Wednesday, 25 April 2012

My Entrance at the Highland Literary Salon

I arrived primped and preened like a lady about to make her debut in High Society. I was going to the Highlands and I was entering society, so there were obvious parallels with myself and the Comtesse de Tende, say, or Lady Elizabeth Butler. I applied a subtle dab of my special man musk known as ‘Bottle With Nice Smell’ before leaving. I was ready to barnstorm that thriving hotbed of culture and literary innovation like a less poofy Oscar Wilde. I took the Citylink Gold carriage to Inverness where an attractive blonde servant girl dished out egg or ham sandwiches, tea and slabs of shrinkwrapped tablet with her hydraulically powered rictus. A meal fit for a society gentleman.

The Salon commenced at 7.30 at the Glen Mhor hotel—a terminally white hotel overlooking Loch Ness—when three or four participants awkwardly shuffled into an oversize room, with five seats by the window, and two couches positioned at the door end. The enormous crevasse in the room was clearly designed to engender a sense of community and warmth. Guesting at the salon were the organisers of the new English MA at the Highlands & Islands University—an exciting new course putting Scots lit in context with the literary traditions of Europe and America with tantalising side dishes of satire and theory.

Once the chat was over, it was my turn to dazzle. The conversations (between the eight or nine people present) exploded into a veritable Bloomsbury of wit and repartee. There was the middle-eastern oil man and his sleepy wife whose presence was never made clear, since writing was never discussed, and a bearded Glaswegian songwriter who loved to improvise responses to questions he had asked himself during your responses to his original questions. And a cyclist of some description who was always nipping off to the bar to ignore you. The people at the other end of the room I never got to meet, as I hadn’t come prepared to mount an expedition at that time of the evening.

My debut was a success. I said approximately nothing to anyone all night, except to the organiser who I spoke to previously, asking if I might be able to help out at all. He asked me if I had fundraising experience and so we had to part company swiftly. By having no one start a conversation with me all evening I avoided the potential pratfall of social humiliation and so my enshrinement in the history of the Salon was assured. I am a forgotten legend.

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