Let me tell you about a very special evening. It was a few years ago, but I’ve been looking through some old photos, and I think you might be interested. We were invited to have dinner at St James’s Palace with Prince Charles.
The dinner was being held for leaders of industry in Europe (and to be honest, I think we were invited because someone else had dropped out – but we’ll brush over that little detail!) It was all very exciting, and I even went out and bought a new dress, feeling that perhaps jeans and wellies were not appropriate for a palace.
My evening began when I caught the train to London. Rooms had been booked for us at the Savoy Hotel, so I went as early as possible to check into the room (I was not pretending this was all normal – it was a huge treat, and I intended to make the most of it). I was shown to a room – tiny but very posh, and I hung my dress in the wardrobe, and checked the bed was comfy, and peered out the window. Then I walked down the road to a Costa, and bought a sandwich. Because although I was staying at the Savoy, I didn’t want to spend a small fortune on buying something to eat. I remember, sitting in the cafe, watching the world go past, and hugging inside the excitement that I was staying at the Savoy, and going to have dinner in a palace, and I was just a normal person.
Husband arrived at the hotel after work, and we changed into posh clothes, and went to the lobby. We met the other guests, and were served drinks, then told to wait for our cars. As we stood in the lobby, a fleet of silver Mercedes arrived. It was so exciting! We were directed into a car, and then we all set off, driving together through London. There had been a demonstration, so we had to go via a detour, but I didn’t mind at all, as it meant longer in the car, feeling like a celebrity. Several people in the street turned to watch as we whizzed past, wondering who was in the cars.
We arrived at St James’s Palace, in Marlborough Road, and a line of men were waiting to open the car doors and usher us under arches and into the palace. There was a security check, and then we were directed up some stairs, through several rooms, and into a reception area, where we were given more drinks. As we walked, I looked around. There was a dining room, wood-panelled, and full of weapons and oil paintings. I felt I recognised some of the paintings, then realised they were the originals of ones I had seen in school history books. It was a nice room, and had a homely feel, despite being grand.
We were put into small groups, and told how to address Prince Charles, and the etiquette of bowing/curtseying. We then all chatted nervously, and practised curtseying – which is very difficult in high heels, and I was unable to do it without wobbling. The other guests were also very excited, which was nice, no one was pretending this was normal. In our group was someone who owned a bank in Germany, and a film director (I can’t remember their names now – they were people, just like us.)
Then Prince Charles arrived, and his escort. He moved from group to group, shaking hands, and chatting. I was struck with how professional it all was, he seemed genuinely interested in everyone who he spoke to, and yet moved smoothly from group to group after a few minutes. He seemed like a nice old bloke, who was good at his job. When it was my turn to be introduced, I did my wobbly curtsey, but as it was during the actual handshake, he sort of steadied me a bit, so I didn’t fall over or anything (which would’ve been very embarrassing).
When everyone had been introduced, we were led into the dining room. It was beautiful. A young woman was playing a harp, and the room was full of candles and gold and red. We were shown to our tables, and ate dinner. The food was delicious, and I smuggled the menu into my handbag when everyone had left the table. All the glassware had gold rims, and there were chandeliers, and all the china had a monogram. Prince Charles had different food to the rest of us. He had macaroni cheese. Which he ate with a spoon.
Prince Charles gave a speech about WaterAid (one of the charities he represents). Then we were invited downstairs, to a sort of shop, filled with stuff made by Prince Charles’ business. It was a bit strange to be shopping at a palace. At one point, I was trying to see something, and a man was standing in the way, and as I was about to ask him to move over a bit, I realised it was Prince Charles. Even more odd to be shopping with royalty!
We were driven back to the Savoy, and the following morning were served breakfast. I ate porridge. Then Husband went to work, and I caught the train to go and visit my mum, who was in hospital. Down to earth with a bump. But on the way home, as I sat on the train out of London, I picked up a copy of a magazine someone had left. There, on the Court pages, there were details of the dinner I’d attended. It all felt rather unreal, and the report made it sound as if the dinner had been full of important people. But it wasn’t – because I was there too.
Thanks for reading. Have a good week.
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I thought I would let you know that my new book: CLARA – A Good Psychopath? is now (finally) available. This is a very different novel to my previous ones, so I’ll tell you a little about it.
While writing JOANNA, I researched what it meant to be a psychopath. I read lots of papers by neuroscientists, listened to convicted psychopaths, and even managed to find two mothers of psychopaths who were willing to talk to me. I learnt a great deal about the disorder, and by the time I began to write Joanna’s story, I felt that I knew her very well.
However, all the time I was writing, I kept wondering, does that mean that someone born with the disorder is doomed to a life of crime? I knew that most psychopaths are not killers, or ever convicted of a crime, but could psychopathy ever be a good thing? Were there situations where perhaps it could be a strength?
At roughly the same time, I was invited to visit a project run by ActionAid, amongst the women in the slums of Delhi. As I listened to their stories, I was deeply affected, and wanted to tell others what I had learnt. I am an author, so putting their stories into a novel was the best way for me to do this. I visited India many times while writing CLARA. I met women who live and work in the slums, I sat in their homes, I listened to them. Some had been trafficked as girls, some had lost children of their own. They were strong women, living their lives in the toughest of conditions.
I am now excited to present the novel, CLARA, which combines all these themes into an exciting story. Written in the first person, the reader will learn what it means to be a psychopath. The story shows how someone who is very bad, can achieve something amazing.
CLARA – A Good Psychopath?
Published by The Cobweb Press
Until 31st March, I am able to sell CLARA at a 33% discount, so £7.95 incl UK postage. If you would like a copy, let me know in the messages below, and I will email you.
If you prefer to buy from Amazon (at the regular price), the UK link is below:
A witty and captivating read!
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Just reflecting on the last few lines Anne, I guess we’re all important in our own way.
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Very true. Though probably not from the national media’s point of view.
This is awesomme
Yes, it was very exciting!