Can Everton Jones find out how his father stole Emperor Bokassa’s diamonds and, more importantly, where he hid them; before the world and his brother get there first?
Click on the picture link in the sidebar to read an extract of my first novel, which was published by Paradise Press in August 2012.

Friday, 6 July 2012

Not Quite According to plan...

Just back from my reading on the Heath. To say it didn’t go quite according to plan is a complete understatement! Armed with folding wallpaper-pasting table and a Sainsbury’s ‘bag for life’ packed with wine boxes, nibbles, paper plates, plastic cups, book, flyer, catalogues camping lantern and a handy clip on-reading light, I clambered aboard the 183 bus to Golders Green.

The upstanding black-coated citizens of Golders Green on their way to the Synagogue (it was the Sabbath close to nightfall, after all) alerted me to my impending destination. A short cab ride later (and £5 lighter, this is London, after all, but I sure as hell wasn’t carting my baggage up that hill by myself) and I was down the path and setting-up my illicit stall well before the publicised 9 o'clock start.

It looked deserted, but I managed to attract the attention of some guys out for the night and pressed flyers into their hands and invited them to come back at 9.15 (having already decided I was there too early). Needless to say, none came back, but all were positive about the book and said they would take a look. Let’s see what the ‘click-through’ rate is!

I haven’t had much luck finding a cameraman, and have discovered that the sound quality on the video camera I got on ebay leaves a lot to be desired, so maybe the lack of an audience and technical difficulties weren’t so grave. I decided to change tack and engaged future passers-by with an offer of free wine in return for a chat about my book. Direct, one-to-one contact with customers. Perfect! And, sure enough, as time went by a trickle of people stopped by for a chat and were very positive about the book. I suspect I must have distributed at least twenty flyers to people who expresed a positive interest in my book. Night fell, and I turned on my camping light.

The effect was that I couldn't actually see the people coming down the path, because the glare of the light in my eyes rendered them invisible to me. I had to listen for their footfalls crunching the stony path and then wait until they came into the illuminated perimeter. To my complete surprise, light began approaching from down the path, and a POLICE van came slowly and deliberately into view and, obviously, stopped opposite my stall.

Bear in mind here that even putting up a table on Hampstead Heath is illegal, or at least prohibited under the by-laws, as is reading a book or distributing leaflets. Ironically, making a video isn’t, as the by-laws date back to 1935. I explained myself to the two members of the eight-strong Hampstead Heath Police Force (carefully neglecting to mention the two wine boxes, which they could of course clearly see in the glare of my lantern), but I needn’t have worried. They were as nice as pie and let me tell them about my book. I gave them flyers. They were particularly interested that the book opened on the Heath and especially so because it involved outreach workers distributing condoms. As it happened, the Terrence Higgins Trust were doing precisely that elsewhere on the Heath tonight, accompanied by one of their colleagues. They actually radioed him and got them to come over to talk about my book.

And, whilst I was engaging two other guys, a couple strolled up and made a bee-line directly for me. They said they were interested and I noticed one had a Terrence Higgins Trust tee-shirt. So I rather stupidly said, ‘Oh, so you’ve been sent by Lily Law.’ Which was the wrong thing to say, as the other guy turned out to be Lily Law in the person of the LGBT Liaison Officer for the Heath. Despite a bit of teasing, he assured me I could continue what I was doing and we had a nice chat. I said I was about to go home, and he suggested I stay longer because it would probably get busier. Then he gave me the information I really didn’t want to hear: It had been heaving the weekend before.

So I stayed, and I made further contacts, but, after a while, it became apparent that people were more interested in cruising than in talking to me. Astonishingly, they even refused the free wine, although many had driven to the Heath. I was thinking of packing up when a black guy dressed in leather holding a chain attached to a collar around the neck of an older white guy, otherwise completely naked and shaved from head to toe strolled up and stood in the full light of the camping lantern. We must have talked for several minutes, although he didn't want a flyer and I suspect he was more interested in making the white guy stand lit up for all to see in the glare of the light. Well, that definitely enlivened my evening.

And who should come around a few minutes later, but the guy from the Terrence Higgins Trust and the copper, who was very interested to know if I’d seen them. I said, ‘yes, they went down the path to the S&M area, it’s down there and over to the right,’ but he already knew. Turned out, his interest was just out of personal curiosity. It was getting late, and I needed to get the bus home, so I knocked it on the head at that point.

Now all I’m left pondering is how I’m going to dispose of the rest of the two boxes of wine. Surely even I can’t drink that in three days? Maybe I should save some for the ‘official’ launch of the e-book at the Wibbly Wobbly tommorrow evening. Disasters allowing, of course... ?

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