I’m in England. Huh, when I say it like that, it’s as if I just breezed halfway around the world during my lunch hour, instead of undergoing 30 hours of torture inside a metal tube with an 8-month old baby and a planeload of people conspiring to prevent her from sleeping.
Jen’s family live in England, and occasionally we fly over to visit them. We usually stay for at least a month, and—since the purpose of the trip is to spend time with them—visit absolutely no tourist attractions or places of interest. We just hang out in Bedford. For that reason, I have the general impression that all of England is a barely habitable crap-hole full of people who look like they’re about to stab you for your mobile phone, then use it to call their dealer.
Well, that’s not quite true; I have visited a few other places in England, and with one exception (Milton Keynes, I’m looking at you) they have been quite beautiful, or at least interestingly history-soaked. But Bedford is neither. I am told that Bedford’s heyday was in the 1950s, when the local brickworks was the town’s main employer, and you can tell this is true because every single house is constructed in the exact same style from the exact same red brick. Other Bedford attractions include the River Ouse (pronounced “ooze”), which is exactly as charming as it sounds and patrolled by highly aggressive ducks, and… no, actually, that’s it.
Most English people I speak to are hazy on where, exactly, Bedford is. The answer is you don’t care. I think you’re better off not knowing how close you may be to Bedford. If, in your ignorance, you do happen to stumble onto it, well, just hurry on before any of it gets on your clothes.
I have no publicity plans while I’m in England; for some reason my British publisher has always been reluctant to expose me to the public, like a girlfriend embarrassed to introduce me to her parents. I know what you’re thinking: at first I thought it was the hair, too. But no: apparently you just don’t do bookstore events in this country unless you are sufficiently famous. More sufficiently than me, I mean. I’m not sure why, exactly. Maybe it’s considered bad manners.
The police just chased some guy down the street right outside my window. I’m not kidding. Ah, Bedford.