Yesterday I appeared with four other RNA writers at Chelmsford library. The panel were in the middle of answering a question from the audience, about where we find our inspiration, when the fire alarm went off.
It wasn't a drill, it was a genuine alarm and sixty or so people were efficiently directed into the street. We were obliged to move away from the building in case the glass exploded; at the pelican crossing, much to the surprise of the traffic,we all trooped across. Those of us without coats huddled under a bus shelter; it was raining and cold, and it wasn't until some 15 minutes later we were told we could return.
Chelmsford library is part of County Hall, and we were allowed into the huge vestibule which serves both places.
Immediately our eyes were drawn to an unfortunate bride, beautiful in a strapless white dress, clutching her bouquet; there were three identically dressed adult bridesmaids and three children -- the children were sitting on the steps and they all looked miserable and cold. There was no sign of the groom or best man amongst those waiting.
As Maureen Lee, Jean Fullerton, Fay Cunningham,Sheila Norton and myself shivered our way back to the upstairs room to resume our talk we discussed this fleeting image as a starting point for a story.
Fay, who writes crime, said the husband to be had been knocked down in a planned hit and run. Sheila suggested the bride had been about to marry the wrong man and the right man appeared in the foyer, Maureen thought the fire alarm had been set off by a disgruntled ex-girlfriend in order to ruin the big day. Jean and I, the historical novelists, imagined the shivering girl was part of a bridal party locked out of a church, jilted by her fiance who had absconded with her settlement.
If we actually wrote the story there would be five completely different versions although we'd all had the same stimulus.
I would like to thank those that organised the event for us at Chelmsford, they were friendly and helpful and the cakes were delicious. Back on the diet this morning!!