Monday, 14 October 2013

In Which I Have Lunch with Neil (and a Lot of Fun)

It's been a busy weekend.

It started on Thursday evening, when my friend Cheryl came round for supper, and arrived bearing Croatian wine and chocolate.She's blogged about it here - The wine and chocolate were both delicious, and the evening made a lovely start to a weekend of fun things!

On Friday I got the train to London, to go to a 'Literary Lunch' with Neil Gaiman, at Kaspars at the Savoy. I had dithered a bit before booking it, as I've been fortunate enough to go to several of Neil's events already this year, and it did seem rather extravagant,  but I decided that I wanted to go despite the extravagance, and that the fact I am about to have a birthday with 0 on the end of it was as good an excuse as any...

I have never been to the Savoy before. It's dead posh. And Kaspars is a rather lovely Art Deco styled restaurant. Beautiful tiles and chandeliers.  I was a bit worried that they might throw me out for not being posh enough, but either they're too polite,or the fact that I wore a dress was enough to put them off the scent!

Neil with Nick Vince
The restaurant has a central shellfish bar and I was seated there, and quickly got into a conversation with the gentleman seated next to me,who turned out to be a writer and actor (he played the Chatterer in 'Hellraiser') and was an excellent dining companion. I was expecting good company - after all, everyone at the lunch was a fan of Neil's, but it is always nice to have one's expectations met or exceeded, isn't it?

Once we were all seated, Neil explained the format - introduction, starters, reading, main course, Q and A, pudding.. And explained that in the Q and A, we had to do the Q's and he would do the A's.It occurs to me that this has been the format of all of Neil's events which I've been to. I wanted to suggest we try it the other way round, just for variety. We could provide answers and let Neil guess the questions, perhaps..

Oh, the food. It was delicious. And so pretty. The starter was a selection of smoked and cured fish - I know there was smoked salmon, and beetroot cured halibut, and gravlax, and some smoked eel. I'm not sure what the other bits were but it was all delicious.

Then Neil read to us from 'Fortunately the Milk'. I think it is just as well that this was while we were between courses, as I expect that snorting with laughter into your meal would be frowned upon at the Savoy. Or possibly a special snorting-with-laughter waiter would appear bearing handkerchiefs and smelling salts to help you calm down.

Neil read from the start of the book, as far as the Walking the Plank. I have been very restrained and not read on, as I am going to the full reading on Tuesday. But it has been a struggle. And I already feel the urge to find suitable children to give copies of the book to!

Then came the main course (which I was too busy eating, to photograph) before Neil's Q and A.

In response to questions he discussed his alternative career choice (Bespoke religions designed - "How do you feel about guilt? Would you like a large pantheon?), His attitude to magic ("As a kid, I was disappointed by the failure of most wardrobes to contain Narnia. But I didn't stop looking") Which raises the question - if it's only most wardrobes that don't contain Narnia, does that mean Neil found one which did? It could explain a lot. That Lamp Post in his garden, for a start...

There was also the question about whether he is nervous, writing new Sandman stories  - Yes, there are millions of people standing, metaphorically  looking over his shoulder as he writes,  The possibility of a sequel to 'Good Omens' - He and PTerry had an idea for a sequal, to be called '668, The Neighbour of the Beast', but  they are both too busy to write it.

Apple Crème Brûlée
Neil also talked about 'Fortunately The Milk' being an pro-Dad book, having inadvertently written a Dad-ist book in 'The Day I Swapped My Dad for Two Goldfish'. 

The we got dessert - oh, that Apple Crème Brûlée. The Savoy doesn't have Neil Gaiman on the menu every day (at last, I don't think so. Unless they have cloning vats in the basement) but I am fairly sure that the apple crème brûlée is available any day.

The lunch ended slightly abruptly, as the hotel needed to start setting the room up for a later event, but Neil still made an effort to sign things for everyone who wanted things signing, we all drank our tea or coffee and  ate our delicious salted caramel lollipops (and, of course paid our bills) and luncheon came to an end.
Savoy foyer

I'd been in a rush when I arrived at the Savoy, and hadn't had much time to look around. On the way out, I paused to admire the foyer, which has lots of Wedgewood-style friezes, and and photographs and portraits and Chaises Long.

I wandered off into the rain (via the little bit of road outside the Savoy, which,  is, I understand,  the only place in the country where you have to drive on the right. there was a big limo outside, driving (very slowly) on the right, so it must be true!.

Which still left the rest of the afternoon for other adventures...


Anonymous said...

Nice, I wish I'd had time to go to that.

"I expect that snorting with laughter into your meal would be frowned upon at the Savoy."

That made me laugh as I did almost something similar at Roux at Parliament Square last night. As I was eating that incredible fig millefeuille, I accidentally inhaled some icing sugar and while coughing, blew some more across my table. I don't think anyone noticed or at least staff and other diners pretended not to notice.

Marjorie said...

So, no waiters with smelling salts, then?

Kitty Cat said...

i loved your account of lunch with Boss--
thanks for posing, MT!

Marjorie said...

It was so much fun!