Saturday, 2 April 2011

Shades of Helene Hanff

Consumnate professional that he is, Michael Caine once said that when delivering lines to someone out of shot, he was as happy talking to the wall as to an actual person - it was acting, either way.

Once or twice, such is the unpredictability of numbers at book events, I have almost had to test my own professionalism in this way - bookshops in small towns after opening hours hold a special dread.. Well, on Wednesday night I was setting up for a talk scheduled for 7pm in the newly refurbished library at Carrickfergus, and come 6.45 I must admit I was glancing from the door, to my watch, to my host with increasing nervousness. I said to Josephine, 'You think it might be just you and me then?' and she made reassuring noises. She was right; there was no need to worry and in the event, if it wasn't standing-room only, it wasn't a matter of talking to the wall either, and the evening went pretty well.

Afterwards, I emerged to this view of Carrickfergus Castle. I had no idea. I lingered long enough to take a few pics and headed back to the island, thinking of Helene Hanff (of 84 Charing Cross Road), and how she discovered rather late in life that she didn't know - really know - her native New York. The result of that particular revelation was one of my favourite Hanff books, Apple Of My Eye. I must post about the delightful Helene Hanff one of these days.

Carrickfergus Castle is Norman, by the way, built in 1177 by the man who conquered east Ulster, John De Courcy, as his headquarters.
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