If you’re ever invited to stay in the Chelsea area of London – go! Such a beautiful part of town, felt like I’d really made it, even if I have been sleeping on the lounge of a curiosity shop rented by my friend. Suits me, as I love drifting off under African masks, Papua totems and old trunks. Crazy dreams. Then in the day, this writer is quite satisfied visiting the delightful new cafes and bars that have sprung up all over London since I lived here a decade ago. My favourite is the newly opened Colbert on Sloane Square.
First up, on the day before my book is released, I do what many authors must in these tough times, and walk around London to the biggest bookshops – the Waterstones, Foyles, Blackwells and others – saying a friendly ‘hello’ and occasionally getting more than just a disinterested ‘oh, right, yeah, author, nice’ response. One sales assistant said he’d make sure to display the book prominently. But it was hard to get any book ‘front of house’ he added, any book that wasn’t J. K. Rowling’s adult thing or Arnold Schwazenegger’s memoir that is, becasue the publishers of these pay big money to get those books in the window, even though it’s unknown paramedic authors like myself that need the window more. No, I’m not going to hyperlink J. K Rowling’s adult thing or Arnold Schwazenegger’s memoir in this blog entry, thank you very much.
While trekking London -I was almost going to trek to Waziristan with Imran but knew I wouldn’t get a visa- I decided to stop by the Southbank HQ of the London Ambulance Service where I briefly hung out with LAS medics Richard and Jim, the latter a heavily-tattooed motorcycle paramedic recovering after fracturing almost every bone in his body when he crashed his bike which promptly exploded. I felt sorry for him and gave him a book.
The HQ of HarperCollins UK is enormous and I was impressed to find my book displayed among several other new titles in the foyer. My publisher Scott Pack, who has a great blog and is the energetic gentleman who published Tom Reynold’s Blood, Sweat and Tea, invited me in. He runs an imprint of the company known as The Friday Project, because he likes to take Friday’s off work. At least that is Scott’s version. While Scott is one of the hottest names in the industry, he may have to make room for actor Johnny Depp who I’ve been told is starting his own HarperCollins imprint.
Having tea among piles of new books I was made to feel quite at home, which I always do among piles of books. That is, until Scott told me I was the only one of his authors publishing a medical memoir who did not use a pseudonym. This made me momentarily uneasy. But Scott thinks it is of great benefit that I’m using my real name because I can actually do media interviews as myself. They can get TV and radio without having to make me wear a fake moustache or curly-haired wig or speak via a voice-altering device to have me sound like Darth Vader or film me in silhouette against slightly-open venetian blinds. I think he was trying to reassure me. Though I’m not sure it worked. Later we went to dinner at a great Soho sushi joint which was yum, even though I’d just done weeks of sushi in Japan. But it took my mind off not having a pen name.
Gosh, I just stumbled on the audio book of ‘Paramedico’ released by Audible moments ago. What a crack-up! A British actor reading it with a kind-of Aussie accent. At least I think he’s trying to do an Aussie accent. You have to listen to the sample (or better, download the whole thing). I’m still laughing! Note, three weeks later: a friend did some research on the actor who is reading for my audio book and he apparently has British and Australian dual nationality. Perhaps he hasn’t put on an accent after all. Further note, five weeks later: Trevor Whittaker, the reader of my book, read the above comment on this blog and wrote to me confirming he is, in fact, an Aussie surfer from the Central Coast! How wrong I was. Seems like a top bloke. And on listening to his reading of the book again, I have totally warmed to it (and I’m not just saying this because I know Trevor will read my ‘further note’).
So I did Sky TV – wish I could link it, but I don’t subscribe – and they dusted me in make-up and told me the segment woud beam live around the world, which didn’t make me feel nervous at all. I’m lying, of course. Actually I had to go have a wee five times before I eventually sat in front of the sixteen cameras. Much less intimidating is radio. Here’s an interview I just did on BBC World Service Outlook – listen from around 8 minutes in. Also better than TV are the newspaper and internet gigs – love them, much easier. See this great gallery published by The Guardian today. And also, my five-minute-memoir for The Independent.
While in London I have also had a chance to meet up with paramedic blogger and tweeter Florian Breitenbach aka @flobach and the wonderful UK ECP Lysa Walder who used to be on the high-wire in a British circus before ‘running away to become a paramedic’ and has written some very entertaining accounts of her time in the LAS. We ate cupcakes and sipped English Breakfast Tea, naturally. For some reason we mainly talked about lecherous patients and swapped stories of being groped and hit-on, which Lysa and I have both experienced many times by male and female patients and occasionally even those of uncertain gender. Most of all I like her because she is running in a charity thing called The Zombie Evacuation, a 5km obstacle course through a forest infested with zombies. Only the fittest will survive, says the website, and it is based on the argument that people tend to run faster, and be fitter as a result, if chased by scary things.
Moving to stay with another longtime friend Sophie in Clerkenwell who manages the fabulous Lady Grey Tease – do check out this beautiful troupe – puts me in the heart of St. John territory. The grand Edwardian home is next to St. John Square, location of the Tudor St. John gatehouse, entrance to the medieval priory of the Order of St. John of Jerusalem which began in 11th Century Jerusalem. In the 12th Century the Order was given this whole part of Clerkenwell. It’s true the Knights of St. John were a bunch savage religious crusaders, but I admire them rather as pioneers of ambulancing. Walking St. John Square this morning, I discovered hidden Maltese crosses set in the cobbles, ancient winding St. John laneways, cafe’s and shops named St. John and ended up at the award-winning St. John restaurant which my wife’s uncle author St. John Green once took us too several years ago. Under the gate arches is the excellent St. John Museum. So if you’re a St. Johnophile, this is the place for you. While I’m not a St. Johnophile myself, as a teenage I was for a time in the St. John cadets which is kind of like Scouts, but with more bandages. So it was interesting browsing the exhibits and I recommend a stroll through the area if you’re in London.
Well, that’s it for my London sojourn. Everyone’s reading Paramedico here of course… Well, maybe not yet. But word of mouth takes time, right? So help me out and start talking about it!