‘Be punctual, bring props’ is today’s brief. My publishers, Choc Lit, have linked up with the UK’s largest coach operator, National Express, to give away a great selection of ‘summer reads’ on selected coach services to major airports and from major cities throughout July and August. My new novel Move Over Darling will be making its debut on the coaches, giving passengers a pre-publication preview which is why I’m on my way to Cardiff for a photo shoot.
My anxiety levels are stratospheric, there’s the ‘be punctual’ bit for a start. I hate being late, so I leave the house at Crack of Doom to allow for tractors and milking time on the long drive through narrow lanes. I manage to find a parking space at the station (my next worry). The train turns up on time, phew, and there’s enough space for me, my big orange sun hat and my small red suitcase.
In Cardiff I’m almost undone by the station loos where eight women are queuing for two cubicles one of which seems to be permanently engaged (what are you doing in there, ladies?). Nevertheless, I make it to the National Express office ten minutes early where Richard Thomas, the assistant manager, is friendly and welcoming. He shows me the inflatable palm tree, plastic coconuts and bucket and spade that have arrived at his office for the shoot. The photographer, he tells me, is on his way to Sophia Gardens, the Cardiff park where we’re meeting up. All we need now is the coach.
John arrives with the coach. Very smart it is too; brand new and straight out the box. Richard, his colleague and I grab our props and dash across the road looking, with our blow-up palm tree, like Wilson, Keppel and Betty about to do a sand dance. On the short journey, John tells me that his wife’s been deeply immersed in a new book… ‘Fifty Shades of something,’ ‘Grey,’ I supply, through gritted teeth.
No matter, we’re in Sophia Gardens which brings back memories of half-marathons I’ve known and loved. Oh, and here’s Adam Fradgley, the photographer. I may gush a little here, because Adam is clearly a magician. He’s one of those people who can put you at your ease instantly, doesn’t recoil in horror when he looks through his viewfinder and is kind, patient and constantly reassuring. I’ve yet to find anyone who enjoys having their photo taken, but today, surprisingly, I am! Even a party of students stopping to see if they can spot anyone famous doesn’t throw me – I feel relaxed and in safe hands.
Time’s flown and it’s time for the coach to go to work. Adam kindly offers to give me a lift to the Bay where I’m meeting Lily who’s nipping out the office for a late lunch. I repay Adam’s kindness by losing my bearings and taking him on a two mile detour. Whilst I’m deeply embarrassed, he doesn’t seem to mind, but I suppose when you’ve extensive experience of working in war zones, a novelist with no sense of direction isn’t that big a deal.
There’s a lovely moment when I meet up with Lily and we see each other in our ‘work clothes’ for a change. It sets the tone for a hugely enjoyable lunch whilst Lily listens patiently as I regale her with tales of my day in the sun.
And the photos? See above. It just goes to show what a talented photographer can do!
My thanks to Adam Fradgely and to the staff at the National Express office in Cardiff for looking after me.
The Choc Lit and National Express summer reads promotion will be offered on selected routes through July and August – another good reason to look forwards to your holiday!