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Meg's Blog

BLACK PUDDING

Okay, so I'm the biggest loser, I'm in London, one of the biggest, most exciting cities in the world, and I have the morning off from book signing off, and instead of going to the National Gallery or Buckingham Palace or even Bond Street to shop, like I planned (well, OK, to be honest I only planned on going to Jo Malone on Bond Street to buy some moisturizer. You didn't honestly think I'd be going to a museum, did you?), I'm just lolling around in bed.

But moments to loll are so RARE on a book tour. This one only came about because of one of those freakish events that NEVER happen—I was booked on a national TV show. So now, instead of going to Scotland for signings today, like we'd planned, I'm staying in London and going on a show called Blue Peter.

Don't get me wrong, I am GUTTED (British for truly upset and sorry) about not going to Scotland, because I have never been to Scotland and of course I've read TONS of books set in Scotland, such as the Prime of Miss Jean Brodie and Lady of Skye (well, OK, I wrote that, but still) and of course that's where James Herriott is from, so I was really looking forward to going. Especially because I get emails from tons of readers who live in Scotland, and I would have loved to see them. And, as you all know, there are sheep there.

But my publisher thinks I can tell more people about my book by going on television than by going to Scotland, so that's why I have the morning off, since the TV thing isn't until later (if you live in England, I go on Blue Peter live on digital tonight at 5, then it's rebroadcasted on regular BBC tomorrow night).

So I had all these hours of NOTHINGNESS stretched out in front of me before I have to get ready to go on TV, and I've already squandered half of them by sleeping until 10, and when I woke up I realized I'm just not going anywhere, and now I'm here typing this.

Which I am now remembering is the same thing I did when I was in Rome last time, and LA, and Miami, and of course when I'm in New York, which shouldn't count because I live there, but the truth is, I can't remember the last time I did something New York-y in New York, like go to a show or a museum.

WHAT IS WRONG WITH ME?? Why don't I want to go out and explore? My husband, if he were here, would have been up and out by 8AM and would probably have been to every cooking store in London by ten.

Me? I'm just having my first cup of tea of the day.

But I think I deserve a little lie-in (British for sleeping late) because I worked VERY hard all weekend. First we went to Ilkley, which is a town in Yorkshire, for a big event in a theater there for their book festival. We had to drive for HOURS to get there, but it was all right, because I saw SO MANY SHEEP. There were tons of them. Some of you may not understand why seeing sheep is such a thrill for me, but the truth is, in the places I've ever lived, there have never been any sheep. Cows, yes. But no sheep.

So it is quite thrilling to see them bobbing along with their little furry butts in the air. They look just like Henrietta when they run. I never realized until now what a large butt Henrietta has, but she does look a lot like a sheep when she runs. How disturbing. I think when I get home I'll put her on a diet, she does only weigh 13 pounds but the vet says for her size ten would be better, and not to give her so much Pounce. Poor H.

Anyway, on the way to Ilkley we stopped at a “services” which is the UK equivalent of a US “rest stop” and I was wandering around looking at all the weird candy bars the British have that we don't when suddenly I saw a stunning sight: A wall of my books!!!

Okay, it wasn't a whole wall, but there two of them, and they were right next to the Harry Potters!!! On the most eye-level shelf! I couldn't BELIEVE it! I have never seen my books in a rest stop back in the US. Or even a supermarket. I made Meg, my UK publicist, take a picture of them, and when I get back I'll post it, in case people don't believe me.

Anyway, then we drove on to Ilkley where we arrived a bit early so we had tea in a lovely tea shop called Betty's. They have a trolley filled with cake in Betty's, which they push up and down the aisles, just like in Chinatown, only with dim sum instead of tarts and hazelnut cake.

So of course I had to take a picture of that, too.

Then we went on to the theater where I was giving my speech, and I did that, and there were TONS of girls there, and they asked very good questions, which I have to admit I was nervous about, because when I was on my UK book tour two years ago, hardly anyone asked questions, and I was convinced the same thing would happen in Ilkley, but there seems to have been great strides made in the asking of questions thing here, so, phew.

Then we had to hurry off to Scarborough–which is pronounced Scar-burr-a, in case you were wondering, and is famous for its parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme, as noted by the famous song (just kidding). It is a seaside town, and I was put up in a huge room overlooking the sea, which looks just like the sea in the US, only there are big cliffs over it, where I imagine many murderers have hurled many bodies, thus making it possible for there to be so many British murder mysteries set in seaside towns.

Seaside towns in the UK seem to be very popular with the elderly. I have never seen so many busloads of people my grandma's age since…ever. And when they all get together, they like to sing. The old people, I mean. They didn't sing “Are You Going To Scarborough Fair?” though. They sang seaside songs. In the dining room. At breakfast. While I was eating. It was quite exciting.

In Scarborough I was part of a traveling show called “Storyquest”, which is a huge rock-concert type event that goes around to towns, telling huge groups of schoolkids about the history of the story and story-telling. It is headed by the UK children's laureate, Michael Murpogo. I expected that the children's laureate would hate my guts because I've made fun of Laura Ingalls Wilder so many times in my books, but he clearly has never read my books, so it was all good, and he was a very funny, nice man.

In addition to Michael Murpogo, there was a Zambian poetess whose name I cannot spell but who was very beautiful and funny, a hilarious “oral traditionalist” storyteller named Nick, and GP Taylor, a vicar who writes best-selling fantasy books you might have heard of, Shadowmancer being one of them (he gave me a signed copy, and I was gutted because I had no copies of my own books to give away. But really, GP Taylor LIVES in Scarborough, he just brought the book form home. I think it's asking a bit much to have to pack copies of your own books with your tiaras, sequined denim jackets, and cowboy boots, and lug them three thousand miles. Not to mention, there is no more room in my suitcase what with all the beauty products I now have to take with me everywhere I go, which, by the way, increase exponentially every year, so now half my luggage is clothes and the other half is the entire Clinique cosmetics counter).

The whole affair was headed up by a BBC radio announcer named Paul who was extremely erudite and dashing and who offered to lift me off a pillar a photographer made me stand in, which won him my heart forever.

I was thrilled to be at Storyquest because it ended up satisfying one of my fondest UK dreams, which was to meet a vicar.

Of course, in my dream, someone is murdered, and the vicar and I have to work together to solve the crime. We had it all—a seaside setting, a vicar, me…just no dead body. That is ALWAYS my luck. Where is a dead body when you need one? Oh, sure, they're everywhere when you DON'T want
one, but finally find a vicar and the perfect setting for a murder, and what do you get? Diddly squat.

I got the feeling GP Taylor might not be the biggest fan of Wicca, though, which I think is a shame since Wicca is a nature based religion that really doesn't have anything to do with Satanism, as I took pains to assure him, pointing out all he needs to do is watch Charmed a few times and he'd see the light—not to mention Alyssa Milano's cute new haircut.

I'm not sure he will take my advice, but he did do an exorcism on my house, telling Mary, my resident ghost, to go into the light and be with Baby Jesus, which I'm not sure will work from so many miles away, but it was a kind gesture, especially after he had spent most of the day razzing me about my pink cowboy boots and tiara (clearly he was suffering from fashion envy, for which I can't blame him, really).

A lot of the kids at Storyquest—who also asked very good questions—wanted to get their books signed, but there was no time to sign books as they all had to get to their busses, so I hope they weren't offended when I said no. It was just that their teachers were sending me death looks because they had to get them all back to school. Plus I distinctly remember signing approximately 4,000 bookplates that I was told were being given away to every child who attended Storyquest. So they should ask their teachers about that, because my hand hurt quite a lot after signing all those bookplates, so they better go to SOMEONE.

Then I got to take a real British train back to London, which was much quicker than a car, and more picturesque, besides, as I saw tons more sheep and some beautiful estates, not to mention some crumbling abbey/castle structures. When you take the train in New York, say, the Metro-North to Fairfield, CT, all you see are abandoned tenements covered in graffiti, so as you can imagine, this was quite an improvement.

Well, it's getting close to noon now, and I've still done, um, nothing all day, so I suspect I should at least get up and bathe. I'm glad I had this lie-in, since tomorrow I have to get up at some ungodly hour to go on Breakfast with the BBC, which I hope will be just like going on the Early Show, which I did earlier this year, and not like going on Regis and Kelly, which I did last year, with ignominious results, thanks to Gelman's wife (and if you don't know what I'm talking about, all I can say is, you're lucky).

So, ta for now, and cheers! And remember, if you are in England and you order a breakfast tray and it comes with something called Black Pudding, DO NOT UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES EAT IT.

More later.

Much love,

Meg

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