Tuesday, February 12, 2008


Well, it might be ten. Or maybe nine. Even eleven.

See... lost track already. Today is Monday. Yesterday I did my first signing - out on the sidewalk outside Martha's bookstore on Balboa Island. Two hours in the sunshine. Temperature creeping up to 26 degrees. Got a big red face today!

Everyone stopped to talk, to gawp at the kilt (first time I've worn it this trip - and it felt good around the waist after me losing all that weight!!). Then, just like the same venue, same time last year, a couple passed and the woman looked at me suspiciously and said, "Why are you wearing a kilt?'

Of course, I heard immediately from her accent that she was Scottish. "Because I'm a Scot," I replied. And their faces lit up.

Turned out they came from Paisley, where I started my career in journalism on the Paisley Daily Express. Not only that, but we discovered we knew all these people in common from way back in the seventies - folk like Gerry Rafferty and Billy Connolly and Danny Kyle, and a bunch of talented people I interviewed for the paper - all former pupils of Paisley's St. Mirren's Academy. A hotbed of creative talent in those days, it seems.

In fact it was a couple of articles I wrote about a Paisley artist who had graduated from St. Mirren's, that won me my 'Young Journalist of the Year' award. All these years later I can still remember his name. Fergus Hall. I wonder whatever became of him.

So then we discovered that these good folk had emigrated to Tasmania, of all places, thirty years ago, and here they were, decades later crossing my path by chance on a street on Balboa Island, California. It really is a small world. Last year, on the same street, I met a young Scotsman who had married an American girl and settled here in Newport Beach. His parents were there on holiday from Scotland, and it was the father who had given me the odd look and asked why I was wearing the kilt.

Okay, so people are always giving me odd looks - whether I'm wearing the kilt or not. I should be used to it by now.

Then it was off to lunch with the Jensens, my old neighbours from France, who live in a wonderul timewarp cottage in Beverly Hills. Despite now being well into their eighties, they made the drive down from LA to see us, and come along to the launch party in the afternoon.

Susie's House

Susie was hosting the party, and the caterers wheeled in copious amounts of extraordinarily good food, while we cracked open the bottles of Gaillac wine we had managed to find for sale in the US (the good stuff is not scheduled to arrive till later this week). Everyone raved about the wine, though, including a French couple who live across the road and spend Spring and Fall in their apartment in Paris.

The good ladies of Martha's bookstore arrived with piles of my books, and we did a good trade in sales and signatures. La Patronne even sold ten copies of her romantic comedy, "Looking for the Zee".

When finally the dust settled, and Susie had flown off to San Francisco for a meeting today, her business partner Eric (the Viking), and I sat into the small hours playing piano and guitar, dredging up old Beatles songs from the dark recesses of long lost memory.

Practising on the grand during a quiet moment before the fray

And as I drove through the sunshine to the gym this morning in Susie's BMW sports convertible, the long shadows of tall palms dissecting empty streets, I thought...

... I could get used to this life.

If only I could afford the health insurance!


Anonymous said...

Did you know that Fergus Hall designed the Tarot Card Deck used in the James Bond movie Live and Let Die?

peter_may said...

Actually, mon cher beau frere, I did know. I wrote two articles about him. The first was a critique of his work and a prediction of great things in store. The second was about his commission to paint the tarot cards for the Bond film after his work was spotted by the producers during his first London exhibition at the Portal Gallery. That's what won me the award.

Anonymous said...

:) Just letting you know I am following the tour and glad to see you are having fun with it too.