A few days ago I spotted Dan Lepard tweeting that he'd be in Bath soon for an evening at Topping and Company (who put on loads of events with authors, well worth checking out). 'Hmmmm,' I thought. 'With Tallboy away and a long evening awaiting me in an empty house, this sounds like the perfect way to spend some time. Especially with the added bonus of seeing Tootles for dinner...' Tootles texted and Topping's ticket telephoned for, I was all sorted.
Expecting a nightmare with parking, I decided to park up high on the hill heading down from Lansdown. This would prevent the hideousness of getting closer to town without seeing any parking spaces, being swept up into the one way system, going round too far, swearing some, ending up in a remote car park with extortionate rates then having to walk several miles through badly lit hoody-infested streets. I adroitly avoided all of this by parking at the top of a steep incline, the pavement of which was littered with slippery leaves and the kerb of which was littered with multiple free parking spaces. All the way down. Still, the walk back up would warm me up nicely and hopefully go some way towards burning dinner off.
After a yummy dinner with Tootles (his turn to pay so it was even more delish) and a visit to the fabled Star, it was time to head towards Topping & Co. I was greeted at the door by the offer of wine, declined, followed rapidly by an Elderflower cordial appearing in my hand, and oaty cheesey biscuits and/or brownies. I wasn't sure if it was an alternative or cumulative offer so with only a moment's consideration, I took one of each and wandered further into the shop balancing glass, ticket and nibbles. It's OK, I didn't have pudding so I was allowed.
The other attendees were clearly more savvy and more punctual than I - picking my way through seated wine drinkers and brownie nibblers I had to take up station at the back, by the toilet. Dan joined us and sat in the middle, and started talking about his life and his baking. I could have listened all night to his gentle tone, conversational manner and slight accent along with the autobiographical, technical and philosophical content. I enjoyed hearing about his experiences in cooking and baking, what he has done and what he does now. I felt a glimmer of fellow-feeling when he described photographing his goodies in the front room by the window (although mine are carried in state to the back room for their close-ups).
I like Dan's approach to baking and his welcoming of mistakes as a way of learning. I found it refreshing to hear someone saying that their approach had changed over time as they had accepted that they might not have been right, or that there was a better way of doing things. His dialogue with the audience was great too - asking questions and interested in the responses. I asked how he felt about people using his researched and tested recipes: did he expect them to be followed slavishly or used as the basis of adaptation, or didn't he mind? His answer was most definite, he hoped that they'd be the basis of experimentation, addition and adjustment.
Sadly the evening was over all too soon. I joined the meandering queue for book signage, having splashed out on arrival on Short and Sweet which I'd been intending to buy anyway, honestly. I showed him a peek of this blog too, on my phone, then I was off on the long walk back to the car.
It had seemed such a good idea earlier, but now it was awfully dark and the road was about ten times steeper. My coat, originally zipped up against the cold foggy dampness, unzipped by rapid stages to allow the steam to escape as I zoomed up the hill. It only took fifteen minutes, but it felt longer - it felt, too, that I'd climbed further up than I'd gone along. I drove home through the hills and the fog, at one point encountering a big snuffly badger which fortunately had the sense to look both ways before crossing the road.
I'm very pleased with my new book, I have dipped a bit and will take a closer look over the next few days. My head is full of possibilities and plans, especially as there's a cake sale coming up at work. And Dan (if you do pop by) - hello, it was great to meet you.