Being an author these days demands a variety of skills quite apart from the ability to write. In order to promote and publicise your books you have to develop public speaking and performance skills, you have to learn to deal politely with your detractors and you have to grab absolutely every opportunity that you can to get out and tell the world about your novels. Just before I fell down the stairs into the cellar and knackered my leg, I was lined up to do two pieces of work for the BBC. On January 4th I was due to appear on Radio 4’s ‘Excess Baggage’ show talking about İstanbul and on the 8th I was going to be one of Robert Elm’s ‘Listed Londoner’s’ on BBC Radio London.
Happily for me, ‘Listed Londoner’ was rescheduled for the 8th March – it’s on at 12.15 and it’s live if you’re around. But ‘Excess Baggage’ was a one off and so I really did want to get down to London for that if I could. My orthopaedic consultant wasn’t happy about it, but I was adamant.
Of course we were still languishing, here in the UK, underneath the heaviest snowfall for forty years which made going anywhere a nightmare. And so if I am honest it was with some relief that I learned that arrangements had been made for me to do my broadcast down the line to London from BBC Manchester. All I had to do was get there which was where my poor long, suffering husband came in.
Admittedly he offered to drive me in to the city. He also knew up front that I was not allowed to put my broken leg anywhere near the ground. But when I hopped up to the front door and looked over the, to me, enormous step that I had to leap in order to get out of the house he must have thought, as I did, ‘What!!!’ I couldn’t swing myself over. I broke my right leg, I am right handed and I just didn’t trust my left leg to support me. I hopped feebly and tried but I just couldn’t do it. It was only when my husband said, ‘Look you just have to or you’ll let down the BBC!’ that I took, literally, a leap of faith and got myself over. My left leg hurt like hell and I was sweating with the strain of it but I did it. Elated, I hopped to the car and then took five minutes to get in but then we were off.
BBC Manchester were absolutely wonderful about providing parking for the car and a wheelchair for me. I didn’t like the feeling of everyone talking over my head all the time, but it did give me an enhanced respect for disabled people which perhaps would be a lesson to us all. I managed to get myself into the studio without the aid of the wheelchair and found an old stool on which to prop up my broken leg. I would have liked some water to lubricate my throat but because a water main had burst in the centre of the city, I couldn’t have any.
When the time came, I had what amounted to a very pleasant chat with the interviewer, John McCarthy, about İstanbul. I talked about my favourite parts of the city, about İstanbul European Capital of Culture 2010 and what the city means to me and to my series characters. There I was, a woman with a broken leg and no water talking down a microphone to a man who, back in 1991, had been released after five years in captivity in the Lebanon. John’s time as a ‘guest’ of the Islamic Jihad organisation had made him a household name. We didn’t talk about that of course, it was quite the wrong time, wrong place. But it occurred to me then just what writers as a group of people do to get their stories and to make sure that the world hears them. In no way am I comparing myself to John McCarthy. A broken leg is very small potatoes in comparison to being held as a hostage for five years. But I think there is a little bit of a soldier in all of us and I think that as I leapt out of my house on that snowy January morning I, albeit briefly, channelled my own inner warrior.