Tag Archives: mail on sunday

A Novel Outing

22 Oct

To say today has been mixed would be understating it. It started, far too early, with a Virgin tilting train to London – probably the only kind of train that stocks sick bags, because it has to.  I’ll leave the details to your imagination, but it wasn’t a pleasant ride.

Then, at lunchtime (hence why I was on the stupidly early train) I had lunch with Paula Johnson of the Society of Authors, authors Simon Brett and Fay Weldon, and various literary and publishing types at a little restaurant in London called Chez Patrick. This isn’t something I do often, I’m afraid. (Oh, my glamorous life!) It was because I was one of the winners of the Mail on Sunday Novel Competition. Entrants had to write a few paragraphs from the start of a novel (which may exist, but doesn’t have to) and include the word “train”. This competition has run since the 1980s, but this year was the last, unfortunately.

Lunch was nice, and everyone was lovely. It was preceded by a short award ceremony and a long session of photo taking, so the food was all the more welcome when it came. I finally got to see all the other entries, and the variety was amazing, not just of the use of the word train (which can have different meanings, of course), but more of style and mood. I can’t share them with you because they’re not mine, but I will give you the authors’ names so you can look them up if you’re interested:

1st place: Lynne Greenway

2nd: Clare Funnell

3rd: Susan Hope

=4th: Deirdre Palmer

=4th: Annie Whitehead

=4th: Me!

Unfortunately the day went downhill after the lunch. It could hardly go uphill from there I suppose, but there’s just something about London that’s determined to wipe the smile off your face and make you look as grim as a character from Eastenders. The lunch went on quite late, with lots of chatting, and afterwards Annie and I sauntered off towards our onward travel, thinking there was no rush. But there should have been, for me at least. Not only did I miss meeting up with my sister, because she finished earlier than planned while I finished later, but I fell foul of the off-peak rules. Six in the morning is definitely off-peak, but in London anything between 4.30pm and 7pm is not, alas. I was offered the chance to upgrade for £92 (chortle!) but instead I thought I’d sit in a cafe, drink an extortionately priced drink, and update my blog.

Anyway, I daresay I will get home eventually, and it has been a fun day out. Meanwhile, here is my winning entry for you to enjoy. The rest of the novel doesn’t exist yet, but it probably will someday.

Barry was supposed to be on the 6.15 to Birmingham. If he had caught the 6.15, departing platform four, he would by now have been at the airport, ready to fly out to his best friend’s wedding in Marbella. Instead he had caught the 6.14 from platform five, travelling to Fort William, and promptly fallen asleep. He had noticed his mistake when he awoke at Corrour station, and scrambled off the train. Now he was staggering, half-awake in the blustery wind buffetting Rannoch Moor. One thousand, three hundred feet above sea level, four hundred and thirty miles from Birmingham, with a suitcase full of beachwear and a stag giving him a belligerent look from a nearby hillock.