweedy hermit and his tweedy tales of other hermits, my slightly sozzled brain started malfunctioning under the weight of these hermitry revelations. It was ridiculous. But no one else was laughing. I was trying so desperately hard to not spray red wine over everyone that I kept making silly little gargling noises, further compounded by the fact that hermit sounds too much like Kermit. That really wasn’t helping.
And then he mentions, to this enthralled wide-eyed audience, that he has a most fascinating tale to tell about the most famous hermit of them all. Cue drum roll…
... this hermit was SO famous and SO great, that... wait for it… loads of other hermits went to visit him. Ta da! Yep. And because there were now so many of them in one place, Mr. I’m-the-best-hermit-in-the-world decides to build a huge house so they could all live in it.
Lots of them.