I am just over half way through the English leg of my Debut Novel Promotional trip, so this post is, effectively a ‘progress report’ on things so far. Except that I have no idea if I am actually making any progress, so I will just have to tell you about things that have caught my attention for some reason or another and leave you to figure out if progress is actually being made!
The first few days with my brother in Milton Keynes provided an opportunity to catch up with family and also purchase a new small wardrobe of English weight clothes, as I have lost some of my bulk since I have been in Brazil! (Nearly 20 kilos – I will let you work that out in English money for yourselves!) And, of course, plenty of new M&S underwear and socks. Here, the domestic revelations cease, so you can safely read on…
On my first Friday here, having been busy writing Press Releases (this ‘tour’ is all about getting publicity of course) I decided I needed to get some fresh air and stretch my legs after crouching over a hot laptop all day. So, it was about 10pm, dark, of course, and quite cool and I had just got round a couple of corners when the phone buzzed in my pocket, I thought it may be my brother asking if I wanted coffee when I got back in.
But, no, it was the producer of the Radio Nottingham Monday show I was booked in to for a studio interview. She was doing a stint on the Friday night, standing in for a colleague. She had just received one of my press releases and the text said “Since you perhaps still have jetlag and are unable to sleep would you like to do a live interview on Radio Nottingham at about 12.30 tonight?” So, I did!
So, onwards to Lincolnshire to stay with my other brother and prepare for my first book signing. First, however, an appearance on Siren FM, which is a community radio station run out of Lincoln University. I was on in the studio as a guest for the whole of two hours for their Wednesday Midweek Drive programme with a bit of music and a bit of chat. The studio “DJ” is Alex Lewczuk and, as well as studio guests, he has regular contributors based around the world; so film producer Phil Leirness from Los Angeles was on and actress Annette Andre based near New York. Annette played widow, Jeanie, in the original “Randall and Hopkirk [deceased]” TV series. She also proved to be a great bibliophile and we sort of ‘set up’, on air, the presentation of a copy of Captain Cobbler to her when I visit New York, so my American Tour already has a highlight!
The launch day itself, Tuesday 1st October 2013 and I am standing waiting for customers in Wrights bookshop in Louth, 477 years to the day since the uprising began. My very first customer was a young lady whose surname was Melton and she told me her great great grandfather had been a shoemaker in Louth. I felt as if I had struck gold – this must be a descendant of the Captain!
By Royal appointment?
Thursday 3rd October and, with a successful book-signing under my belt at Tim Smith’s bookshop in Horncastle, they brought me a sandwich lunch from the bakery over the way. When they told me the name of the bakery I felt as though I had struck gold again! It was Myers bakery and since my middle name is Myers I had to go over and introduce myself. One of the Myers family was there – Mike Myers (no, not the film star!) – and once he had finished weighing out ingredients for the next batch of baking Mike came to chat.
He was interested in my tale, we discussed possible family connections and then he asked if I had tried their plum loaf. I hadn’t, so he kindly gave me one to try – and delicious it is, I can highly recommend it, although it has more well-connected recommendations than mine – it used to be a favourite of the Queen Mum when she was alive!
Talking of Royal connections, those of you who have started to read my book may already be aware that one of my key characters is of some significant attachment to the present day Royal family. Maria de Salinas was a lady-in-waiting of Catherine of Aragon and probably her best friend as well. She married a Lincolnshire gentleman, the Baron Willoughy d’Eresby and, through their daughter Catherine, Maria became 17th great grandmother of Princess Diana and, therefore, 19th great grandmother of the little Prince George, who is to be baptised later this month.
After the Horncastle book-signing I swung over to Caistor Arts and Heritage Centre for a book-signing and talk. The problem there was that there was some pretty heavy rain keeping people indoors, so not many turned out. But whilst I was waiting for customers, my attention was drawn to an old map of Caistor which had been painted onto the wall of the Centre. Just below the map was an excerpt from a poem which was attributed to one Brian Blyth Daubney.
Well, I recognised two of the three names (Brian Daubney) as, possibly, my music teacher at school 54 years ago! So, when I got home I looked him up on the internet and there, beyond doubt, was the guy who had taught me music all those years ago – there was a photo of him as he is now and a photo of him at about the age he was teaching me – around 30 (he was born in 1929.)
I have now been in touch with him and hope to be able to meet him before I fly out of the country again. The extract in Caistor came from this poem below – enjoy. I thought it was very appropriate to include here since it is all about Lincolnshire.
Wide, flat lands of Lincolnshire
With crops rich and prolific sown,
Your growth abundant knows no peer,
Your character’s too little known.
Tucked away on the Eastern strand,
Your native sons are richly blessed,
Away from main traffic of the land,
Such calm they know, such wholesome rest.
Your style is not like other zones,
No neatly-nurtured parks for you,
That type of thing’s not in the bones
Of your unstudied landscape view.
Natural woods and hedgerows, both
Are left alone to their free hand;
You respect wild, natural growth,
Except where farming needs command,
There cultivation’s at its peak,
The Yellow-belly farmer knows his art;
However widely one may seek,
None better’s found in any part.
Lovelier skies are nowhere seen –
As de Wint’s eyes were well aware –
Than over Lincoln’s fenland scene;
What comely cloud formations here!
And rising from this level land,
Are special jewels to the gaze,
Your tapering spires and church towers stand;
Minster and Stump in pride of place.
Wold to east and Cliff to west
Of rich black soil or pasture green,
These hilly ridges form a frame,
Relieving broad plains in between,
For mile on mile the eye beholds
Your character of rural charm;
Long may your fens and cliffs and wolds
Survive all travellers to disarm.