An Evening with Alan Bennett

So this is what high society is like.

As I mentioned before Primrose Hill is affluent, people live in their own bubble probably not even realising the squalor of Camden Town is just round the corner.   They like their little enclave and are very smug about it.

We ascended the steps into the hall and a voice could be heard, “Tickets, any spare tickets”

How strange to have a ticket tout at a literary charity event, as a goer to gigs I’m used to the touts but an 85-year-old woman attempting to accost everyone for spare tickets.  I wondered if she would threaten to “do me in” if I tried selling my ticket as I’ve done at regular gigs?

A free glass shot of wine was handed to us and people yah-yah’d at each other whilst we assembled in the hall.  We took our seats at the periphery so I could get a good view of the ensemble.   After enduring the organisers long drawn out speech he then shook Alan Bennett awake from his slumber, along with many of the audience who had drifted off.

Alan Bennett read excerpts from his diaries in his comforting tones, for anyone who knows of his writing they were his usual standard of poignant and hilarious prose.

Afterwards he took questions from the audience which was a huge disappointment as they were the most inane questions they could have thought of.  The highlight being “What do you think about Primrose Hill in terms of well..erm as hills go”

I think the gentleman was a bit tongue-tied as he mumbled through this question and must have had something else in mind.   What is there to say to that, here’s a view from the hill in question, it’s alright for a hill don’t you think?  It could probably be hillier but that is my only complaint.

Comedian Harry Enfield was in the audience, his wife asked what Alan thought of Hello Magazine and celebrity culture.  Eyes rolled across the room in despair.  Imagine bringing up trashy mags and C list celebrities during this refined evening, tut-tut. Two librarians grabbed her by the arms and she was escorted out kicking and screaming (ok, that didn’t really happen)

Another question was raised “Alan, looking around the room it’s clear most people here performed National Service…”  I felt all eyes turn on me as the youngest person in the hall, mentally aiming all society’s ills at my feet.

Finally the book signing came about, whilst standing in the queue of everyone holding their books, a lady asked me if this was the queue for the book signing, I replied “either that or it’s for the toilets”  Turns out this wasn’t my audience as I was looked on with more scorn.

I finally got to meet Alan Bennett, I asked him to sign as Joe Hoover, see for yourself below.   I told him it’s my blogging alias, he said “I don’t understand blogs and technology”  I replied “It’s like a diary without the emotional bits.   This was in direct reference to part of his talk earlier when he read from his diary and said diaries should never have anything emotional in them as if you look back in a year you’ll look a fool”   He gave me a quizzical look, maybe in recognition of me relating my comment to his talk or he was completely bewildered and wondered what he was doing there.

Lest we forget this was to raise money for the library, they raised over £500,00 to date.  £20 was mine as was my time as I volunteered to work in the library once a month.

The council instead of selling the library have leased it to the community group and now have enough money to keep it running for the next 6 years at least.

Whilst this is a great outcome, you can’t help thinking that it is fortune that this library is saved due to being in a well-to-do area (£500,000 probably wouldn’t buy you a studio flat here), other parts of the borough or even across the country won’t be so lucky.  The poorest people in the most deprived areas will suffer most with the closures as well as the scrapping of many other essential services affecting everyone from youths to the elderly, the very people who need these services the most.

Leave a comment


  1. That is wonderful enough money was raised to keep it going, but sad there are others that will likely suffer, and like you said, the ones that need it the most. This is typical in our state right now with such frivolous things as medical services and preschool Head Start funding, but I won’t go into it here.

    I loved your toilet answer. Too bad I wasn’t there, I would have laughed much too loud and people could’ve given me the stink eye.

    So, how hilly was this hill?

    • Hilly enough to be out of breath, but then if I walk upstairs at home I’m shattered! Must get cycling to work again!

  2. Those book signings and talks can be awkward. I just went to one in San Francisco with Dave Barry. The guy is a natural comedian. The way they did the Q and A was pretty good. They handed out paper slips early on so everyone could ask questions. Then they weeded out the stupid ones (mine) and the entire evening went well.
    When we went up to sign books I told him he was an inspiration. He said “Good or evil?”
    I said evil of course.

    • Brilliant! What was your question?

      • I think one was “Have you ever Googled yourself?”–too stupid to be asked. They did ask the other one “What do you think of the current group of Republican Primary contenders?” He actually answered that one and it was pretty funny–but that’s like fish in a barrel.

  3. Wish i was there.

    My question would have been “How do you respond to the persistent rumours that you knobbed Thora Hird?”

    • Brilliant! He did keep referring to his partner Rupert, but I think that’s just a smokescreen, no one’s seen him, all created to cover up the Thora fling

  4. Kate

     /  March 4, 2012

    Too bad I wasn’t in the queue with you, we could have a laugh about your toilet answer! I too felt quite an odd one out being a 36 the venue full of people who “definitely did National Service”. AB was quite fabulous though.
    Thank you for the report, I haven’t seen any other reports online yet.

    • Hey, someone who went, great! Hope you’re not a Primrose Hill resident?! It’s all in good jest. He was brilliant though, such a lovely fella. I actually had a good crack with the old ladies sat around me.

      • Kate

         /  March 5, 2012

        No, I’m not a Primrose Hill resident (I wish I was), and I’m not even UK resident. I flew from Russia (imagine) to be there at the event. Had a bit of luck sitting in the front row:)

  5. I passed on a blogger award to you. Please see my blog for details. Thanks.

  6. This is the first post I remember reading from you. I think you posted it on the day of our failed conspiracy.


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