And then we went via the most amazing staircase...
... next door to One Whitehall Place, for lunch. Those pillars, by the way, have the most beautiful ceramic tiles.
Lunch itself was scrumptious - starting with goat's cheese crotin (basically cheese that had been flashed under the grill or with a blowtorch, served chilled, and very nice it was too).
And then salmon.
And then vanilla cheesecake.
Did I mention that the loos were really, really posh? As in so posh that there was a chaise longue?
And it would've been rude not to take the opportunity to sit and read... (Thanks to Victoria Fox for taking the pic.)
I got to talk to lots of my friends. Apologies in advance for the namedropping, but this includes (as well as the people I've already mentioned and will mention below) Liz Fielding, Sarah Morgan, Heidi Rice, Abby Green, Fiona Harper, Louise Allen, Annie Burrows, Elizabeth Power, Anna Sugden, Jessica Gilmore, and Kate Walker. (Apologies also to anyone I've missed off - it takes me ages to bounce back from a long day in London nowadays and stop being a Bear of Very Little Brain. I know I met a couple more new authors - oh yes, Rachel Brimble and Charlotte Phillips). And I also got to have a hug with Kimberly Lang (and I still love her Southern accent). And everyone was gratifyingly nice about the WIP known as the Kate Unlardy Project. (Yes, it's true, I did get people to prod my quads, and I explained that the reason my thighs are now like iron is because of the weight lifting, which I love love love love love. I'm even learning to love burpees. How mad is that?)
After that, I headed over to one of my favourite shops (but I had six responsible adults with me and they kept me out of the chocolate department and away from the violet biscuits).
We had tea (in my case, Countess Grey, which is my very favourite tea in the whole wide world) and cake. This pic of Katherine Garbera, Kandy Shepherd, Caroline Anderson and me was taken by a very kind gentleman.
Because there were more than four of us, we had to have two tables, so at the second table were CC Coburn, Kimberly Lang and Sophie Pembroke.
(There are pics of the tea and cake on Facebook.)
And after that, it was off to the Meridien for cocktails with the M&B eds. I've already posted a pic on Facebook, but now I know the official name (thank you, Annie Burrows) is a Rossini. Basically it's a bellini, made with strawberries rather than peaches. And I took this pic on a zoom lens in low lighting, before the tray was whisked away, which is why it's not good quality! (The Rossinis were lovely, though. Nice and tart.)
Nice ambience to the terrace bar, too.
And I got to have a chat to Lucy King, and I met Marguerite Kaye for the first time (we have so much in common - yay, another ballroom dancer!), and I saw my editor (well, my editor's assistant, who's looking after me at the moment) and YAY my new outline is fine, and I got to chat to the production team (they like what I'm plotting now my ed has nixed Project Ferret that we hatched up last year and told them they are not to be bad influences on me). And Jennifer Taylor got a beautiful Tiffany keyring as the milestone for her 75th book - yay, Jennifer!
And M&B also gave us a fabby goody bag, which made me feel very spoiled.
And then it was a mad dash for the train home (I'm on the same line as Caroline Anderson, so it's always a pleasure travelling). The annual lunch is always something to look forward to - there's never enough time, but it was so so lovely to see everyone, even if only for a very brief chat.
It isn't actually that often that an author's life is a glamorous one (we're usually found at a desk, which might not be very tidy, wearing scruffy clothes and maybe with a dog or cat around for company). But the times that are... they're wonderful. Thanks to Fiona Harper, Heidi Rice and Sharon Kendrick for organising the lunch, and to M&B for the cocktail party and goody bags.