On Monday night I spoke at my biggest ever writerly gig - at the Marion Cultural Centre in the Adelaide suburb of Marion. I felt like my boyhood hero, Elvis Presley must have felt just before going on stage (except I didn't have any deep fried peanut butter sandwiches or barbiturates).
More than 200 people.
I sh*t you not, Legion of Fans (LOF). 200 plus.
Of course this speaks for more to the organising ability of Jenny from the Marion Cultural Centre and her strong support from the local community than it does to the pulling power of little old me (well, tall old me), but all the same I was flabbergasted when I was called on stage - from the Green Room (yes, the Green room) and saw all those people there.
Actually, I couldn't really see all the people, because there were lights - yes, lights - on the stage shining up on me.
If I'd had a hat it wouldn't have fit me anymore. I don't mind public speaking - quite like it as a matter of fact - but a good crowd for me is about 30 or 30, and my former personal best was about 100. 200. I am still shaking my head.
Perhaps they misread the invitation. "I'm Australia's Wilbur Smith, not the Wilbur," I told the assembled masses.
Even taking into account the presence of my friend Colonel G and his lovely wife, C, and my two beautiful baby cousins who I hadn't seen for some 32 years (and who are no longer babies, but have babies of their own), this was not my usual gathering of ring-ins and relatives.
And lots of people bought books!
South Australia, how could I have neglected you for all these years?
In other news of little consequence to anyone else but myself, I spoke to a capacity crowd at St Ives Library to kick off the tour (not 200, but still a full room). Again, this excellent turnout was due to the indefatigable efforts of Penny the local librarian who always goes to great lengths to decorate her room in an African theme. She also serves a mean scone.
I met Redcap, a regular poster on this blog, in Adleaide. Redcap is a journo and book reviewer (just the sort of reader a chap like me needs) and she does, in fact, have a cap of red hair. Over a Coopers Pale Ale or three Redcap interviewed me for a forthcoming magazine feature while I devoured the best pie I have ever had in my life - Duck and Rabbit - at Adelaide's Exeter Hotel in Rundle Street.
Last night I had dinner with the Colonel and Mrs Colonel, and D, a fellow Africa addict who was one of the first people to ever email me after my first book, FAR HORIZON was published. Had an excellent African-themed meal of Cape Malay Curry and too much excellent South Australian red wine.
Of course, while I've been having a fine time in South Australia I have also been bombareded with emails and thinly veiled threats about my lack of appearances in Victoria and Tasmania.
Off to Perth, West(ern) Australia today for more functions, more drinking and more interviews. No doubt the Victorians and Tasmanians will not be amused.
And they call this working?