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Picture This

‘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!


Kath said…
Sounds as if you had fun, and that's a great photo, Chris! I am tempted to abandon my trusty megabus steed to London and go over to National Express if they're now doing quality book promotions...
Sue Moorcroft said…
Great post, Chris! I'm looking forward to my shoot in Cambridge but don't think I'll be able to top such a lovely pic. You look great.

Pondside said…
You have such adventures, Chris! Palm trees and sand and photo shoots - and you look very glamorous. All that, and lunch with your daughter - it doesn't get much better than that!
Frances said…
What a wonderful photo, Chris!

You look fabulous, I love the hat, and the book cover is just the right contrasting color.

The promotional tour idea is also very good. Do let us know how it all progresses.

(I am right with you about wanting to be on time for well, whatever.)

Fennie said…
I can't help thinking of you in other MOD locations - New York for instance - or on even the craggy cliffs of Ceredigion. But that perhaps wouldn't help National Express. Maybe, though, they could shoot a video of you talking about the book to play to the captive troops en route to wherever the bus is going. In a sense I am a bit at sea here not having read MOD (yet) - so perhaps I should hop on a bus.
Anyway, it all sounds lots of fun and I am sure we shall see lots more of the photograph.
Shirley Wells said…
What a fantastic photo. You look extremely glamorous - and so relaxed.

I love that Cho Lit are doing this. Good for them - and for you!
Sarah Tranter said…
Great posting Chris - love it. Did he by any chance take any shots with the coconuts and the palm tree? Not that I expect you to confess if he did:) X
Jenny Beattie said…
A fabulous and funny post and you look lovely in the picture! Jx
liz fenwick said…
Love the picture and what a great idea!

Chris Stovell said…
It was fun, Kath - amazingly! And yes, it's a great link-up between Choc Lit and National Express... an provides some great reading alternatives to... 'that' book!

Thanks, Sue, - enjoy it and I bet you'll be happy with the results!

Thanks Pondside - it's certainly a life of surprises! A day to remember!

Thank you Frances - all down to Adam's skill! That hat was a last-minute buy at a giveaway price!

What an excellent idea, Fennie! I'd love to return to New York, what a city! Fortunately I love it here too.

Thanks, Shirley - and well done Choc Lit, as you say.

All of the above, Sarah, all of the above!!!

Aw, thanks Jenny!

It is a great idea, isn't is, Liz? And thank you. x
Cally said…
How fun and what a fabulous photo. You look so glamorous x
Chris Stovell said…
But you know what I really look like, Cally! Thank you though!
Debs Carr said…
I read about this in The Bookseller, congratulations!

I love the title and can't wait to read Move Over Darling.

Fabulous picture too.x
Friko said…
Congratulations on your promotional day. I can see how exhilarating it must feel. I believe all of it except the sun hat and sun dress.

Were was this? Wales? Were you freezing?
Flowerpot said…
How exciting Chris and cant waitto read the book. But a sun dress? It's freezing here!
What a cracking photograph! Does he do shoots for ordinary mortals? You look great and very relaxed and happy.
Toni Sands said…
We're all going on a summer holiday - yay! Great account of your photoshoot, Chris. You look younger each time I see a pic. It's OK. You can send the usual cheque :)and I can't wait to read the book x
Posie said…
Chris you look amazing...and how fantastic another book hot off the press...and I thought I had been busy ;-)
Best wishes, and really lovely to catch up x
Chris Stovell said…
Say that to me again, Debs... The Bookseller! Amazing! And thank you.

Friko and Sue - we actually found a window of good weather - it poured down the day before and just after but that day it was sunny! An believe me, I was so caught up in the event I didn't even feel cold - which is very unusual for me!

Elizabethm, believe me, he had some very raw material to work with! He did make the experience feel very easy and relaxed - a great skill!

Toni, you always were one of my favourite chums;)

Thanks Posie, but I could do with being able to write a bit faster. It's a great feeling to have a second book in the pipeline - or on the coaches, though!
Maggie Christie said…
What a lovely photograph Mrs Glamorous Novelist! It sounds like you had such a fun day out too. I need to know where you got that hat though - it's utterly gorgeous (and I have a deep love of anything orange).

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