It could be that Candy Gourlay’s neighbour is wrong. It could be that lots of countries are proud of their children’s authors and do everything in their power to show their support. Or it could be that her neighbour is right, and that the great interest taken by the Philippine Embassy in Tall Story goes way above the call of patriotic duty to their citizens.
I did think that although Candy’s novel is one of the best books I’ve read for a very long time and it really deserves all that praise and attention from the Ambassador, that there must be many other books by and about Filipinos. But I learned last night that the Philippines does not have the kind of children’s book publishing that we in the West take for granted, in which case all this makes perfect sense.
So H.E. Antonio M. Lagdameo is doing a wonderful job supporting both Candy and her book, and also all Filipino children who now have a great role model in Candy’s 8 foot giant. He was saying how his grandchildren could recognise themselves in their own experience going to another country to live.
Anyway, His Excellency invited a few people around on Friday night, for yet another celebration of Tall Story, and he even asked me, which was kind of him. I have yet to become blasé over embassy receptions, so I took myself off to London.
Candy is a woman who shamelessly uses her fantastic family to promote her book, so they were all there. The Philippine contingency only in a video, but that video was full of singing people and cute babies, and it resulted in the whole roomful of people at the embassy bursting into song. (You’d think they were Swedish.) Mr G almost recognised me, and as introductions go you can’t beat telling a handsome teenager that you’ve slept in his bed. The eldest junior Gourlay is so well brought up that he thought his Mum was being rude in calling me a witch…
There were lots of librarians, and other literary influencers. Random’s Corinne was there, despite a long week away doing bookish things. She’s the sort of woman who happily abandons her poor cat for yet another evening out. Corinne introduced me to Andy Mulligan, author of Trash, the other David Fickling Philippine novel of the year.
Fiona Dunbar was there, of course. We managed to have our usual – unplanned – meeting in the toilet regions, where I heard about her new books. Coming soon to a bookshop near you. Fiona’s and Candy’s agent Hilary Delamere was there too. Although I have to own up to having gone round this week calling her Felicity in my mind. It’ll be old age. My old age.
David Fickling came along, but as soon as he saw me he clapped his hand over his mouth and Mrs F moved in between us, so we were quite safe. There were also a whole lot of people I don’t know. As someone said, it’s interesting mingling in a totally new group. But hot. And crowded. I was introduced to someone with some sort of chicken website, which has nothing to do with chickens. Quite obvious.
To finish off after the speeches and the singing and the sandwiches and drinks, Candy signed books. They had piles of both the DFB version of Tall Story and the new paperback from the Philippines. Candy signed and signed, and if I hadn’t noticed her presence later on facebook I’d have assumed she’d still be there signing. I got on the broomstick and flew home.