petite anglaise

March 10, 2008


Filed under: book stuff, on the road — petiteanglaiseparis @ 11:50 am

The first time I saw the schedule for my trip to the UK, one section in particular caught my attention. From 9.15 am to 1.00 pm on Wednesday I would be doing GNS interviews, back to back, whatever they might be.

At the time of writing this post, I realise I’m still none the wiser about what GNS actually stands for. Gruelling National Speak-a-thon, perhaps?

Imagine, if you will, a tiny studio at BBC Broadcasting House. I sit at a desk covered in some sort of material, which is less than ideal for setting down cardboard cups of coffee as the surface is treacherously uneven. In front of me sit a large microphone and a pair of headphones. Over the course of a few hours I am to speak to fifteen local radio stations who have booked ten minute slots of my time. Some will be live, others will be pre-recorded. By 1.00 pm I’m told I’ll have been beamed into the homes of three million listeners.

I’m not feeling particularly intimidated by the prospect. Probably because I’ve already had the pleasure of talking about suppositories on live national radio earlier that week and, that very morning, I briefly parked my buttocks on the couch of BBC Breakfast. Radio is like blogging: I talk, but I can’t see my listeners and they can’t see me. There is none of the fear of falling quite literally flat on my face as I creep into a TV studio, step over all the trailing wires, and take my seat next to the presenter while she talks live, on air. There’s nothing quite as paranoia-inducing as having to stick your hand up your skirt to feed a tiny microphone up inside when you are approximately 10 cm outside the range of a live camera.

By 10.30 am I’m crossing my legs and trying not to think about wanting to go to the toilet. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve uttered the words “sock suspenders” and appear to have a number of other pet phrases I trot out at regular intervals, which you will have heard if you were tuned into BBC radio Newcastle or Jersey or Cornwall. Mostly the presenters are kind, asking straightforward questions and seeming interested and friendly, despite the fact they are unlikely to have given Penguin’s press release more than a cursory glance. A couple of them actually quote sentences from the book, which I find impressive. And those that introduce me as petite anglais or petit anglaise – effectively transforming me into a shemale – are in the minority.

Then comes the unpleasant exception: a pre-recorded interview where I’m questioned by two clearly unsympathetic presenters, a man and a woman. The line of questioning is tough from the outset. ‘Wasn’t it completely insensitive of me to write about real people?’, they enquire. ‘What about Mr Frog’s feelings in all of this? And how do I think my daughter will feel when she reads it one day?’ Their tone and tack seem to indicate that they find the whole concept of blogging and memoir writing thoroughly distasteful.

I explain, patiently, that the book is dedicated to my daughter and her father, and that Mr Frog not only had to sign forms to say he was happy with the portrayal of his personal life but he actually enjoyed the finished product. Some parts more than others, obviously, and I had to make a few minor changes at his request. But overall I think he comes off well in the book. He’s a far more likeable character than the narrator, in my opinion, and is, arguably, the hero of the tale. As for Tadpole, I’m sure there will be moments in her teenage years when she will hate me for recounting her exploits or recording her sing. But will she squirm any more than I did when my parents got the baby photos out in front of guests? I’m willing to bet there will come a time when she’ll be pleased so much of her childhood has been preserved for posterity. In the same way that I now love the silent super8 films recorded by my granddad when I was little and wish that he’d made more.

By the end of the interview I feel as though my interrogators have thawed somewhat, and our chat ends on a pleasant note. The researcher comes back on the line and thanks me for my time, and for a few moments I can still hear the presenters wrapping up the interview with the usual ‘petite anglaise, published by Michael Joseph, is available in all good bookshops’.

But, when the recording is over, just before the line goes dead, I hear the woman say something to the man and my heart stops beating. It’s a word which was clearly not intended for my, now burning, ears. A word said so dismissively, so spitefully that it brings tears to my eyes. I whip the headphones off and stare at my Press officer (who has been sitting on a sofa in the corner throughout, also wearing headphones) in disbelief.

‘That presenter just called me a SLAPPER!’ I say, incredulously, unsure whether I’m about to laugh or cry. She looks horrified, but we don’t have time to talk as BBC Radio Ulster have just dialled in. Carrying on as though nothing were amiss requires every ounce of professionalism I possess, but somehow I manage to hold it together.

Next time we have a two-minute gap and our BBC contact man pops his head cheerily around the door, I recount what I heard earlier. He scurries off to investigate, then returns, armed with an apology and an explanation so far-fetched that I’m almost tempted to believe it.

They have their own brand of banter, the two presenters in question, you see. He always monopolises female guests, and talks to them in a different, slightly flirtier voice. And when he does so, once they are off the air, she’s in the habit of calling him a slapper. So it wasn’t directed at me; it wasn’t even about me. Allegedly.

Now, I have a friend I often refer to as ‘slag’ to her face, with such an affectionate tone that it’s almost become a term of endearment.

But I can’t shake off the feeling that there was venom in the voice I overheard. I don’t think I believe that it was harmless banter. And although I shouldn’t care about the opinion of one ill-informed stranger, I find that I do.

The upshot of this is that, for me, the ‘S’ in GNS will forever be associated with the word ‘slapper’. Which just leaves the small matter of the ‘G’ and ‘N’.

March 7, 2008


Filed under: book stuff — petiteanglaiseparis @ 12:45 pm

While I catch up on all the bits and pieces clogging up my inbox, I thought it might be worth pointing out that, having embarked on a whistle stop tour of a few London bookshops yesterday, signed copies of petite are now available from:

  • Waterstone’s, Harrods
  • Waterstone’s, 91 Oxford Street
  • Waterstone’s, Garrick Street
  • Waterstone’s, Trafalgar Square
  • Blackwell’s, Charing Cross Road
  • Selfridges
  • Waterstone’s, 41 Oxford Street (Opposite Selfridges)
  • Foyles, Charing Cross Road
  • Foyles, St Pancras station

Signed copies are also available up North in:

  • Little Apple bookshop, Petergate, York
  • Waterstones, York
  • Borders, York
  • Waterstones, Albion Street, Leeds
  • Borders, Briggate, Leeds

This picture was taken at the Foyles bookshop in St Pancras station at their official launch party, yesterday evening. I signed about 100 copies of the book in the time available before I had to check in for the last Eurostar, which meant forgoing the lovely canapés and declining a refill of champagne. (I think that’s called suffering for my art.)

It was lovely to hear that “petite” is one of their bestselling titles, and to see huge piles of my book prominently displayed in several different places around the shop.

If you are desperate to get your hands on a signed copy – and I’ve lost track of the number of people who have contacted me by email about this – and are not anywhere near London, Leeds or York then Philippa of Little Apple would be happy to arrange to post you a signed copy, while stocks last.

Appeal for help!

If anyone is able to grab the sound file from the BBC Radio Five Live interview with Victoria Derbyshire yesterday (Thursday 6 March, 2 hours and 14 minutes in) I’d be really grateful. Can’t work out how to do this using garageband…

Similarly the interview which starts about 35 minutes into today (Friday 6th)’s edition of the Tubridy show on RTE (quite long, quite personal, I get called a “bitch” at one point!) – I’d love to have a copy for posterity, as the listen again function is only there for a short time…

These are now all on the book press page.

More later…

March 5, 2008

fading fast

Filed under: book stuff, on the road — petiteanglaiseparis @ 7:56 am

Got to my hotel in London at 12.30 am last night, and am just about to throw on my clothes and head down to BBC Breakfast. If anyone is able to record my slot and pop it onto YouTube, I would be eternally grateful. (Thankfully I’m up near the end, just before 9 am. There had been talk of an earlier slot too, but the gods were smiling on me and some important news took precedent, earning me a couple of hours of extra lie-in).

If you have a radio on, there is a chance you might hear me today as I’m doing a ton of short, sharp local radio slots between 10am and 1pm. I doubt they could possibly rival my experience at BBC Radio York yesterday, where the previous guests had been a basketful of chuckling ferrets. (I kid you not.)

I’ll also be chatting to Victoria Derbyshire on Radio Five Live – somewhere in the region of 10.30-11.00 am. update: this is now happening today, Thursday 6 March.

Tune in (before I fade away).

March 3, 2008


Filed under: book stuff, on the road — petiteanglaiseparis @ 2:07 pm

When the nice lady from Woman’s Hour suggested I do a very short reading from the very first post on this blog, I’d forgotten it contained the phrases “par voie anale” and “ring sting”.

“What on earth is my mother going to say?” I gasped, wondering whether my (lovely) Penguin PR and her assistant (known, for one week only, as “petite’s bitches”) should stage some sort of an intervention.

You can listen again here (I was first up on the show, so it won’t take you long). Something appears to have gone wrong with the subtitling of the accompanying article, mind. There is no record deal in the works that I know of.

Am now making liberal use of the free wi-fi on my train to Leeds, and trying to rein in my excitement about meeting Harry Gration in the flesh later this evening. Also reading the Guardian Unlimited review.

Update: Look North is now scheduled to be pre-recorded tomorrow to air in the evening while I’m giving my book reading.

News programmes are tricky to predict, obviously, as breaking news items take precedence. Which is why I’m still waiting for proper confirmation about:

  • BBC breakfast – Wednesday morning
  • Radio Five Live (Victoria Derbyshire) – Wednesday morning
  • Five News with Natasha Kaplinksy – Wednesday evening

Fingers crossed!

« Newer PostsOlder Posts »

Blog at