It's not every day that I get to share the billing with a member of Monty Python's Flying Circus. In fact, it's never happened before last Saturday and I don't expect it ever will again. But I was truly delighted to take part in the Slightly Foxed Readers' Day at the Art Workers' Guild in Bloomsbury. In the first part of the afternoon, I was interviewed by Ayo Onatade on the subject of Golden Age detective fiction. And in the second part I had the pleasure of listening to Michael Palin, giving a great talk about the contrasts between writing fiction and non-fiction.
Slightly Foxed is an admirable literary quarterly journal that I find to be an unusual and consistently engaging read. I enjoyed taking part in one of their equally enjoyable podcasts earlier this year, which led to an invitation to write a piece for the journal, which will appear before long, and also to take part in the Readers' Day. This is an annual event, although this year the team had to contend with all the complications arising from the pandemic - no easy task. But they did a great job in making sure everything ran smoothly, and the venue, a sumptuous hall in a lovely Georgian building, was ideal for the occasion.
I always prefer, if the opportunity arises, to be interviewed rather than to give a lecture. I therefore suggested that Ayo Onatade would be the perfect interviewer, and despite a pressing commitment which involved an early plane flight from northern Ireland on the day of the event, Ayo kindly agreed. As she said, it's rather strange that we've been friends for the best part of 25 years, but we've never actually done an interview together. It seemed to go very smoothly and I hope we'll be able to do more conversations of this kind in the future.
I was conscious that this particular audience is keen on literature generally and I don't know how many of those attending are crime fans specifically, so we took a general approach to the subject rather than concentrating on minutiae, but the questions were very interesting and the reaction extremely positive.
As for Michael Palin, I've been a fan of his since his early TV appearances on Do Not Adjust Your Set. When Monty Python began, I watched it right from the start. My parents were rather bemused by the humour, but I loved it and so did my school friends. We'd discuss each show at inordinate length the following day and we knew a lot of the sketches off by heart. Later, I loved Ripping Yarns, co-written by Michael and Terry Jones. 'Golden Gordon', which reminds me of my Dad's football obsessions, is one of my all-time favourite TV shows. So to have the chance to meet Michael (Sir Michael, I should say) was a real joy. And for anyone who wonders whether he is as pleasant to chat to in person as his television persona suggests, the answer is an unequivocal yes.