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On doing readings

Let me paint the scene –

It’s a balmy evening. The streets are empty. There’s the flicker of screens in the windows I pass – football. I hurry. I don’t want to be late. I’ll be reading from my novel and people might be waiting. Is this the right café? It seems closed. No, there’s a light behind the Gaggia machine. If I press my nose against the glass I can see people milling around in the room at the back. I go in.

There are four of us reading, one compere and a very kind and enthusiastic organizer. The compere is famous, the organiser tells us.

He has laughter lines around his eyes and a warm hand


We make a bit of a fuss lying out books and organizing who sits where and the order in which we’ll read. I try not to cast anxious glances at the door to see who we might be reading to. It’s nearly six and so far we only have each other – authors of violently diverse books.

A swoosh. We stop what we’re doing. Look up. No, it’s one of the café workers with a bent back and huge box.

The clock tower outside chimes six o clock.

Of course there are always us, the authors to read to. We’re interested in other authors work, aren’t we?

‘Would you like to begin?” asks our kind, enthusiastic organizer.

The compere looks at his watch. He must have other engagements he could have taken, children to put to bed, football to watch.

It’s the oldest of us who is the bravest. She opens out her newly published book - a memoir about being a grandmother - with a pink cover and a nice font.

That is the moment the door lets open a flustered newcomer who’s all jangling bangles and flowing cloth.

‘Have you come for the reading?’ asks the compere.

‘Is it closed?” she asks

‘We have wine,’ he says.

‘I’d like a flat white’ she says.

And the grandmother author pushes her specs back up her nose, takes a swig of water, flattens the page with her palm and reads.

Perhaps other authors would like to continue.

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