The buzz of conversation diminished as the room emptied and the doors to the theatre closed behind the first set of writers as they took the stage for Death in the Afternoon. Natasha Cooper, Sabine Durrant, Annemarie Neary and JP Delaney had already posed for their group photo (see left) and were now ready to begin.
Applause was heard in the now deserted Lounge/Bar of Omnibus, occupied only by Dave, behind the book-selling table and me, awaiting the arrival of my panelists. Within minutes we heard laughter, the session had got off to a good start.
I sat and re-read my crib cards, going through the introductions in my head. It seemed ages since I had left the house that morning, the words fresh in my mind and so much had already happened since then. I needed to re-fresh my memory. Meanwhile Dave took photos of the book table and, very kindly, left me alone.
I went outside and walked up and down. People on the buses, which slow down just as they pass that point, might have wondered who the mad woman was, talking to herself as she walked back and forth. I was reciting in my head and keeping an eye out for Elizabeth Fremantle.
Robin Blake had already arrived and Simon Berthon arrived soon after, but I was still a panelist missing. The logic of having a single point of contact in case of emergencies or delays was exposed as flawed – our single point of contact was inside the theatre with her phone turned off. Oops. But I was worrying unnecessarily, Elizabeth arrived in plenty of time. Time enough for our group photo shot too.
The sustained and loud applause drew me back into the building. The space was filling up again, people were talking, discussing, the audience had been engaged, that was clear. Friends told me how enjoyable and interesting the first session had been. I drank lots of water. Before one knew it the bell was rung and the audience filtered into the theatre again.
John Taylor was introducing our session and we preceded him into the spotlight – literally – and took our seats. The audience was invisible. Introduction over and we were off into The Past is Another Country. I remembered all the details about my co-panelists and managed to get into the first chunk of discussion without mishap. Then time flew. Our debate was so interesting – all four of us said afterwards that we could have continued talking for a lot longer. But I had to solicit questions from the floor, of which there were a good many ( and good questions too ). And it was all over. I thanked my fellow panelists and the lights went on ( though we stayed seated, still talking ).
There were thanks all round as we were absorbed into the animated crowd in the Lounge/Bar, everyone wanting to discuss what they had just listened to. There was a good trade being done at the book tables and the bar. And there was so little time before the next session was due – I was doing the introduction. Soon the bell rang again. Time for Spies.
N.B. I will return to the substance of The Past is Another Country in the near future.