They do say that one small, spur-of-the-moment decision can change your life.
The last 48 hours have been like nothing I have ever experienced before.
It all began very innocently: I was underneath the galley trying to stop the water pump squirting all over the ready-use stores when Jeremy Vine popped up on Radio Two to tell Ken Bruce he would be talking about “What we will miss when Lockdown ends.”
Well, of course, my lockdown was a bit different. As you now know, I skipped it entirely – or rather, I took the social distancing instructions seriously. Boris said: “Two metres”. I went for 3,629 miles.
I sent in my pennyworth to Radio Two. After all, my sister had suggested that particular instalment deserved a wider audience.
Years ago, it wouldn’t have been a problem. I had a column in Yachting World – and another in the Daily Telegraph. But now I’m old and past it. Most of my former colleagues are long gone – although old hacks never die. They just pontificate on Facebook.
I did send a couple of emails to the Guardian, although it wouldn’t surprise me if they lost them. Certainly, they never got back to me.
But Jeremy Vine not only read my email. He read it out on air to all his 7.42million listeners. I have it here: “I am over 70 and they were telling me that I would have to stay indoors for three months. Instead, I went sailing on my own. I thought I might get arrested if I went through the Dover Strait and so I went over the top of the Shetlands, down to the Azores in mid-Atlantic (didn’t stop) and then back to ask ‘Is it all over yet?’ It doesn’t seem to be and I had such a good time that as soon as a spare part arrives, I’ll be off again.”
It was a shame I missed it. I was on the phone at the time. Still, maybe there would be a flurry of listeners wanting to contact me saying: “Has he got a blog? Has he written a novel? Does he have a magical health supplement? Can I join his remote business and get paid to go sailing too?
Actually, no. I spent the afternoon with Woody Allen’s autobiography – and then sat up until two in the morning watching Love and Death on Prime.
So, I was still in bed idly marvelling at the news from the USA when the BBC rang: Would I do a ten-minute interview with Jeremy Vine?
Well, of course I would do an interview with Jeremy Vine. I felt sure I could find ten minutes at 1.30 (it doesn’t do to seem too keen).
No sooner did I press the “end call” button than I was out of the sleeping bag, making a list of points to cover and rehearsing my off-the-cuff rhetoric. Mustn’t forget to mention the blog. What would he ask? Just how far offshore is Rockall? Is it cheating to measure from the mainland? The Nutella joke is good… Remember the blog – write that down in big letters and keep it next to the phone…
So: An early lunch, charge the phone, ringtone to “silent” … not the best signal off Trefusis Point but we’re doing it on WhatsApp…
Of course, the rest – if not history – is certainly destined for my collection of favourite anecdotes. I was still talking when the messages started pinging in: “You’re on Radio Two!” (Yes, I know).
I remembered to mention the blog – in fact Jeremy repeated it at the end, bless him. The afternoon went by in a blur. Everybody rang up. Everybody had heard it – although when Tamsin gave her mother advance notice, Eira said: “But our Radio’s on Radio Four.”
– Well, change it, then.
“I don’t think we know how…”
Hits on the blog shot up to 5,000 – and counting…
The BBC got through to say “thank you” and how well they thought it had gone – and then rang back to say that a literary agent wanted to talk to me. Would it be all right to give him my number? (Please, can I pay you to give my number to a literary agent?)
This turns out to be Jeremy Vine’s literary agent – and Anton du Beke’s – and a whole lot of other people who I’m sure I would know if I paid more attention to popular culture.
Would I write a book? He was sure he could find a market for it. I had a novel too? Self-published on Amazon? Maybe he could find a home for that as well…
Of course, I mean yes – please… A proper publisher… and book tours… and chat shows and all that champagne and those little canapes with the caviar that falls off onto the carpet…
Ah, but wait: Maybe I should get back to him – just in case there was an email in my inbox with a million-dollar advance from Random House…
He sent me his CV.
I have spent this morning writing furiously to make up for lost time – except that I keep stopping every time the phone goes ping and somebody else wants the magic supplement. It’s just as well Facebook doesn’t ping – the part-time money people come in on Facebook because I need to check their profile pictures first (don’t ask). Also, Kindle Direct Publishing has to be refreshed every 20 seconds in case someone else has bought the novel.
Naturally, Random House let me down (and the galley pump is still leaking) but the blog is up to 55,000 hits. More than 300 information packs have gone out for the magic health supplement and I’ve raised the good-taste threshold for profile pictures before I agree to talk about the money thing.
Meanwhile, the agent has gone off to play the recording to all those proper publishers.
If you missed it, click on https://www.bbc.co.uk/sounds/play/m000khyn (I turn up at 1:36).