Monday, February 25, 2008


It was a dark and stormy night...

And no one turned up at the bookstore. Well... that's not quite true. A few hardy souls braved the dire storm warnings being pumped out by the media to come and hear me speak.

The phrase "from the sublime to the ridiculous" came to mind. The contrast between San Mateo on Friday night and Corte Madera on Saturday night could hardly have been more marked.

The one bright spot was that Sarah Weldon, an old friend from France, turned up with a friend, and we were all able to share a glass or two of wine with the storm-bravers and chat about the books.

While the good people of Northern California closed their shutters and huddled down in their homes to brave the blast, we drove an hour and a half through the rain to get to the town of Corte Madera which, in normal circumstances, has a fabulous view of San Francisco across the bay. But on this dark and stormy night, there was nothing to be seen. Not even a twinkling light.

Actually, the thing I really discovered was that the word "storm" has different meanings in California and Scotland. The forecasters here had been predicting heavy rain blowing in on winds of 40 miles per hour, gusting to 60. Which would have been an average February day in Argyll, where we spent our last ten years in Scotland. Winds need to get up to about 100 miles an hour before we would start to get concerned.

But a "storm" here in early January had brought down trees and power lines, and so no one wanted to venture out.

In the end, it wasn't even as bad as the forecasters had been warning, and we drove home through light winds and flashes of moonlight.

The following day was Oscars day. People in the States have Oscars parties. Families and friends gather around their TV sets with plates of finger food and watch a seemingly endless procession of celebrities tripping off and on the stage, shedding tears and thanking their grannies. But not having seen a single one of the nominated movies, it was, for us, a little like watching the Super Bowl. Unfathomable. But a good excuse for a glass of champagne!

Oh, well... Tuesday sees us depart for Phoenix, and with nearly a month still ahead of us, the great cross-America trek will begin.

(It's farewell to Sacramento, Susie, and grand-daughter Madeleine)

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