Suzi Feay: A Royle command performance by the lake

In his autobiography, Ricky Tomlinson describes a visit to a local school to hand out prizes. Every child who came up for a prize responded "My arse!" when he said "Well done." I wasn't going to say "my arse", really I wasn't, but he said it for me, within a minute of our getting on stage together. (I was chairing his event at Words by the Water, the Cumbrian literature festival.) Ricky Tommo, as he's called in Liverpool, is a curious mixture of northern warmth ("arright, luv?" he says to everyone who makes eye contact) and unfathomable distance. I don't think you get much beyond "arright, luv?" on a casual acquaintance, which is fair enough when you've attained the level of fame he has. On stage he lights up like Blackpool illuminations and it's certainly an easy event to chair, though at the moment when he relives, with frightening intensity, a prison fight, I can't help thinking that I'm sitting just a little too close for a demonstration of raw aggression.

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Ricky turned out to be a pussycat, but what would the Man Booker winner DBC Pierre be like? And how would he cope with a morning event? He'd stayed up drinking until 3am with a gaggle of other writers, but this counts as early tuck-ups in the Dirty-But-Clean universe. He read (marvellously) from Vernon God Little, answered questions with enthusiasm, honesty and self-deprecation and signed books for 45 minutes solid. I stuck my own copy in front of him. "Ah, first edition," he said as he signed it in something that resembled Sanskrit but was probably DBC Pierre. "It'll be even more valuable if I put both my signatures." Peter Finlay was duly added. "Now I'm going to do something really naughty..." and he scribbled again, handing the closed book back with a wink. I scuttled away to peek at what he'd put, only to see the mysterious date 20 October 2003. Whatever significance this has for Pierre, it's about a week after he won the Booker. What does it all mean?

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