Saturday, August 17, 2002
Didn�t mean to fall off the earth. Let�s see... the signing tour is underway. It started in Sheffield, at lunch time � a nice lunchtime sort of a signing. I read Chapter 3 of Coraline, answered a few questions, and signed for a solid lunchtime crowd � maybe 60 or 70 people. An hour or so and we were done. Lucy Chapman is my publicity person at Bloomsbury � unflappable and competent and funny � and it was a nice sort of place for her to start. Nothing strange happened at all, and I was given a thank-you card with buttons for eyes by some cool young people.

Leandra, the Bloomsbury rep. for the North of England, drove us from Sheffield to Manchester, the scenic route, on winding roads across high heather-sided hills. At a beauty spot she stopped the car, made an improvised table and chairs out of boxes of Coraline, and produced a wonderful picnic lunch. We sat beside the car in the sunshine, and munched salads and salmon and such, staring at the lake below us, and the sheep on the hills. Cars drove past.

�Just think,� said Lucy. �We�ve become those sad people you drive past, eating their lunch by their car on the side of the road.�

And we agreed that we had, and helped ourselves to more aubergine brown rice salad.

Checked into the hotel Malmaison, which is where authors stay in Manchester, and then went down to the signing at Waterstones Deansgate. They sold tickets to it � 3 pounds each, although you got a 3 pound discount off the book with it, and had a completely full room � a hair under 200 people it looked like. I read the first couple of chapters, accompanied by a saxophone being played by a busker in the street outside. He had a limited repertoire but made up for it in volume and a sort of cockroach-like tenacity. Then I did a short Q & A and, at 8.00, started to sign, with the saxophone in the background.

By 8:30 the shop staff were panicking: Somehow, despite selling all the tickets, and despite the fact that this was my fourth signing at Manchester Deansgate Waterstones, they suddenly realised that it would take a little time to sign for 200 people, and hadn�t actually planned for it. They started panicking loudly. We put in a 3 item limit, and then went over to post-it notes with people�s names on.

At the point that the staff came back, about 15 minutes later, to suggest that I not actually talk to the people I was signing for, I slightly lost patience with them. And carried on signing, and talking to the people I was signing for. And at some point I was even given a button-eyed sock monkey.

Still, the people were lovely, and I signed for over 150 of them in about 90 minutes, which made the staff at Waterstones breathe a little more easily, or a lot more easily, and I even had time to sign the shop stock before they closed up the shop.

The saxophone player, across the road, had just started his cycle of music-from-great-commercials-Careless Whisper-theme-from-the-Simpsons all over again...

Back to the Malmaison, the hotel I always seem to stay at in Manchester. Ate dinner, did emergency e-mail, had a bath (noted that their bath-products consisted of : all-in-one-bath-gel-soap-and-shampoo, one hair-conditioner-skin-cream, proving my theory that these really were commonly the same thing, just in different bottles) and got several hours sleep before getting up and heading off to Manchester airport to fly to Edinburgh.

Am currently a few days behind on sleep, I think. The night before, in London, had been an odd one � someone had hunted me down to my hotel, come over asking for the rights to a short film I�d written a few years ago, I said yes, and then, at 1.00 am, a taxi driver turned up at my hotel room door, holding a bottle of vintage red wine very nervously (�I was told I got to hold it on its side, like this,� he said), a thank-you present from the person I�d said yes to, and then up at the crack of dawn to go to Sheffield. Look forward to sleeping tonight.

Do the first Coraline event in a couple of hours. Tonight it�s reading from favourite books....