Sometimes things fall into place and it feels like the fates are looking after you.
I really like the Daphne Du Maurier Festival. I've performed there a couple of times before and found it to be charming and eclectic and exactly the kind of thing a festival in a small town like that should be.
They asked me to return to do another book reading this year and it coincided perfectly with a run of existing book readings so it was really easy to say yes and add it on at the end. Lovely.
Then I got asked to do Grand Designs Live. They started looking for someone to present some films about quirky American houses for their Channel 4 show at around the time my film about an American road trip was broadcast on More 4. It rated well. The idea for the film is in part explained with reference to my interest in Googie Architecture... it obviously seemed like a good fit. I'm a fan of Grand Designs in its regular incarnation so after meeting the production team to discuss the films they wanted me to present I was very happy to say yes. Lovely once more.
There was the faint hint that there might be a spanner in the works when I then discovered that as well as making the US films I was going to have to be on the set to introduce them each night. The show was being broadcast each night from May 4th-9th and the reading was already scheduled for the 8th. Oops... I thought I was going to have to decline the GDL offer. But nope... there were only four American houses to visit - and the films would be played in on the 4th, 5th, 6th and 7th and then there was another UK based event they wanted me to be involved in which would be filmed on the day of the 6th and shown on the last show - the 9th. As if by magic the one day I wasn't needed was the 8th... the one day when I wasn't available. Perfect.
Well almost. Fowey is a spectacularly beautiful spot but it's also a very long way away from London. The original plan had been to drive or train it down a day early and extend my stay into the weekend and take in a few of the other festival shows hither and thither. (Kate Rusby was appearing there on the Friday night and she's ace so I was definitely looking forward to that.) Doing the return journey in one day seemed less than perfect. That could have meant spending twelve hours in a car just for a 75 minute book reading. But then my publishers came up with a new plan. An early morning flight to Newquay. A cab from there to Fowey. (Conveniently taking me from coast-to-coast. Sort of.) A reading. A few hours in the Cornish sun and then a cab back to Newquay and a late flight home. My trip to Cornwall would still be Rusbyless... but it was still feeling pretty close to perfect.
But then... while the whole of Britain seemed to be sweltering in the sunshine, Fowey was mysteriously beset by rain. Rain that started about ten minutes after I'd finished signing books and ended just as I got in the cab to Newquay. Hmm. Not lovely. Not perfect.
And to make matters worse, Newquay was then consumed by fog... which meant that our flight home was cancelled. I don't understand how these things work. I'm sure when a train is cancelled the operators are under some obligation to make amends. Buses are laid on at least. I've been in the States when an airline has had to cancel a flight and I saw passengers being offered hotel rooms overnight because... well, because you can't just leave people with nowhere to stay just because you've cancelled a flight. But here it seems you can. Ryanair cancelled the flight and we were told we could get a refund or we could rebook for the next day and that was that.
I don't think Ryanair actually have any staff on the ground themselves but the airport staff did a grand job of staying calm while dealing with a plane load of angry, stranded passengers. Myself and my travelling companion, Ed (see last blog) ended up having to stay over in Newquay and when you add the price of a hotel room into the mix those bargain airlines suddenly don't seem quite such a bargain. And because everything else was booked up we ended up staying in a rather bleak Best Western which was seemingly occupied entirely by a coach load of elderly German tourists unperturbed by its 1970s decor.
What a strange poetic injustice that my book tour should end like this. There I am promoting a book about my efforts to drive across the States without using any chains... and then circumstances beyond our control force me into the world's largest hotel chain. It felt oh so wrong. And yet stupidly inevitable at the same time. Ho hum.