Meeting one of your heroes is a stressful thing. You get so excited, you run through your head a million different things you want to say or not say or how to act or what to wear (as if any of these things matter in the end). But it's anticipation that bites, because you want your hero to be exactly how you imagined them to be. You don’t want to be disappointed, or let down, because that would crush your fantasy image of them. You don’t want them to be real people; you want them to stay giants. But what could be scarier than meeting a giant?
I assume many people will disagree with me about this. Many people like meeting famous people and realizing that they are just people too, which I also get. But in this case, I was so completely star struck, on such a high cloud, that nothing would have gotten me down anyway.
What am I talking about? Only that I got to meet Neil Gaiman the other day, who I affectionately referred to as Rex Manning, in my head, all day (not in the whole, ‘Oh Rexy, you’re so sexy’ sort of way, I’ll have you know). He came to visit The Story Museum, and I’m still pretty sure I made it all up in my head. It was one of those kinds of days, those days that are just so good, they can’t possibly be real.
He was around for most of the day, getting to look around and chat with various people, and for most of the day I was around doing other things. But I did get to shake his hand, which set a permanent smile on my face for the whole afternoon. Then Phillip Pullman came by, as he sometimes does, to meet Neil and chat, just to make sure my day was about as unreal as humanly possible. As many times as I’ve encountered Phillip Pullman since living in Oxford, I still get excited. I brought them tea (someone else made it; I was in too weird a state to do it myself), and thankfully I didn’t spill the tray or trip over my own shoes. I left the famous people alone to be all famous and fabulous and carried on with my work, still smiling.
That night, once everyone was gone and the directors were giving Neil one last look at the building, I went up to ask him to sign our guest book, which we always forget about doing. He talked to us about his trip, about having dinner with Andy Serkis the night before (you know, no big deal), and about where he was going next. He told us how much he loved the place; how he can’t wait to see it in its finished form. It was all so normal and nice, in the dimly lit passageways, underneath our story stars, but be was still a giant (although, surprisingly, he’s not much taller than me). We all went down stairs and chatted in the hallway. I sat on the stairs, just listening (every word that came out of my mouth besides, 'could you please sign our guest book,' was incomprehensible nonsense, so I kept it shut), feeling very much like a little kid peering through the slats in the stairs, peaking at the presents under a Christmas tree. I let the grown-ups talk, and was quite happy to do so.
I didn’t feel the need to ask him for writing advice (I’m already following it- write a lot, and just pretend) or praise him on his body of work, I was simply happy that it was all happening and that I had a small part in the happening. The badger he drew in our guest book saying ‘yay stories!’ is lasting evidence that I was there, at least for a little while, working at the most magical place on earth.
Ps. Happy Halloween!
Pss. Welcome, 60th follower! You make me very happy.