Many years ago, when my son was about 15, he visited his grandparents in the UK (we were living in Spain at the time). They had recently been on a trip to Japan, and knowing that the lad was very interested in all things Japanese, they had brought him back a ceremonial sword as a present. It was, I am told, quite large – too large to put in his case. So he carried it under his arm and headed for the airport. It will come as no surprise that he was stopped as he was going through security. He was searched for fitting the profile of a ‘potential terrorist’ (male, under twenty five, wearing jeans and an anorak, and carrying a lethal weapon). ‘Where did you get this?’ He was asked. ‘My granny gave it to me.’ They told him to quit trying to be funny, and the sword was confiscated.
I remembered this a few years ago after being awarded the CWA Historical Dagger. I had planned to fly back to Edinburgh, where I live. But would the dagger be deemed a lethal weapon? In the end I opted for the train and had the satisfaction of giving the dagger in my bag the occasional pat, safe in the knowledge that it would get home safely.
Everyone likes receiving awards. A Dagger is a huge honour. The appreciation of your fellow writers, readers etc, is touching, and very greatly appreciated. But what do you do with it when you have it? Put it on the mantelpiece? Could be a bit ostentatious. I read recently that Emma Thompson keeps her Oscar in the loo, and Russell Crowe keeps his in a chicken coop. Other favourite places are in the sock drawer, tucked away at the back of a cupboard, under the desk, by the bed (a handy weapon in case of intruders?) and even in the fridge next to the beer.
I put mine, unostentatiously in its box, on the mantelpiece. Soon after, my small grandson, who was four at the time, came to visit from Spain, where he lives. He knew about the Dagger and asked to see it. “Is it real?” “Oh, yes, I said.” “Can I see it?” The box was opened. “Can I hold it?” “Well, if you are VERY careful and sit perfectly still while you are holding it, yes.” So he did, sitting on the sofa almost reverently, holding the dagger in both hands. From then on, whenever he visits, the dagger must be visited. The performance has developed somewhat as he has grown older. Now, he adopts a different stance, perfectly still, depending on whether he is being Robin Hood, D’Artagnan, Captain Hook or whoever else.
The beautiful new design of the Daggers this year may make transport by plane a lot easier.
Tomorrow is the CWA Daggers Dinner. Very good luck to everyone. Have a lovely evening!