March, 2013 : Norway
The temperature in Oslo was minus 17 and I hadn’t finished The New Countess, third in the trilogy, as I had hoped. It just wouldn’t finish easily. On the other hand a week out in a really cold climate might shock my brain into some useful new channel, not my hands just into uselessness on the computer. But I did worry. My shoes were too thin and I have no boots: I am not young: the blood tends to coagulate in the cold; not good. I’d have to sign books – possibly even lots – a new book, Habits of the House, translated by my favourite translator Hilde Sophie Plau; and my signature these days looks as if is a different person than the young me, which I don’t like at all. But a new publisher, the charismatic Arve Juritzen, and someone having won me as a prize for lunch – how could I chicken out?
I needn’t have worried. I wore husband Nick’s Ugg boots which – after some difficulty, particularly at Heathrow Security where I had to take them off: I have a very high instep and could have missed the flight getting them on again – and my feet were perfectly warm, aspirin kept the blood flowing. Signatures are like photographs: people who know you know what the real you looks like, and if they don’t it hardly matters what they think of the simulacrum – the hotel, the Continental, was superb – oysters and white wine and a Vietnamese transexual doing hair and make up to create a new and unfamiliar you everyday – lots of TV and media and Oslo itself snug in snow, friendly, beautiful, prosperous and myself at one with my readers: I have been publishing here for more than thirty years and feel very much at home.