tenpastmidnight blog

Making hay while the sun shines

Misadventures in watching Iain M Banks

I went to see science fiction author Iain M Banks talk last week.

This should have been a relaxing affair - Alex had sorted the tickets well ahead of time, and we'd discussed where the venue - The Old Market - was, near the City Books shop on the edge of Hove. I've walked past the Old Market lots of times and wondered what it was, which makes it more annoying that I couldn't find it on the night.

This was partly, well, totally because I have all the navigational ability of a dead haddock. I found City Books easily enough, having printed a map to it rather than a map to the venue of the talk, and dropped down from Seven Dials straight to it - this turned out to be my largest mistake because I thought "Ah, it's around here somewhere, but the poster says it's in Hove, so I'll walk that way."

Actually, I walked one road Brightonwards and could see that wasn't down to the place, so I went towards Hove. If I'd walked two roads Brightonwards, I'd have found the bloody place.

A good whack of tiredness and stupidity meant I walked further in to Hove than I should have. I then got stopped by a not-particularly-homeless-looking homeless bloke, who claimed to have broken down, be from Lancing, and need some money. On any other night I'd have spotted him a mile off (he even did the standard homeless-bloke weirdness of asking for a very odd amount of money - £47.17 or thereabouts.) This took up a bunch of time and in the end I was trying to give him money just to get rid of him.

By the end of the discussion I'd given the chap some money, he insisted on giving me his address and taking mine and saying he'd drop the money off later. I gave him my office address because I didn't want Katie being hassled by some random guy if he did turn up. Stupidly I didn't ask him any questions about Lancing, a village I know well, but I find myself more sympathetic to old codgers who appear lucid apart from a few facts since my dad had a memory problem a few years ago.

Anyway... I go further in to Hove, feeling daft for not pulling the bloke up about Lancing. Then I start looking for a map - the one I found was useless, then a taxi and can't find a free one - terrific. Having eventually turned around I find some roving Policemen who say it's a long way away on foot - great.

Eventually, looking for a taxi the whole time, I make it back to City Books, then after some swearing, two roads down I find the Old Market. Relieved, sweaty and kicking myself, I make it in for the last third-to-half of the talk.

When I got in to the hall I didn't realise it was in the Q&A session and all I could hear was a voice going and a chap on the stage who obviously wasn't talking. It went on so long I wondered if it was a taped excerpt and IB had lost his voice. It turned out to be an intermidably long question, which I would imagine is stock in trade for Q&As involving SF fans :-)

When he gets a chance, Iain Banks is a good speaker. Enthusiastic and funny, with strange asides and rants. I managed to catch a number of answers, and hear him read from The Steep Approach to Garbadale, which was well worth the £6 admission.

While listening, I could see the back of several friend's heads but managed to lose them all in the scrum to get out, which turned out to also be a queue for getting books signed. Happily, Ian scooped me up on the way to the pub, and we found Jay on the way. I finally got to meet Ben.

All in all, a mess of an evening, which ended well, apart from managing to completely miss Alex, who'd sorted out everything in the first place.

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