On Friday night, I had dinner with Sir Ian Rankin and Robert Aldridge, The Rt. Hon. Lord Provost of Edinburgh. For someone more likely to be found eating toast in front of the telly by 9pm, this might well have been the peak of my writing career.
It wasn’t an intimate dinner a trois, rather in the company of seventy-odd others, and for a very good cause: fundraising for Edinburgh’s OneCity Trust, a charity set up in 2003 to reach across the social divides of the city, challenge inequality, and support those excluded from the community.
If you’re already wondering (as I did, and actually still do) how on earth did I turn up there, well, it all goes back to The People’s City, an anthology produced in aid of the charity. My story ‘The Finally Tree’ is included in that, amongst superb offerings from Alexander McCall Smith, Sara Sheridan, Nadine Aisha Jassat and my new best friend (obvs) Ian Rankin.
After a drinks reception and a three course dinner, Ian and I were interviewed by Birlinn publisher, Hugh Andrew, about our stories (Ian’s is called ‘Broukit Bairn’), about their settings – The Royal Mile and the Botanic Gardens – and about the experiences of living and writing in Edinburgh.
Needless to say, Rebus featured in the audience’s Q&A, and his latest exploits – A Heart Full of Headstones (just published) – into the bookish raffle prize. And also into that, I managed to sneak in a copy of Entitled by Gill Merton, the collaborative novel from Gilmerton Writers Group – and, in my opinion, a great example of what community initiatives can do to bring people together.
Of course, raising several thousand pounds for the OneCity Trust was the real highlight of the evening, no question of that. But indulge me in my shameless boastful glee at my personal bests: like getting a fancy car and lovely driver to get me to and from the City Chambers before I turned back into Cinderella; like having a table named after my story and a dessert named after the location I chose; like sharing the stage with a famous author, a respected publisher and the previous (Lesley Hinds) and current Lord Provosts – all the nicest people and none of whom outed me as an imposter!
So, a big thank you for having me, and an extra special thanks to the wonderful Elaine McCafferty, who has been there since The People’s City adventure began. Elaine is the patron saint of ridiculous questions and moral support.
PS As an aside, ‘The Finally Tree’ has grown into a novel…so watch this space.
The People's City (Birlinn, 2021)