The Souvenir No One Wants
Yes. It is true. I have it.
It started the morning of the Albert Hall appearance as a tickle. By Milton Keynes it was a full on throb. And by Cheltenham, I knew it wasn't going to go away without major medical intervention.
Yes. I have it. The souvenir no one wants:
A head cold.
To quote Olympic medalist Nancy Kerrigan's memorable words upon having her knee whacked by Tonya Harding's husband's friend:
“WHY ME??? WHY NOW????”
I don't understand how it happened. I was being so CAREFUL. I was taking my Airborne (when I remembered) and washing my hands every five minutes (although I have to admit English sinks confound me: they have TWO faucets with TWO separate spigots: hot and cold. If you JUST turn on the hot one, it's too hot for human skin. But if you turn on the cold AND hot, the water comes out SEPARATELY, the cold in no way alleviating the pain of the hot on the skin, and the hot in no way warming up the frigid temps of the cold. The only way to get appropriately warm water is to stop up the drain and fill the sink with the hot and cold water. I know this because I asked a British person.
But let's just say you've got to be on stage at, say, the Royal Albert Hall, in five seconds, and you're in a hurry. What do you do?
Well, DON'T do what I did, which is just wash your hands in cold water. BECAUSE COLD WATER DOES NOT KILL GERMS, AND YOU WILL GET SICK.
Anyway, I am perfectly miserable, as you might imagine. Right now I'm in bed in my hotel room with the heat on full blast, watching Victoria Beckham's Secrets (why everyone here hates Posh Spice, aka Mrs. David Beckham, so much is beyond me, so I'm hoping to find out by watching this show).
Any minute now I intend to order a soothing hot toddy from room service. And some foie gras, because really, when you are sick, there is nothing like a hot toddy and some foie gras to soothe your sore throat. And of course some chicken for protein to keep your strength up. And soup for the antioxidants. And maybe a crème brulee for dessert. Because you can't be expected to follow a sugar-free diet when you're sick. You've got the FEED a cold (and besides, my publisher is paying).
But before I do that, I wanted to update you on my many travels, since when I last left you, I was heading off to the Royal Albert Hall to read a four minute long story to 4,000 eleven year old schoolchildren, which I realize would be a cause of worry to some people, such as anyone human—you know, the idea of having to read a story to 4,000 eleven year old schoolchildren in the Royal Albert Hall.
Well, you were right to worry. It was a lovely event, but no thanks to the hundred or so VERY BAD BOYS who were in the rows closest to the front at the event. I have a few things I would like to say to those boys here:
Hey, kid who kept whistling tunelessly somewhere in row H, this is for you: Have you ever heard of a little something called KARMA? Yeah, well, you better start worrying about yours, because I have a feeling it's going to come snapping back at you soon.
And kid in the front row who kept imitating everything the people at the podium said: Oh, yes, we could hear you. And unless you have Tourette's, your karma's not looking too good either.
And teachers of the boys in the front row, this is for you: I don't know where you were while the nine of us (authors Philip Ardagh, Malorie Blackman, me, Eoin Colfer, Kevin Crossley Holland, Children's Laureate Michael Morpurgo, William Nicholson, Louis Sachar, and Jacqueline Wilson) performed. Perhaps you were outside having a smoke. Perhaps you were taking what you considered a well-earned little nap.
But I can promise you this, teachers of those BAD BOYS: One day, you will need me. Yes. YOU will need ME.
And I won't be there for you, just like YOU weren't there for us.
That's all I'm saying about THAT.
But I WILL say it was a delight to meet so many authors, particularly my fellow countryman Louis Sachar (author of HOLES), the wildly (and deservedly) popular Jacqueline Wilson, and the hilarious Philip Ardagh, with whom I also had a delightful breakfast in Cheltenham (for US residents, this is pronounced Chelt-num. If you pronounce it the way it is spelled, Chel-ten-ham, everyone laughs at you. I know this from personal experience). I even got to meet LOUISE RENNISON, author of the Meg Cabot Book Club's pick of the month AWAY LAUGHING ON A FAST CAMEL. Yes!
Of course Louise was just how I imagined a grown up Georgia Nicholson would be, nungas and all, “having a laugh” and being “vair vair” funny.
Anyway, after enduring the catcalls of all those mean boys in the front row of the Royal Albert Hall (why did BOYS get to sit in the front? Seriously? Whose idea was that? Girls are MUCH better behaved at events like this. Ask anyone) we (me and my publicists, Viviane and The Other Meg) piled into the car and headed off to Milton Keynes, where I attended a Mother/Daughter event at a FABULOUS Ottakars, and was treated like a queen by the fantastic Ottakars staff.
Sadly, I missed the famed Stone Cows of Milton Keynes, which are supposedly like the Stone Henge of that area–at least judging by how many people mentioned them.
Then it was BACK into the car after dinner, and on to Cheltenham.
I must admit that by this time (it was close to midnight when we arrived at Cheltenham) I was beginning to feel my cold, so I was not very happy when I checked into my hotel room and heard some VERY strange noises coming from the room next door. This is a family site so I won't go into details about what I heard, but it soon became clear that someone (okay, two people) were having a VERY NICE time in there. A much NICER time than certain authors such as myself were having. Also that THEY had a bed with springs (which the bed in my room lacked).
I woke up the next morning feeling even worse thanks to my cold and the nocturnal bedspring-symphony next door, but being the consummate professional author that I am (har har) I still made it to my event, where I met many lovely, patient readers and their parents. The headmaster of the school hosting the event very nicely reminded me of our meeting two years earlier, but did not renew his invitation to dine in the school cafeteria. Which was a shame because I would gladly have eaten toad-in-the-hole, now that I am going off my sugar-free diet due to having a head cold.
Sadly, however, we had to high-tail it back into the car so we could speed off to my next signing in London—but not without first stopping at the apothecary (that is what they call pharmacies here in the UK. Well, OK, not really. But it would be cool if they did. They do call them the chemist, though. Or, simply, “Boots.”).
So I went to the chemist (Boots) and it took me like five hours to find cold medicine because EVERYTHING is different here—not just the money. Like everything has a different name. I saw this man buying something called paracematol and I thought, “Oh my God, poor man, what's wrong with HIM???” but paracematol is really just like aspirin, apparently.
Anyway, I was gone so long trying to find cold medicine in the chemist (Boots) that The Other Meg had to come looking for me. But I finally found some, and, disappointingly, it turns out that England does not put either codeine or valium in their cold medicines, JUST LIKE IN THE US (and Canada).
What is WRONG with this world? When you have a cold, all you want is to be put out of your misery! When will the drug companies learn? When we are sick, we just want to be unconscious!
But fortunately for me there was nothing to render me unconsciou
s for the drive back to London since I actually needed to be able to function at the very lovely signing I went to next at Waterstones, which is a BRAND NEW STORE and wins my personal award for cleanest bookshop I have ever been in (even the offices in the back).
Although maybe there WAS something in that cold medicine, because I must admit I don't really remember much of what happened between the signing that evening and the signing in Bournemouth this morning, since I apparently passed out in bed at my hotel in London (where the walls are lovely and thick so you can't hear your neighbors, and also where I have bedsprings) and didn't wake up until room service brought my “porridge” (English for oatmeal) and “bacon” (English for ham) at 8AM.
All I remember is that to get to Bournemouth, we had to drive through something called The New Forest, which, in case you are wondering, is approximately six hundred years old, so not actually all that new, by US standards. By UK standards, however, 600 years is NOTHING.
In Bournemouth (pronounced Born-muth), I did a fabulously-run signing at a Waterstones that was ALMOST as clean as the one on Oxford Street, and I swear to you all I did my best not to breathe on anyone, or even touch anyone, if I could avoid it, so as not to poison them with my foul diseased person. Ask anyone who was there. I bet they couldn't even tell I was sick (thanks to the fabulous, memory-sapping UK cold medicine).
After that signing, John, our driver, took us all around the coast, to show us many thatched roofed cottages, and the sea. By this time I was breathing out of my mouth like Boris Pelkowski because my nose was so stuffed up, but everyone in the car politely pretended not to notice. We even got to see Notting Hill of the movie fame because I randomly said, “Have we been through Notting Hill yet?” and all you have to do is say something like that in England, and your wish becomes your driver's command.
So I got to see Notting Hill as well. Only Hugh Grant wasn't there (sadly).
Now however I feel that I have seen quite enough of England for one weekend and need to eat a lot of very fattening food and watch some British TV in order to restore my strength so I can carry on to my signing tomorrow in Guildford (which is pronounced Gill-ferd). If you are coming to the signing tomorrow, do NOT feel it necessary to wear a surgical mask, as I am probably not contagious anymore. And I'm pretty sure it's just a cold and not SARS.
Although you never know.
And I would just like to tell you, in case you were wondering, that the reason everyone here seems to hate Posh Spice (aka Mrs. Victoria Beckham) so much is that (according to this documentary) she is apparently a Big, Fat Liar (said she was anti-fur, then wore fur; said her boobs were her own, but according to photo analysis are fake; she wrote a book called Victoria's Secrets in which she “slagged”—British for libeled–all of her friends, etc).
But really, the poor woman, her husband is constantly cheating on her! Of COURSE she's got to wear fur, get a boob job, and slag her pals. What do you WANT her to do, steal Billy Crudup from a very pregnant Mary Louise Parker? She CAN'T, someone beat her to it. Geez.
OK, I have to go stick my head over a vat of boiling hot water in the hopes that it will enable me to breath through my nostrils again, so…