At The Flood

Friday, 20 November 2009

'There is a tide in the affairs of men. Which taken at the flood, leads on to fortune; Omitted, all the voyage of their life Is bound in shallows and in miseries.' Nice one, Mr S. Checking the Kendal Mountain Festival website to see if the whole shebang is still on despite the Lake District being under feet of water, the press office takes a similar attitude: 'If you can make it here safely then that's brilliant!' Not quite Brutus, but we love a challenge here.

Setting off for another Boardman Tasker Prize ceremony reminds of many of the others I've been to, as a journalist, a judge and on the odd occasion an interested author. I have a lot of sympathy for this year's shortlisted authors. No doubt some of them don't care one way or the other, but it can be a collar-fingering business. The first time I had a book out it wasn't even shortlisted, and although it won prizes elsewhere, it was much my worst experience of the process. My second book was added to the shortlist as an afterthought, so I knew what to expect.

The third time I was up against Rob Macfarlane, a bright young thing with a very good book, and I assumed he was a shoe-in. Just to check, as soon as I arrived at the Alpine Club in London, where the ceremony used to be held, I marched up to Lord Smith, the chair of the judges, introduced myself as one of the shortlisted authors, and then watched him carefully, like Tim Roth in Lie To Me. His gaze shifted uneasily away and I knew for sure it wasn't me that had won. As it turned out it wasn't Rob either, but Simon Mawer, recently shortlisted for the Booker Prize.

The best thing about the Boardman Tasker in those days was the boozy post-ceremony afternoon spent in the Bricklayers Arms in Shoreditch, which often extended into a boozy evening. It's amazing I can remember anything at all.

Posted by Ed Douglas at 9.32 AM