Saturday, January 26, 2008

A tale of two Vickies

Christopher Hampton, Pants (obviously) and Ian McEwan. Photo by Vicky 2
Not
# tigers met = 0
# literary giants met = 2


Ain't it just the way. I spend hours being bumped around in a freezing jeep on no less than four 'tiger' safaris only to be shown a 'jungle cat' that I'm reasonably certain was wearing a flea collar and a dozen rabid monkeys. Good thing I had the sense to visit Howlett's Wildlife Park last year where tigers are in abundance. It didn't help that the only vague chance we had of getting up close and personal with a Bengal was scuppered by the family who had the foresight to bring their squealing toddler along. She proved a whizz at responding to the guide's entreaties to 'be quiet' with a symphony of jungle penetrating shrieks.

What India lacks in wildlife, it makes up for in literati. I found myself in Jaipur in the middle of a free literary festival. That such a thing exists is alarming enough. How on earth do they exploit the book buying public in India? It's a mystery. I'd previously mentioned that Gore Vidal would be present, but it wasn't until the next morning at breakfast that I discovered a free screening of Atonement was to be shown, followed by a Q&A with Ian McEwan and Christopher Hampton (who'd just been nominated for an Oscar for his screenplay). Regular readers may recall that I thought enough of the movie to write a favourable review back when it first opened.

I looked down the programme to see 'invitation only' in brackets after the entry. At that very moment, one of the organisers sauntered by and I called him over and asked for an invitation. You actually do have more chance of seeing a tiger in Britain than getting yourself invited to a shindig with a Booker prize winner. The rest of my tour group were going off to a Bollywood film (three and a half hours, no music, no subtitles - torture by all accounts). I packed myself onto a bus to be transported to a soulless cinema complex in new Jaipur where I watched a great film all over again for free.

It was on this bus that I met the first of two Vickies. V1 has a farm in Kota. She is very personable and we chatted away on the bus like old pals. IM and CH were frank and amusing in the Q&A afterwards. I can't remember what they said exactly. CH revealed that Atonement director Joe Wright is dsylexic which explains all that typewriter clattering throughout the film and IM talked about 'living on the inside of people's faces' which struck me as a Booker worthy turn of phrase if ever there was one. He also made what sounded like a witty but derogatory comment about the most recent Booker winner, Anne Enright which I don't trust myself to repeat because I didn't in fact hear it - just the tittering of the earnest young scribes to whom it was addressed. (This is why I never made it as a journalist).

Back at the Diggi Palace Hotel, V1 and I discovered the drinks were free. We further discovered that IM and CH were standing right next to us. This is where V1 came into her own. I turned to mush and had no idea what to say but V1 started discussing the book and the film like a normal person as opposed to a star-struck imbecile and I nodded knowingly (go girl!). It was then that V2 joined us. An adventurous lone traveller from Manchester, she initiated discourse with IM about Saturday. Great, I thought, I loved that book. Then I started wondering why I hadn't thought to go and buy a copy of Chesil Beach from the book stall and get IM to sign it. By the time I'd returned to the present moment, the conversation had moved on. Why can't I keep my mind on the job?

It was V2 who got the picture above. It was after our fourth or fifth beer and I didn't even care that I'd been in the same clothes for four days. We had a few more after that too. IM did say something I remember - there may be hope for me yet. He said he thought we all carried a sense of incompletion, a fear that we've committed some act of malpractice for which we feel we need to atone. In wondering why I couldn't think of a single question to ask one of the best writers in the world as he stood right in front of me, it occurred to me that I might have been overwhelmed by my own incompleteness. I imagine success gives you the confidence to feel you can talk to anyone about anything. Lack of it has the exactly the opposite effect. Thanks to the Vickies though, I have the photo to prove I'm in my life somewhere...

18 comments:

Dysthymiac said...

what a thrill of happenstance to be led to that moment - ah the magic of the sub-continent!

Meredith said...

Very jealous pants! And they're both so stylishly dressed.

Andrew said...

Always addressing the salient points in your well constructed and written posts Pants, fleecy top in India. Not what I would have thought.

That's So Pants said...

Hi Ms Dys - well, yes. Something good had to come of this relentless travelling.

Hi Meredith - As opposed to me you mean. They were expecting to be photographed - I wasn't!

Hi Andrew - well I might have known you'd hone in on the attire.

xxx

Pants

Wisewebwoman said...

Galumphing amongst the greats, ye gads, Pants, worth tripping to the colonies for, eh, wot?
XO
WWW

That's So Pants said...

Hi WWW

And them some!

xxx

Pants

Reading the Signs said...

I've held back, but oh sod it, I'm going to name-drop again. CH used to be a good friend of my aunt's and I talked to him at lunch party things she used to have. He was much nicer than some of the other famous names - kind of laid back but present in the moment with whoever he was talking to.

You're looking good, Pantaloons.

That's So Pants said...

Hi Signs

You feel free. I thought he was very personable and a good conversationalist. I was going to tell him that I'd studied a play of his at university but I couldn't remember the name of the play and it was an AWFULLY long time ago so working it into the conversation proved just a tad too tricky for me. IM is incredibly nice too.

xxx

Pants

Dame Honoria Glossop said...

You lucky thing! Go to India & meet Ian McEwan and Christopher Hampton as well.

That's So Pants said...

Hi Your Dameship

As highlights go, it was up there. But then again it was a month of extraordinary events, now over. I'm sitting in the hotel in Delhi waiting for a friend to come and take me shopping - something I've proved on numerous occasions, I am unable to handle alone. For that, I will need a lot of luck.

xxx

Pants

Ms Melancholy said...

Hey Pants,

how lovely to catch up on your travels, having absented myself from the blog world for a wee while.

Free drinks and literati...sounds like a great night and well worth travelling to India for. (You didn't go just for the book festival?) I agree with you about the Inheritance of Loss, by the way. Fabulous title, disappointing book.

Dysthymiac said...

I hope you got a sari on that shopping trip you mention.
Suitable for every occasion and one size fits all. the perfect garment.
X X X

That's So Pants said...

Hi Ms M

Good to hear from you. The lit. festival was a lovely surprise. I wasn't digging Diggi so much until then. It made Jaipur memorable for another reason than being followed in the bizarre by a sinister extra from Kismet.

Hi Ms Dys

Sari? If only I'd wanted one, I'd not have been disappointed. No, I came to realise it wasn't India I wanted so much as mock India.

xxx

Pants

R.H. said...

I've given your picture to immigration.

Reading the Signs said...

Hi Pants - Where are you, wassup and wasshappening? Not meaning to be impatient - well, but, drumming my fingers here waiting for another post.

That's So Pants said...

Hi RH

Helpful, as always. I got a surprisingly easy time...

Hi Signs

Getting there. I no longer have the ready access but hope to post early next week, once I've caught up with myself.

xxx

Pants

Minx said...

I have nominated you as excellent - please collect at your convenience - or not, whatever.

That's So Pants said...

Hi Minxie

Thanks! All rewards gratefully received at Winnebago of Pants.

xxx

Pants