Never take a Ryanair flight the evening before your Carousel interview. Here's a cautionary tale:
A couple of years ago I was sitting having a late afternoon drink in the lovely Piazza Maggiori with some other illustrators after the last day of meetings at the Bologna Book Fair. Two of us had to get to Forli airport that evening, an hour's drive away, to catch a Ryanair flight home.
I was beginning to worry about the Carousel interview with Chris Stephenson the next day. I'd once done an interview for radio with a warm up chat while a light shone red. When the light changed to green, we were on air. Mesmerized by the colour of the light, I became tongue tied. I was hoping the interview the next day wasn't going to end up like that.
Time for one last drink in the Piazza before dragging our cases of books and portfolios of artwork off to the station - strange there was no airport bus running that evening...
When we arrived at Forli we found there was no transport from the station to the airport. We waited the best part of an hour at a bus stop and eventually a Sicilian soldier joined us. In pidgin English, he started acting gallantly towards to my fellow illustrator who responded in pidgin Italian and, when an empty bus turned up, going somewhere other than the airport, he indicated she should get on it with him. I followed. It all felt very foolish. We were heading off into the dark - and had no idea where. Eventually the bus stopped in a housing estate and the driver made the three of us get off. We saw another bus was waiting. It was going to the airport - huge relief. At the airport the Sicilian soldier parted company chivalrously in pidgin English.
Forli airport was uncannily quiet - just a handful of book fair people like us looking in vain for the Ryanair flight to Stansted. But there was no flight that night - nothing until 10.20 am the following day. Ryanair had changed its schedule. We'd all had the email several months before informing us of the change. None of us had registered or believed Ryanair could do something so outrageous as moving a flight back by twelve hours. It wasn't just illustrators who had made the mistake; there was a publisher - male - there too. He looked so shame-faced he wouldn't speak to the rest of us. As we tried to decide what to do, the prices of the seats on the next Ryanair flight the following morning were going up by the minute. My friend decided to return to Bologna and hang out until the prices returned to normal but I couldn't do that. Chris Stephenson would be standing on my doorstep the next morning. How could I get in touch with him to tell him where I was? I didn't have his phone number. Who would know it? I found I had Jill Paton-Walsh and John Rowe Townsend's number and phoned them. They were in and still up but didn't know Chris' number. However, Jill rose to the challenge and, despite the hour, phoned all the authors she thought might know it -Ann Thwaite - Clive King - goodness knows who else - and finally got it.
Meanwhile, Forli airport closed for the night and all stranded passengers were packed off to a grizzly motel that did a roaring trade thanks to Ryanair’s schedule changes.
Spent a very uneasy night sharing a room with a packager. At breakfast, the publisher sat at a table on his own, unable to look anyone in the eye.
I think Chris thought I'd devised a clever plan for getting out of the interview because he immediately fixed up another time. When it did eventually happen some weeks later, I needn't have worried. Chris had no red or green light, no dictaphone, not even a note pad. When he interviews authors and illustrators he simply engages them in a friendly conversation about what they like talking about most - themselves and their work. He then cleverly writes the article from memory. Here's a link to mine: