The reason I bring this up is that I was thinking (I know, I know, it’s never a good thing when I do that) but if I had the chance to invite any author, dead or alive to my house for tea – who would it be and why?
There is a fantastic saying from way back that is always in the back of my mind. Apparently, Edinburgers (people who were born and bred in Edinburgh) had a way of making you feel most unwelcome in their homes by stating that ‘You’ll av hud yer tea then?’, more of a statement than a question to any weary traveller who is sorely mistaken if any food will cross their lips in the house they now find themselves in. I have pictures in my head of fussy, matron-like housewives, wringing their hands together as they part with these solemn words, just glaring at you to see if you would challenge them and ask for a jam piece. I imagine a lot of tutting and ‘not in my day’ getting banded about. The Scottish equivalent of Downton perhaps?
I’m glad to say that as a slightly more modern Edinburger I never ask my guests that question, as nine times out of ten that is why they are coming to visit me anyway – ‘tae huv their tea’. Manners may not of rained down from my harsh ancestors so I take pride in the fact that everyone is welcome in my humble and messy abode. It is not a grand mansion with maids and servants but a very ‘lived in’ terraced house on the North side of the city. A breeze away from the sea and a short stroll to my haven, the Botanic Gardens.
As the social butterfly that I am, as a welcome guest you will undoubtedly coerced into a wee dram or two, to keep the Winter chill at bay obviously, but I’m sure that would be forgiven – unless we run out of said amber nectar then all hell would break loose and I would find myself alone in a dry house.
Reams of suggestions flowed through my brain as to which literary genius would share their tea with us: Shirley Hughes (my picture book heroine) or the marvellous Julia Donaldson, a lady after my own heart when it comes to rhyming stories and songs, or how about Adam Blade – the beast quest inventor and hero of my eldest? On a more adult stance: Peter F Hamilton, to satisfy my husbands Sci-Fi needs but his list wouldn’t stop there: David Gemmell. Terry Pratchett, Piers Anthony, Tad Williams…our dining table only seats 6 and we couldn’t have them sitting on a pooffee at a jaunty angle and a lot lower than the rest of us, slurping their soup and trying to avoid drenching their chin in as polite a way as possible. This all reminds me of trying to fit everyone round the table on Christmas Day, someone always gets the ‘leg’ or the wobbly deckchair.
Then I bring my attention to my teenage years, years of sweaty armpits, perms that did go wrong and whether Wham or Duran Duran adorned my bedroom walls. My teenage reading material mainly consisted of Judy Blume, Shirley Conran’s Lace (for the naughty bits – promptly followed by Jilly Coopers ‘Riders’) and Virginia Andrews with her fantastically creepy family that were holed up in the attic.
And then there was Iain. Iain for fiction, Iain M for sci-fi. I preferred Iain.
Introduced to him at High School through The Wasp factory, I had found a new soul. Books I could relate to as I made my way through my plukey youth and out the other end relatively unscathed. Violent but widely acclaimed, why wouldn’t you read about 16 year old Frank or the Rock N Roll lifestyle evolved in Espedair Street. I do believe he helped me perfect my air guitar as I raced through that book, desperate to read the happy ending everyone had talked so much about.
So, back to my original question – Iain Banks for tea…absolutely, although it would be stovies followed by a swapping of stories of our separate hormonal youths back in the 60’s for him and the neon-filled 80’s for me. Would he ask for pudding? I’m not sure but I would hope he might have stayed a while and shot the breeze. Or we could watch the plumes of smoke over the water in Fife as they dance through the night air spreading their fumes over the land as the large orange petroleum lamps light the horizon. My view to his homeland.
Or maybe he would graciously decline the invitation and I carry on with my life as we all mourn his death.