dreamed about our meeting, only in my dream Jim Murdoch had morphed into Gerald Murnane, the Australian writer, once in contention for a Nobel prize in
literature, with whom I’ve been corresponding for over ten years.
relationship through the written word than to engage in person, and until the
time we met, Jim Murdoch and I had a similar relationship, one that existed on
the page only, or should I say on the screen, an online relationship that many
of us in the blogosphere share.
me, but there was some trouble over who might drive the family car, Murnane’s
elderly father or me. This dream speaks to me of all sorts of things, but
for now, it’s enough to observe how much it hints at my anxiety in meeting Jim.
meeting. I had only just arrived in Edinburgh two days earlier so I was
still in that fog of newness that descends whenever you arrive in a foreign
place and my nervousness was hard to shake.
might walk from our hotel room along St Mary’s Street to Waverly station in Edinburgh to take the
train to Glasgow’s Queen Street station where Jim and I had arranged on Facebook to meet.
planning I had mentioned to Jim that my husband would also like to meet him and
suggested that Jim’s wife, Carrie, whom I’ve also met online – my husband does not
communicate online, he prefers to keep out of cyberspace – might
like to join us too, and so we became a foursome.
now. As one of my daughters said to me
when I told her I’d be meeting the Jim Murdoch from my blog, ‘How do you know
he is who he says he is? He could be an axe murderer.’
other than the man he claims to be on his blog. I had no doubt as
to his actual existence, but to appease my children and my husband and maybe to
appease that doubtful part of myself that I here deny, that just-in-case part
of myself, I thought it would be better to include our spouses.
will offer it back for the return journey nor lift the bar to let you through.
with my husband close behind, I saw Jim.
I recognised him instantly from his pictures and he recognised me. Jim was, as his photos suggest, a man with a ginger/grey
beard that almost hides his face and glasses.
My impulse, my rehearsed greeting, was one of
a slowly proffered hand, but Jim grabbed me in a hug that was so strong, heart felt and warm it caught me off guard.
reclusive ways, would be less forthcoming.
More like me, physically shy and held back.
I did not say anything of this to Jim at the
time. At the time, we walked briskly
along one cold Glasgow Street around a corner past the Wellington Monument and we talked about the weather and the fact that Jim had chosen a nearby patisserie
where we might stop to drink our coffee.
monument was decked out with a witches hat/traffic cone that some ‘naughty boys’ probably
put up there years ago.
behind, all three of us caught up in the niceties of that first meeting.
those large, efficient establishments in beige colours with dark wood flourishes. I did not pay it too much attention caught up as I was in this first meeting.
we would not be lost for words. He was right.
Carrie took hold of the conversation and the four of us talked together
about the sort of trivia people share when they meet for the first time across
countries. How the weather in Australia
compares to Glasgow.
Together we roamed
over all sorts of vague irrelevancies to clear a space for deeper conversation
that never really happened.
when I would have liked to shut the other two up and talk to Jim about things
that matter to me about writing, things that I imagine matter to Jim, too.
deep into conversation that meant more, but it was not to happen. And in the end, after we had finished our lattes
and Jim had ordered a second cup of coffee for him and Carrie, and my husband and I had
finished our glasses of water – we’d had breakfast on the way to Waverly station
and could not tolerate the idea of a second cup of coffee, whereas Jim and
Carrie were keen for more – we said our goodbyes.
My own wish to plunge into thoughts about writing and life in the online world,
instead we talked about power companies and the cost of electricity.
house turned out to be further into town at the university and the
rain was pelting down.
order to get out of the rain and for warmth, we went
to GOMA, the Glasgow Museum of Modern Art.
Up and down stairs, the bright lights and colours of paintings on walls
by some of Glasgow’s finest artists, left me hankering for the cosy warmth of
than the flesh, the face to face, the ordinary defensiveness of real life
construct our stories. In person, we are
polite and hide behind our smiles.
In writing we can tell the truth about lies