Jill Mansell - Diary Spring 2007
Spring 2007 | Summer 2007 | New Year 2008 | Book Tour 2008 |
May 2009 | February 2010 | June 2010 | May 2011 | October 2011 | February 2011
OK then, here goes my first attempt at writing a diary since I was sixteen. There’ll probably be less about snogging this time around. Not so many lists of boys I fancy – although that reminds me, there’s a book I want to pick up in a minute, the unauthorized biography of someone I have a very big crush on. Don’t laugh, it’s not funny. It’s Ricky Gervais.
Anyway, I’m sitting here in the first-class departure lounge of South African Airways and I’ve just eaten free crisps and had a free cup of coffee. This is so cool! And there are free magazines too. I could get so used to this. It’s my first time at Heathrow – sorry, I sound like such a hick – and the shopping’s great. I can’t believe how big this place is. Just welled up and almost made a fool of myself because there’s a piece on the TV about Phil Lynott. It’s twenty-one years today since he died. He’s another one I used to have a crush on. He wasn‘t your classical good-looker either, bless his heart.
I’m on the plane now. It’s 8:30p.m. and they’ve just switched the lights off. They’re trying to make us go to bed. It’s like we’re all five years old! So that’s why we were served three courses of dinner in thirty minutes flat. (Parma ham and melon, fillet steak in port sauce and fab vegetables, cheese and biscuits and South African port.) They’re endlessly plying us with wine – I keep having to cover my glass, which is most unlike me. Oh, and there’s no in-flight entertainment because the computer’s on the blink. Never mind, I’ve got Ricky Gervais to keep me company.
It’s now 3:45a.m. and we’ve just been woken and served our three course breakfast. Slept from 10:30p.m. till 3:00a.m. There’s now the most fantastic sunrise starting to happen. This has been a lovely flight – so much better than I was expecting (thanks to it being business class!). The man next to me is from Belgium. He very sweetly apologized and said, 'There is only one famous Belgian – Hercule Poirot. And he is not even a real person.'
4:10a.m. Oh wow, the sun has just risen over the horizon in thirty seconds flat. Red, red, orange, yellow, as fast as that.
9:20a.m. It takes forty minutes from the airport to the Grace Hotel in Rosebank. Johannesburg is vast and full of robots. I know! That’s their name for traffic lights! Turn left at the next robot, turn right at the next robot. I keep expecting to see C3PO and R2D2.
The hotel is wonderful. Anika and Claire, the publicists from Jonathan Ball Publishers who distribute my books here in SA, are lovely and so welcoming. I have this evening free but I’m exhausted.
It’s now 7:45p.m. and I’ve just done that awful sitting-alone-in-an-empty-restaurant thing, typical author-on-tour scenario. Was going to order room service but thought that would be wimping out. Brilliant food, but next time I’ll wimp out. I’m shattered and have to be up at 4:00a.m. tomorrow. Luckily the TV is rubbish. I’ll read a bit of my Ricky Gervais book then crash out. Claire flatly refuses to believe he was once gorgeous so I’ll have to show her the photos to prove it.
Today we went to Constitution Hill, where the old prison was and the new Courts of Justice now stand. Very moving. Nelson Mandela was held here, amongst thousands of others, in unspeakable conditions.
Had a radio interview with Jenny Crwys-Williams, which went fine. The Sunday Times interview has been postponed – they’re now doing it via email.
Oh – in the restaurant tonight, the lovely waiter said 'Excuse me, ma’am, is your meal delightful?'
Bought Cory something I hope he’ll like in the mall adjoining the hotel – a pair of real handcuffs. Anika thinks I’ll be able to buy a spear too. (What can I say? My son is twelve.)
I'm finding rands confusing. Really hope I didn’t tip the waiter 2p. R20 – is that right? Beautiful main course plus amuse bouche was R80. No starter, no dessert, too knackered.
Oh – brilliant idea! The petrol stations here have people to fill the car for you. Haven’t seen that for thirty years. Why can’t we do that again in the UK? I’d love that to happen. Shall speak to Richard Branson and ask him to organize it. I'm fed up with getting mucky oily hands. Anika and Claire find it absolutely bizarre that we have to do it ourselves, as if we’re back in the dark ages.
Right, bed now. There’s only so much CNN news a girl can watch. Even with two TVs. I’m in this fantastic suite with two bathrooms and weird foreign birds swooping past the windows. (I’m on the 10th floor.) What a waste for just me. Wish my family could be here. (Erk, Anika asked if I would consider a trip to Australia.)
Ooh, one more thing. What’s a springbok? I thought it was a rugby player. But it was on the menu tonight, slow-roasted.
Up at 4:00a.m. to do a TV show at 5:30a.m. Five minutes on breakfast news. The presenter sounded as if she’d read the book, which was good.
Back at hotel by 6:15a.m. for a cooked breakfast. Now it’s 9:30a.m. and I’m off to the next thing. Observation of the day is how incredibly chatty and polite people are. I thought Anika knew all the hotel staff really well, but she doesn’t at all – it's just that when you see someone you greet them with genuine enthusiasm as if they’re your long-lost best friend, and they do the same in return… even if they’re complete strangers. Well, it certainly fooled me. I’ve told her she’s going to get a horrible shock when she visits London. Probably best if she doesn’t try it on the tube…
5:15p.m. Tuesday. Shattered now. After the TV show I did my hour-long talk. Everyone loved it and Anika overheard lots of complimentary remarks in the loos! Had lunch at a Vietnamese restaurant – garlic plus garlic with added garlic. Pity the poor people I’m seeing this afternoon.
The radio show on SAFM was great. Thabiso Sikwane was the host, very enthusiastic – never reads fiction but can’t put my book down and really loves it. After that, a book-signing at Exclusive Stores.
And when I got back to the hotel there was an email from Dad telling me he’d just listened to my interview on SAFM! Isn’t technology marvellous?
Wednesday. Up at 7:00a.m., dressed and ready to leave for Cape Town later. First I have to do a talk at the Hilton. Last night’s dinner was great – met the Exclusive sales managers. It was lovely to be able to eat outside, and no mosquitoes.
There's a baby bird popping its head out of the nest-made-of-feathers outside my window. Every few seconds another bird swoops up to check it’s okay, then every now and again it gets fed. As soon as it retreats into the nest, the manic swooping stops.
1:10p.m. At the airport now! Just ate a Kauai wrap that was so gorgeous I didn’t even realize it was from a health food bar. There’s a first. Why aren’t there Kauai shops in the UK? Shall ask Richard Branson to send some over immediately.
Also forgot to say – learned last night that in South Africa it’s perfectly legal to go through red traffic lights at night. (Jump the robots.)
The Hilton talk was funny. One of the audience, aged around eighty, said, 'You’ve written a book? Oh well done! How many pages?' Anyway, it’s now 6:30p.m. and I’m at the Villa Belmonte, in the Butterfly Room, and they’re going to have to prise me out of here with a giant crowbar. It's stunning. Maeve Binchy stays here when she’s in Cape Town. Dinner soon with Cape booksellers, but I’m still full from my Kauai wrap. Indian restaurant on the waterfront. Fab. There’s a bird with a huge beak perched on my balcony. My God, I’m turning into a birdwatcher. I think it’s an ibis. Or possibly an ibex. One of those names that come in handy when you’re playing scrabble.
11:30p.m. Fabulous evening. Have fallen in love with Cape Town. Have to move here ASAP. Elmarie, who also works for Jonathan Ball Publishers is fab.
Three important things I learned tonight:
(So sorry, two of these were jokes that are a bit too rude to relate here. I’ve had to delete them.)
And the third, what is the Afrikaans translation for candy floss? (This isn’t a joke, it’s real.) Ghost’s breath.
Brilliant day. Radio first, then a talk at the Golf Club meeting, which was great, so many lovely people, and a stunning venue. Then back for three consecutive hour-long interviews and photos at Villa Belmonte, which were a joy. I'm getting a bit fed up, though, with talking about me, me, me. Started trying to interview the journalists a couple of times, just for a change.
Dinner at Miller’s Thumb restaurant. Stunning food; had mushrooms with Parmesan (but it was sooooo much more than it sounds) and Cajun-grilled angel fish with amazing chips.
Possibly the best day of all. Great interview at the Mount Nelson Hotel (where the Queen stays and Bill Clinton too, but not together). Then radio with Gorry, a fantastic character who came bursting into the ladies' loo and introduced herself to me from outside the cubicle while I was inside having a wee. Afterwards we did a bit of shopping in the African market – I made Anika barter for a spear (because I was too embarrassed to do it). Then on to the next interview, with Di from Fair Lady magazine, who was brilliant and didn’t use a tape recorder or take notes. Talk Radio show next, and then the highlight of the week – we went up Table Mountain in the cable car. Words fail me – look at the pictures on the internet and they still won’t do it justice. We were there at the same time as a group of VIPs surrounded by security men in suits, shades and earpieces who took their work very seriously and looked extremely fierce, until they got all excited about being up there and started jumping around and taking each other’s photographs…
We also saw a girl who’d just got engaged on the summit – her boyfriend had produced a ring and proposed. Lots of people were drinking champagne up there too, and phoning everyone they knew to announce proudly where they were.
Poor Anika doesn’t enjoy walking, but she’s such a star, being my travel guide and carrying my things even when I keep trying to grab them back. Oh, and my biggest filling fell out of my tooth while we were up there – great.
Then I went out to dinner with Anika, Claire and Elmarie. Discovered a stunning new pasta sauce – chilli, tomato, cream, wine and curry powder. Looked in lots of estate agents' windows and dreamed about buying a huge house overlooking the sea.
no more press interviews, just sightseeing, hooray! We went to Ann’s bookshop in Kalk Bay – Ann gave up an amazing job as editor of a glossy magazine because she saw this place and fell in love with it. Then on to see the penguins on Boulders Beach at Simon’s Town, then a winery where we bought … wine! Next was lunch in Stellenbosch, a gorgeous university town, followed by a tour of the coastline (where the sea was a spooky deep orange instead of its usual dazzling blue). At breakfast the weather had been horrendous – horizontal rain, howling gale, low cloud – but by 11:00a.m. it was perfect: sunny and hot and calm. What a great recovery. We went shopping in a mall, for presents to take home.
Throughout the trip, everyone has been taking one look at me and my clothes and exclaiming that I have to visit this shop called Lulu Belle. And now Anika brought me to it. It was so me it was ridiculous. If we’d had more time my credit card would have gone into meltdown. It was like the mother-ship calling me home: sparkly and glittery and beautiful in every way. Bought other bits and pieces and then lovely Anika, Claire and Elmarie took me to the airport and we had a bit of an emotional goodbye. After that I shopped some more and, having resisted buying an ostrich egg all week, gave in and bought one. Heaven knows why.
6:30 p.m. On the plane now, and we‘ve just taken off. I’m in a huge padded seat that goes flat, and I’ve just been given a hot flannel, cold champagne, a pot of nuts (macadamia, cashews, almonds) and a copy of the Evening Standard. Our air hostess’s name is Serenity – can it get any better than that? And I’m watching Dreamgirls, because we have in-flight entertainment this time – yay! More great food, more champagne. I wish I could be like the girl sitting next to me who works for the World Bank and very sensibly asked Serenity for just water and fresh fruit, nothing else. But I can’t help myself, I have no self-control and am just hoovering up everything on offer. I’m afraid I’ll never be stylish.
And now this is the end of my diary of a book-tour virgin. I’ve really enjoyed writing it. More importantly, I’ve discovered I love South Africa, and Cape Town has well and truly won me over. One day I’ll be back…