Wednesday, 8 July 2015

Terror and the radio

So I had to do this terrifying interview.

You know me. Am I the sort of woman who should be let loose on public radio answering questions? That lethal blend of someone who has been in trouble with authority figures since birth, and has nothing in her head at all except the current version of her own truth.

The Badger spoke to me soothingly before I went. He said, do what politicians do. Have something ready to say, and say it whatever they ask you. I stared at him wildly. Have something ready to say? How do you mean? In what sense? I have nothing in my head, nothing but whirling terror. Or joy. Or boundless freedom. Or ecstatic joy. Depends what day it is.

So anyway, I went. I didn’t have to go. Simon the publicity man fixed it up, but even he had doubts (he’s met me) and said I needn’t go if I didn’t want to. But, seriously: what’s a publisher to do? They took me on. This month they have four books out with me – vols 4-6 of The Hawk & the Dove new edition, and a brand new book – through the ecclesiastical year with Sid and Rosie chatting about life, the universe and everything in 52 Original Wisdom Stories. I know almost no one, hardly never go out, am an important acclaimed well-known speaker at zero events in zero circles of people. They’ve got to have some means of letting the world know these books exist, having invested all that time and money in them, having believed in them enough to take them on.

So I thought I’d better go.

Our Alice came with me, because I was afraid, and because the traffic-infested people-heaving torrential London Streets are too busy for what I have become – what A.A.Milne called ‘a small animal entirely surrounded by water’. Like this.

It cost us a lot of money. The return train fare to London was £22.40 (each). The return tube fare to Pimlico (one stop!) was £9.60 each. It cost our Alice 50 to go to the loo at the Ladies Room on Victoria Station. 50p!! Why?

But we went. Take your books, the Badger said: yes – just take them. So I did.

It turned out the radio people had, to my utter astonishment, actually taken the trouble to read my books. There were two people, a man and a lady. The lady had read The Hawk & the Dove (not the whole lot obviously, just vol.1) and the man had read the 52 Original Wisdom Stories.

They were very kind to me – pleasant and encouraging, friendly. I passed through the whole thing in a kind of surreal semi-out-of-body state. I have no idea – no recollection at all – what I said to them.

Three things stick in my mind. The interview happened in three segments, which meant that at a certain moment in each of the three bits, the man with headphones on (who was introduced to me but my mind had frozen by then so I can’t tell you what his name was) would move forward, pointing his index finger tellingly at a machine. I didn’t know why but assumed it meant something was stopping (I didn’t know when). This alarmed me and I didn’t know if I should carry on talking, but the lady – who had the sweetest, friendliest face, smiled encouragingly at me; so I did, for a while.

The second thing I remember from the interview intensified unbearably yesterday while we were watching Hamlet. In among all the paranoia and deception of that play, I was seized with terror and anxiety because of a thing the interview man asked me.

In the 52 Original Wisdom Stories, there’s a piece about climate change, called Perfect Storm, which addresses the conclusion of scientists like Frank Fenner that humanity has only about 100 years left on earth. They asked me about that.

I know – believe me I do know – that my views on fracking and planetary hospice make me seem even crazier than everything else about me does. So I was completely freaked out. Oh God, what should I say? How can I get out of this? Where can I hide? Can I leave now? But, I wrote it so I had to speak to it. [Space for expletives here ………………………]

After I’d seen Hamlet, all full of mad people, I felt even more paranoid about it, and went to bed telling myself, calm down, be realistic. People think you’re crazy and a liability already, hey, what’s the difference? Besides, it’s all true.

And the third thing I remember: I suggested they ask me about the ‘dones’ – people who are faithful Christians but no longer go to church. What I hadn’t anticipated was what they would ask me – how to get them back? Because the question surprised me (I'd never asked myself that), usual thing, I could only think of what I believe – that simplicity is the answer. Living simply will speak to souls who have become discouraged and wandered away. I felt ashamed, because it sounded so feeble and unlikely – unless you’ve tried it of course, and then you know.


In the last bit of the interview, the lady spoke with such warmth and enthusiasm and kindness about The Hawk and the Dove. She hadn’t come across my books before, and she said she really loved it, which made me feel so happy I offered to give her the rest of the new edition, seeing Badger had insisted I bring the with me. But she smiled at me, so friendly and kind, and put her hand on mine and said, no, no, no, she’d get them herself. Here, surrounded by the financial stringency and plain truth, you see, I forget that there are people who can buy their own books easily, and people who don’t really mean what they say to you.

So taken all round the entire experience rather shook me to the roots. It was so good of Simon to fix it up for me to go to London and do that. It was exciting and interesting to meet Ruth and Jeff the radio people, and they were so courteous and encouraging and affirmative.


Even so.

I will never, ever, ever do that again.

The interview was for a Premier Radio programme called In Good Company, that airs at 8.00pm (UK time) on a Sunday evening. It’s an interesting programme, and they interview all sorts of people. I don’t know when their interview with me will be aired, or if , with eyes screwed tight shut, I will have the courage to listen to it and find out what I actually said. Oh, holy saints, why am I like this?    


Jen said...

blimey - you are so brave! I have done a couple of interviews for the local internet news thing, which were filmed and broadcast. Utterly terrifying. I accidentally found it a year later and I thought it was ok. If I had watched it nearer the time I would have hated it

Maybe get someone to record it for you and listen to it at a later point? Like a year

and then maybe you won't be so horrified. I am sure you were great.

Looking forward to the retreat day tomorrow!

decided said...

On Saturday evening a friend of mine read a chapter from Hawk and the Dove out loud to us (Keeping Faith from the Wounds of God which is one of my favourite chapters). The ages of folk in the room were from 8 to 90 something and everyone really really enjoyed listening to having the story read. Some knew the story well, and for others it was all new. Somehow the shared experience of listening together made it more enthralling.
I know your post was about being on radio, so I'm probably totally off topic here, but have you ever thought of making audio books of the Hawk and Dove series?
If you could read them then the characters would sound like you meant them to. Or you could get some other people who can "do it right" :-)

Pen Wilcock said...

Jen ~ Yes; so looking forward to meeting you in person! :0) xx

Decided ~ What a lovely thing, to all sit round and hear a story! We do that here sometimes. Someone wrote to me recently wanting to make The Hawk & the Dove into an audio book. I did raise it with my publisher, but had no very clear answer. As I understand it, the publishing house would like to create, with a professional organisation, a system for producing many of their books as audio files. But so far, they haven't.


Ganeida said...

Of all the strange things I've done in my life the one I am most grateful for is the 3 years of college drama. I now have a mindset that says, *It's all pretend anyway, m'dear*. Otherwise I would be just like you. As it is, it's all pretend. God Bless you, Pen!

Terra said...

I think you are brave to have done the interviews. I would have the same reaction as you did, both to the idea and to the actually doing of the interviews. That is now a mountain you have conquered :)

Pen Wilcock said...



Pen Wilcock said...

I think pretending is no longer within my scope, Ganeida, inasmuch as I no longer even aspire to it. My hope was that I could be simple and humble and lowly enough to pass though the whole thing in peace. Apparently not!! xx

Elizabeth @ The Garden Window said...

I shall look forward to the interview and am sure you will have done well.

By the way, I have received a delightful parcel from your publisher and am eagerly devouring the next installments :-)

Pen Wilcock said...

Hooray! Hope you enjoy them! xx

Jenna said...

Oh,the paradox of the artist: the creative, ethereal soul who, at once, must grub around marketing their wares. I once met a rather urbane, seriously accomplished painter who frankly described his plight of trying to earn a living as "distasteful to say the least."

I look forward to reading comments of those who get to hear your radio debut.

Elizabeth @ The Garden Window said...

Review of #4 is up, and I loved it, even if parts of it just about broke my heart..

Pen Wilcock said...

Thank you so much! Off to read it . . .

Pen Wilcock said...

. . . Your reviews make me happy, Elizabeth, because you always seem to get what I meant. :0)

Thank you!! xx

Rapunzel said...

Why are you like this?

Because deary, you have a whole head full of stories.

If your were the sort to be running around being all posh and fancy the only story in your head would be the one about how posh and fancy you were, and the Good Lord knows we have enough people like that already.

Having braved the world, you can now take the learning of it back to your hermitage and let it simmer into something fine.

Pen Wilcock said...



Anonymous said...

Hi Penelope
Having to meet other people's expectations (or what we suppose they might be!) is a complete bummer! Have to be in the public eye a bit myself, don't like it, just want to do the work God blessed me with the ability to do. Keep on being you. We are blessed by your presence

Pen Wilcock said...

:0) xx

Penny said...

Love your honesty, and courage.
Hope you have recovered and are enjoying the rest and replenishment of things you were more designed for. :)
(PS. noticed you've ducked from facebook again. Miss your thoughtful voice in that shermozle of noise.)

Pen Wilcock said...

Hello, friend! Waving! Yes - I'm off Facebook for a while. I find it somewhat overwhelming. Lovely to hear from you. xx