Here I am on one of my favourite sofas in the Friends’ Room at the Royal Academy of Arts. Over the years, on this very sofa or the ones next to it, I’ve discussed all manner of things with friends from near and far. We’ve met here partly to look at paintings and partly to have coffee and talk. Something about the combination of art, architecture and sofas has made it easy to talk about things that matter. We’ve discussed children, partners and parents, we’ve analysed achievements and failures and revealed hopes for the future. We’ve talked about money worries, legal issues, health problems, and things to celebrate. When I look back on it, I realise that some important turning-points were reached over discussions in this room. Why are these different from any nice chat over a coffee in any pleasant place? I don’t know. But I like it here because there never seems to be any small talk.
It’s funny how the first flowers of the year – crocuses, daffodils, aconites -seem especially vivid in colour. Are they really brighter than other flowers, or do they just strike us that way because our eyes have gradually adapted to the long drabness of winter? I found these gorgeous things in the park up the road.
If you would like to read the excerpts from ‘Out of Silence’ in today’s Guardian, click here.
In the meantime, many thanks to everyone who silently toasted my book from several different countries and three continents on Thursday evening at my ‘virtual book launch party’. It was rather a special feeling at 18:00 hours. I was with a friend in the Royal Academy of Arts, aware that there were only two of us getting ready to raise a glass (or a home-made iced muffin, to be truthful). Nevertheless at the appointed moment, thinking about you all and hoping that some of you were thinking about me, I had what Shakespeare might call a ‘wondrous strange’ feeling. It was very fun, in a subtle kind of way. And actually, it was at least as much fun as some of the real book launches I’ve attended. The whole experience reminded me of Hamlet’s observation: ‘There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.’
Thursday’s the day when Out of Silence is officially published. As I haven’t managed to organise a book launch party, how about a virtual book launch that day?
At 18:00 hours (UK time) on Thursday 18 March, I’m going to raise a glass to toast my readers, wherever they are. If you’d like to take part in my cyber-launch, please join in by raising something at the same time – not necessarily a glass of wine, but maybe a cup of coffee, a biscuit or a square of chocolate. 18:00 in London will be 19:00 hours in Paris, 14:00 in New York and Toronto, and 11:00 in San Francisco, if I’ve understood US Daylight Saving Time correctly. Let the virtual world ring with the cheerful clinking of imaginary cups and glasses!