Buh-bye, America. And thanks for all the pancakes.


So here I am, waiting in Kansas City Airport, trying to stop myself buying glittery red shoe souvenir tat, and mulling over the end of my brief American odyssey. I’m pretty sure that if I clocked up the miles I’d be headed into George Clooney Up In The Air territory. It’s all gone so fast that I can’t translate the impressions of half the places Ive been into any useful sort of prose, so instead I thought I’d list the things I thought I would do while on tour. And what I actually did.

1. Get fit. I planned to use every hotel gym as I travelled around. Hahahahahahaha. I was also going to use hotel menus to just eat salad and come home looking like Gwyneth Paltrow. Yup, Hahahaha again. (My gym kit did, however, become useful as impromptu nightwear.)

2. Work on my book. In truth, in the little downtime I had, I ended up flicking glassy-eyed through the 8792 television channels, answering email and trying to call home to speak to my children (who were missing me infinitely less than I was missing them and spent most of the precious phone minutes explaining arcane and complex rules of various computer games)

3. Sleep a lot. (yeah, see 1.) Most mornings you are getting up at 6 to find your way to the next airport. If you are like me this will also mean that you wake up at 3am, 4am, 4.30am and 5am because you are panicked about sleeping through the alarm and missing the flight.

Obligatory "pointing at sign" travel photo

4. Write an interesting travelogue about the places I travelled through. In fact you move so fast that it’s almost impossible to digest what it is you are experiencing. Hence each day feels a little like: HEYI’MINTEXASOHLOOKAGUNRANGEANDA CHURCHANDANOTHERCHURCHOOHNICEHOTELHELLOLOVELYBOOKSHOPEOPLESIGNSTOCKWHYSUREOHGOSHI’MTIREDYUMBARBECUESAUCEOHLOOKIT’S6AMANDI’MOFFTOANOTHERAIRPORT…

So bearing in mind the utter failure of my intentions, here are the things that actually happened on tour.

American bookshops: happy for you to draw on their walls

1. People turned up to my events. This was a bit surprising, as like all authors I am well aware that ‘author event’ can mean 200 people in a jolly theatre, or two people who accidentally wandered into the wrong end of the bookshop and are now too embarrassed to leave. Add to that the fact that I am, you know, English, and I was fully expecting the latter. That I had such nice, enthusiastic audiences I am ascribing partly to the amazing reviews in the NYT and People, but also laying largely at the feet of the various independent bookstores that held them. It has been one of the great discoveries of this tour that the indies of the US are in such good shape. Long may it last.

A light lunch at Texas's Goode Company Barbecue

2. I was defeated by nearly every single meal I was served. Those who know me know I can eat, so this was a source of acute embarrassment to me. One day I am going to sit and watch an actual American eat an actual stack of blueberry pancakes. Until that day I refuse to believe that anybody can manage a whole plate unless it is divided into individual portions, frozen, and served over several weeks. Possibly to an entire school.

Dear Raphael Hotel, Kansas City. No-one needs this many pillows. No-one.

3. I got ill (see previous blog post). This was despite my multivitams, my berrocca, my intense handwashing habit, and the fact that I spent most of my time at airports with my scarf pulled over my face like the Lone Ranger. Manufacturers of Advil, I love you with a passion you can only imagine.

4. I got better at flying. As a former weeper and clutcher of armrests, I have in the past 12 days, flown every single aircraft and weather condition that I might have had nightmares about (including tornado air). Sometimes even without Valium. Garry, the very nice Texan I sat next to yesterday as we flew out of Houston, may have even persuaded me that take-off is a ‘rush’. Maybe.

5. I realised I want to be called Ma’am for the rest of my life. I think I may start a campaign to introduce it in the UK. There is almost no statement that can’t be improved by the word ‘ma’am’, from ‘would you like maple syrup with that’, to ‘oh your accent is SO funny’. I made every single flight, and every single event, despite misunderstandings about time zones across America, The Great American Lurgy, and airports the size of some small African countries. (Dallas Ft Worth any airport that requires an actual Blade Runner airborne tram thingy to get you from gate to gate is TOO BIG).

6. I made a lot of new friends, ate a lot of new food, and got to add a few places to my ever-growing-list of Places I Would Quite Like To Live One Day. Time to board now, but thank you America for making me feel so welcome.

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