Jill Mansell - October 2011
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Hello! I know, it's a shock, isn't it? Another diary posting within months of the last one! But a while ago there was a competition on this site, so I'm now here to tell you how it all went.
The answer, thank goodness, is very well. The winners were due to meet me for afternoon tea, and a date and place was duly arranged. I don't know if I've said this before, but I am the absolute queen of things going wrong. A couple of weeks ago I attempted to catch a train to London without getting into a mess and it all went to pieces the moment the car park ticket-issuing machine decided to go on the blink. Running out of time, I was forced to jump on the train. Someone told me you could organise payment online, which would have been FINE if the company hadn't asked for my car's registration number. Do other people know theirs? Because I don't. Usually when I'm asked for it, I peer out of my living-room window and read it off the car. Not so easy when your car is in the station car park and you are on a train many miles away...
Anyway, on this occasion I allowed myself plenty of time and the ticket machine behaved itself beautifully. Maybe I'm not a walking disaster after all. Oh, hang on, maybe I am... I followed the instructions on how to get to the hotel to the letter and ended up attempting to walk along a pavement-less dual carriageway in the centre of Birmingham. In my defence, it turns out I wasn't the only one. Directions for people in a car don't always apply to those of us on foot...
The Hyatt Regency Hotel was very glam. I met up with Helena and Sarah from my publishers Headline. Then our competition winners arrived – Deb from Ross-on-Wye and Juliette from London. (Another winner was unable to make it at the last minute, sadly.) Well, for the next three hours we had the best time. Deb and Juliette were LOVELY – which helps! – and we chatted non-stop over an amazing afternoon tea with gorgeous teeny sandwiches and irresistible cakes. We talked about...well, pretty much everything, from books and favourite authors to holidays, embarrassing moments, nail polish and so much else I can't even remember it all. What I do remember is learning that they both enter competitions and win prizes, sometimes pretty amazing ones too. Personally, I enter about one competition every ten years and get deeply offended when I don't win. But apparently this isn't the best way to go about it. Enter lots of competitions and there's a chance you'll end up winning some. Who knew?! So after hearing about Deb and Juliette winning exotic five-star holidays to Dubai and Hawaii...and a car...and amazing trips to star-studded film premieres...I vowed that from now on, I would definitely start entering competitions.
So I think everyone enjoyed the afternoon – I know I did. Goody-bags were handed out and doggie-bags were brought for the far-too-good-to-waste uneaten food – except they weren't doggie-bags, they were elegant matte black boxes inscribed with the Hyatt logo. It was so fantastic to meet Deb and Juliette – the afternoon couldn't have been lovelier. Here's a photo of us, courtesy of Juliette, because the ones taken on my phone were rubbish!
Anyway, we said our goodbyes and then it was time for me to meet up with my daughter. Have I told you she's at Birmingham uni? Well, she is, and she's in her second year now. It was lovely to see her again, and she took me to a part of Birmingham I haven't been to before – Brindleyplace. And it was amazing! Here, have a look: http://www.brindleyplace.com/. It was extra special because it was 1 October and at the height of the weird-but-fantastic heat wave, so there were hundreds of people eating and drinking outside the restaurants at the waterside and a very festive air. Here's a photo I took after our dinner, from the bridge over the canal – isn't it just the prettiest scene ever?
The bad news was that, as a result of stopping to take the photo, I managed to miss the train home by literally two seconds, then the next train was delayed...and delayed...and delayed again. But I finally caught another one and made it back to Bristol after a wonderful, fun-filled day. Thank you so much to Headline for organising the competition and to Deb and Juliette for being so fab.