DWJ in Dublin

Hallie O'Donovan hallieod at indigo.ie
Sat May 18 06:14:56 EDT 2002

Dorian took notes last night and will no doubt post a brilliant 
summary of the speech for you all, so I'll just set the scene for 
you, with the bits around the talk.

Right, rolling back to Thursday, mid-day.  I got a message from Jo at 
HarperCollins, who was arranging DWJ's appearance at this event, (and 
helping us try to get there!), saying that they weren't due to arrive 
in Dublin until about 4:30, and she'd to be at the conference at 7:15 
(speech started at 8).  As you will know from my post yesterday, this 
was instantly Very Worrying News for those of us who know what we do 
about the travel jinx.  At about 2:30 am, there was an almighty 
thunderstorm over this part of Dublin, and as my poor dog was 
trembling so hard she shook the bed for a good hour, I'd plenty of 
time to lie and wonder and worry.  We haven't had a thunderstorm for 
at least six months - why tonight?  This storm isn't going to roll 
away westwards into the Atlantic and leave tomorrow fine, is it?  Any 
planes going to be flying tomorrow?

Next morning, indeed, proved very wet and still rumbly.  The seven 
o'clock news gave the info that the computer controlling all 
air-traffic around London was down - two hour delays at that stage. 
Ok, well, she wasn't *necessarily* coming from London, it might not 
be a bigger problem.  An email off to Jo at about 9:30 got an 
automatic out-of-office reply; aertel showed not only the two hour 
delays in flights from London, but a few worrying cancellations. 
More fretting.

The day squelched on with the same weather reports (heavy rain 
showers, occasional thunderstorms, risk of local flooding), the same 
delays - and news now speaking of 6-hour delays on some flights. 
When the afternoon flights were posted, the only ones due in at about 
the right time were expected to arrive 2 to 2 1/2 hours late, but 
were not cancelled.  Dorian and I consulted, and agreed we'd go 
anyway, knowing there was a good chance we'd end up listening to some 
completely boring speaker hustled up to fill in at the last minute. 
And, yes, this is Ireland, but we still haven't had as wet a day in 
months.  Why today was again the question.

There was a temporary lull in the rain as Cara and I were setting off 
from Dalkey (heavy rain, occasional thundershowers, risk of local 
flooding, but it will clear up in the evening), which lasted until we 
got onto the train, at which point the heavens opened again.  Off the 
train in town we had a good 15-minute walk up to the Writer's Museum, 
which was great fun - running streams of water on the footpath, 
regular games of dodge-the-car-drenching leaving us inevitably under 
an awning or downspout, and my new umbrella very entertainingly 
collapsing every 5 to 10 steps.  (I don't care if you don't care 
about our trip there - you have to experience this night in its 

We got to the venue eventually, met Dorian at the door, and found the 
conf. organiser (the three of us were getting in free as guests of an 
extremely kind CBI person!), who having ascertained that we were the 
people coming only for the DWJ talk, told us that she Would... Not... 
Be... There...  Because of the computer crash in London, to which 
Dorian and I immediately said, no, because of her Travel Jinx.  At 
that stage, we were told that there was a 99% chance that she'd be 
there the next day, and we could come in and have a glass of wine and 
stay if we wanted.  Having already given new meaning to the 
"die-hard" part of things by just getting there, we were not going to 
give up yet.  We met up with Joe as we were getting rid of wet things 
in the hall, and went rather dispiritedly into the refreshment room 
to get wine (7-up for Cara, but it took some searching).  About 15 
minutes later, Sarah came up and said that DWJ *would* be there after 
all, in about 15 minutes, so we could go on up to the room. 
Rejoicing all around!!

When she finally arrived, she was instantly recognisable from 
pictures, but my second thought was how brave she was to travel - 
partly the neck-brace, but she also looked terribly pale, and the 
thought of her hanging around for hours in the airport was quite 
distressing.  But the talk was wonderful: starting inevitably with "I 
have a travel jinx." :)  There were many bits that we knew already, 
from things on the web-site, but also some completely new - and it 
was fantastic to *hear* her in person, no matter how many times you'd 
read what she was saying.  The new bits caused many Looks between the 
four of us, and mouthings of "I didn't get *that*, did you?", which 
really added to the mood, for me at least - it wouldn't have been the 
same to have been the lone fan.

After the talk, there was no time for questions, which was a pity, 
but we were told there'd be book signing in the book shop, for which 
we made a bee-line.  We waited until others were finished, as we 
could then have her to ourselves for a minute at least.  The last 
woman was having her book signed, when I saw the person beside DWJ, 
and realised that it was Jo.  Before I got my mouth open, she said 
"Are you Hallie?", and came over to us, saying that she was so 
relieved we'd made it, as there had been no way to contact us and she 
was afraid we might not have turned up without confirmation of the 
fact that they'd try to get us in.  So then she introduced us to 
Diana, who said she'd guessed who we were, as we were the only ones 
responding to the bits from the books!  Well, wouldn't you just know 
- or hope at least - that she'd See us?  Of course it didn't hurt 
that Cara was there - the only child within an ass's roar of the 
Children's Book conference. :)

She was just so *right* - no feeling at all of let-down, and these 
were some pretty high expectations here!  Jo said they'd be going 
down to the reception room next, so we trooped off downstairs. 
Another glass of wine, and some pretty frightening-looking edibles, 
which none of us sampled.  Jo came over a bit later to talk to us 
again, and was just so nice - she told us that Diana had been really 
worried about not meeting people's expectations, as she was so tired 
and not feeling that well already.  We assured her that she had met 
ours more than amply!  She also said that she just loved her job, and 
it had been so wonderful getting to work with Diana, as she was just 
as lovely as she'd hoped she would be from the books: "no airs and 
graces".  We talked a little bit about _The Merlin Conspiracy_, which 
will be out next April, and Jo is hoping they'll do a tour with the 
launch, including (fingers crossed) a return trip to Dublin.

I had to be prodded very hard by Joe and Dorian into going over to 
say goodbye and thank you again ("but she's sitting at a table 
*talking* to people!  But how will I manage to hover and not 
interrupt, but get in there?  Do you *promise* that you'll do this 
when you're leaving?  Yes, I *know* she's an ordinary person who 
likes being appreciated as does everyone, but..."), but they 
succeeded at last.  Out again in very wet jackets to the still 
lashing rain. After it was over, the difficulties in getting there, 
the massive uncertainty as to whether we'd even see her, all added 
most appropriately to the evening.  Which was absolutely magical. 
Sorry, that's trite and cliched, but it's the only way I can say it.


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