Monday, 16 November 2009

This is the BBC. . .

I went to BBC Cambridge for 1 o'clock as arranged, feeling dreadful. I had been offered a taxi, but chose to cycle, arriving flecked with mud (I must get a rear mudguard!). I announced my arrival to the receptionist and whilst I wasn't expecting paparazzi exactly, I was a little taken aback to be ushered unceremoniously by her into a small, deserted cell-like room. I felt like a sperm donor. Or how I imagine a sperm donor to feel. In terms of the awkwardness and grottiness, not the - this metaphor isn't working really. I asked the receptionist if there was any chance of a glass of water and she seemed to look at me as if I was Mariah Carey asking for a basket of puppies.

I was told to put on a pair of headphones and wait until lights lit up on the rather 1950s-looking console. Actually 'console' is overstating it somewhat. It looked a bit like the control panel on an old guitar amp. It all felt a little like The Lives of Others. Sitting there in that room with my headphones on, I caught a whiff of what it must have been like to be in the Stasi - except I was listening to the Scottish news rather than eavesdropping. The receptionist brought my water and I sat and waited.

Suddenly there was a voice in my ears and I tried very hard not to do a BBC voice as I spoke into a massive microphone of the kind that Churchill or Attlee is usually sitting behind in old newsreels. It was dented as though a visiting author had headbutted it in some kind of existential rage.

The voice was the engineer checking I was there. He, like everyone except me, was in Edinburgh. Edinburgh sounded fun. I began to wish I was in Edinburgh with the other guests and not in my isolation chamber here in Cambridge. Then Bronwen Tulloch, the producer of The Book Cafe, came on the line. I had spoken to her already and she was great. How amazing to be both coolly efficient and warm. She was a very reassuring presence throughout. And Chris Kane who presented the programme was very good at including me in the conversation - and making me sound as though I was actually there with the other guests.

I always feel like I am going to develop a career-ending bout of Tourettes and say something wildly and loudly inappropriate. I didn't though.

I spoke a little about scary books and read a short - very short - extract from Tales of Terror from the Tunnel's Mouth. We had a bit of a discussion about horror and children's appetite for it, why I write creepy stories and whether it is good or bad for children. I stayed around for a quick discussion about Twitter and the various novelty ways it has impacted on the world of literature. I might go into more detail of who they were and what we actually talked about tomorrow.

Then it was all over. The headphones went back on the table, I said goodbye to the receptionist and with her reply she gave me a look that was probably only total disinterest but felt like something between pity and disgust, and then I was back on my bike cycling home against a fierce headwind.



  1. They have a room just like that in Lowestoft College! I suspect that they exist all over Britain in unlikely places.

  2. I have a horrible feeling you're right, Paul

  3. I believe your creepy stories are good for children, and good for us! Hello, i translated "uncle montague..." (turkish) and i think it's a great book:) I know you're a cartoonist too. And i write comics as well. (
    love from istanbul, zeynep alpaslan

  4. Thanks for getting in touch. Thanks too for the kind comments. I haven't seen the Turkish edition yet, but I am really excited about being published in Turkey. I haven't been to Istanbul for a long time, but I keep promising my son I will take him. If I come we will have to meet up.