I seem to be making it a habit to be getting up early on Saturday mornings these days - earlier in some cases than when I normally get up for work on weekdays.
Yesterday was no exception, and it was worth it even just for the walk to the bus stop. The streets were totally silent and the weak morning light diluted even further by the hovering mist, though ameliorated by the promise of warm and sunny weather later.
I was journeying up to Chester and then on to Cheshire Oaks, the latter being a big retail outlet village in the middle of I'm-not-quite-sure-where (don't bother trying to search for I'm-not-quite-sure-where on Google Earth: I'm not quite sure where to start looking, for one thing).
Chester is a lovely, historic town with many fine things to see and to savour. I arrived there mid-morning - roughly half past ten - though due to the early hour of my awakening and embarkment (I know that's not a word, but sod it) it felt more like early afternoon. I would like to take you on a journey through this town with its many sights, its hidden stories waiting to unfold: old and beautiful buildings from times past which stand proudly, the weight of history more than ably carried by their aged but resilient facades and interiors. I would like to, but there's bugger all for me to tell because I headed straight from the train station to the bus station, and eating a Kit-Kat Chunky was about as cultural as it got for me during this time.
Perhaps, you might think, this is beside the point. You'd be right. The point being, I was heading over to the aforementioned retail outlet whatsit - specifically Borders, the bookshop - in order to meet the very talented Caroline Smailes, author of Black Boxes (her second novel, following on from the wonderful In Search of Adam), since she was to be signing books instore.
As I sat down on the bus, keeping my eyes peeled and my wits about me, a rather chic lady leaned over and asked in an Italian-sounding accent, Do you know where is Cheshire Oaks?
I explained that that was where I was heading, but that I hadn't actually been there before: so if she wondered why my eyes were peeled and why there were wits about me, that was why. She nodded knowingly. We exchanged a few words here and there. As the journey progressed, it occurred to me that she might be a fellow blogger, heading over to meet the aforementioned author. I had to ask.
Are you a fellow blogger heading over to Borders to meet the aforementioned author?
She smiled knowingly.
No, she replied.
I entertained the notion of telling her that she could bloody well find her own way to Cheshire Oaks then, but I resisted. We arrived there soon enough, in any case.
Cheshire Oaks is huge and slightly surreal. The mist had long since cleared and the place was positively sun-drenched - as such, it appeared before me as a big plantation of shops, or maybe a retail-opportunity version of one of those sprawling towns in the American Deep South with wide roads running through the middle of them (whether such towns exist is another matter entirely).
It took perhaps 15 minutes to walk from the point at which the bus dropped us (a bus stop, I believe it to be called) to where Borders was, looking every bit like a huge slab of bookshop which had been dropped there from a great height.
I walked in.
I felt a bit nervous, like I usually do when meeting someone for the first time, but there was no immediate evidence of book-signing-related activity at this point. Upon asking one of the store assistants, I was pointed in the direction of a table which had copies of Black Boxes stacked in neat little piles on it - Caroline would be here in a little while. Fair enough, I thought. It was midday by now, though it felt more like the tail-end of the afternoon. I headed over to the music books at the back of the store, picking up a copy of The Fallen by Dave Simpson to flick through whilst sitting on one of the all-too-comfortable settees nearby.
Not that I really looked at it: I was too busy looking around in search of familiar faces, or at the very least, people who looked like they might be fellow bloggers. Here wasn't a particularly good vantage point in any case, so I wandered around for a little while: presently, I toddled back in the direction of the table, and there was Caroline, hurriedly putting the finishing touches to her book:
A thought hit me, uncanny in its prescience :
If, say, I blog this tomorrow, it's possible it might get a bit rambly and long-winded...depending how it goes, I wonder if I might use this moment to have a break in the narrative and resume in a subsequent post?