Getting an Author Photo

Soon after emerging from the editing cave, blinking in the light, came two realizations: I would need to do some publicity, and I needed a new author photo.

It’s like that advert about changing your mattress regularly every eight years, when it dawns on you that the last time was a bit longer ago than you imagined.

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No, the FotoMat won’t do (not that kind of FotoMat, anyway). It’s strictly for driving licences, passports, and the FBI wanted list.

Neither will a selfie taken holding one of your own books and grinning maniacally. And definitely not the charming efforts taken with best mates in a giggly stupor.

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My husband declined to volunteer his skills. I didn’t need high-res images of thumbs. I needed a professional. Enter the brilliant Mat Smith Photography

Two hours with Mat and his assistant Anna taught me a lot. I have yet to study the results, but this I know:

1 There is such a thing as too much sunlight. Who the hell wears sunnies in an author photo?

FreeImages.com/Michell Botetano

2 Have lots of outfits to change into, but don’t use your entire wardrobe. Every single garment you choose for the photoshoot has to earn its keep.  No massive flowers, busy patterns, or shouty diagonal stripes. Consider the image you want to project (friendly, intellectual, offbeat?). Think too about the outfit in its own right. Or, as Mat and Anna would have it, “What does it SAY?” This is the best question I’ve ever heard about clothes, and I plan to take it with me every time I go shopping.

3 Avoid too many props. You don’t need to wear a stethoscope to convince people you’re a medic.

Hewlett Packard Rapaport Sprague stethoscope

4 Smile. It’s your natural face-lift. I base this advice on the fact that I look decades older if I keep a straight face. 

FreeImages.com/hamidreza ahmadi

5 Look into the camera rather than the distant horizon. It will make you look interested rather than aloof. Yes, this applies even if you have one dropping eyelid (most people do).

6 If you pose in the street, people will wonder whether you’re a celeb. It’s neat to have some publicity material to hand them, even if it’s from your last book.

One Night at the Jacaranda

What the Dalai Lama Didn’t Say

As invitations from a financial adviser go, this one was a tad unusual. But I was looking forward to what His Holiness the Dalai Lama had to say about compassion.

We’d been to the O2 Arena before. As I passed the famous balls at the entrance, I wondered: where on the spectrum between Monty Python and Ed Sheeran would this ageing religious rock star fit in?

blue balls in O2 entrance

I’d never met His Holiness, as he is called, but I’ve been on first name terms with one of his dogs. As a teenager, I earned pin money walking Chota Peg, a Lhasa Apso given by the Dalai Lama himself to a neighbour of ours. The breed’s distinguishing feature as far as a 13-year old dog walker is concerned is that its back end looks just like its front, which may explain why I never knew which way we were going.

Now, what to wear to hear His Holiness at the O2? My son assured us that the Dalai Lama would surely be content if we rolled up in yellow sheets, but the good people in hospitality would probably expect us to be in clothes.

So, clothes it was.

Protesters formed a tidy encampment outside the venue.

protest against 'False Dalai Lama'

I can’t fault the O2, especially if you’re hungry or thirsty. We poked our heads into the VIP lounge which has a 70s vibe and possibly the best Bloody Marys in the world, though that wasn’t what we’d come for.

VIP lounge at O2

The Dalai Lama’s warm-up acts were an amazing singer and a young choir. In appreciation, His Holiness bestowed garlands and pats on the head. There’d have been suspicions had he been a Catholic priest or an iconic DJ.

The real disappointment of the day was the Dalai Lama’s address. Martin Luther King he wasn’t. And I should know

The audience was there to hear about compassion as the foundation of well-being. But the man was rambling and inaudible, and, without surtitles à la Glyndebourne, almost incomprehensible. Was the sound system at fault? We cupped our ears, straining to catch the words, trying hard to work out which way he was going.

I’ve heard that HH has spoken eloquently on many occasions. Saturday was not one of them. The unstructured address was punctuated by his trademark chuckling at his own jokes. The question and answer session at the end was even worse. If this was the poster boy for peace and harmony, no surprise the world is in such a mess.  

However the day was not a total loss. The weather was kind and we’d met some interesting people at the event. Fortified by vodka and friendship, we went on the Emirates Air Line

cable car

It’s only a ten minute journey in a cable car, during which you can see Docklands and indeed much of London clearly, including the City and the Thames Barrier. I watched the Thames flow, barges glide past, people amble, trains roll by. 

view of O2 and Docklands

We got off at Victoria Docks and visited the Oiler, a bar on a barge. Next to it, people squeezed themselves into wetsuits and tried out water-skiing.

The Oiler, Docklands

It’s a good place to sit and reflect on peace, and on where to find it.

ooOoo

Easy tweet: What the Dalai Lama Didn’t Say at the O2 http://wp.me/p3uiuG-14C @DrCarolCooper strains to hear him

You may also like:  Dalai Lama says female successor must be ‘very, very attractive’ otherwise she is ‘not much use’; in Times of India.

 

A cure for the shopping habit

I doubt I’ll ever buy another thing. The price of accumulating stuff is a periodic clear-out, and if that means another car boot sale, the aversion therapy has worked.1181530_at_the_flea_market crop

Car boot sales mean getting up ridiculously early.  At 6.45am the venue was already buzzing. We’d barely opened the tailgate when people started poking around, helpfully extracting our stuff from boxes and baskets.  They drifted off when they realised we had no vinyls, military badges or priceless artwork going for a song.

We did have clothes, books and general bric-a-brac.  One man spent ages doing and undoing every zip on a rucksack.  He returned half an hour later to do it all again before buying it.

Some had a specific mission: football club badges, trousers for work, king-sized bed-linen.  For others it was a day out.  One young woman sipped from a trendy Mason jar drinker as she strolled around.  I looked for the cameraman, sure that she was on a shoot.

When we weren’t helping folks try on suits (‘It’s a 42” chest’ I reminded the XXL man who was trying to pour himself into a pinstripe jacket), there was always people-watching.  Ankle socks and high heels were the favoured footwear for women.   One woman walked around with Chihuahuas stuffed down her front.  Her puppies?  I’ve no idea.  

chihuahuas cropThere were lots of kids, not always supervised.  A toddler bashed a wooden train to pieces on the concrete. His parents ignored him in favour of bargaining over a laundry bag.  Many people had brought their dogs.  A spaniel cocked his leg against a tyre.  A man with two boxers asked about a picture-frame.  When I said it was 50p (about 75 US cents), the man said he’d go away and think about it.

Some people can’t resist the lure of towels they don’t need and books they don’t want. One woman picked up every book on our table, from Angels and Demons to Weaning Your Baby, then shrugged and told me she didn’t read.

The weather turned windy and cool, but I could take my pick of warm clothes off our cheapo clothes rail.  By now the rail had toppled over several times.  Here it is lashed to the car with a printer cable.car boot sale

Nobody bought the printer anyway.  Seems there’s not much call for elderly printers with empty cartridges. Who’d have thought?

We had to keep our eyes open or things could go walkies, but there were sales to make.  At £8-£10 each (about $13-$16), the suits went fast. ‘Looks great on you’ said my husband as another punter tried on a jacket, checking his reflection in a car window.

For those of you who’ve never done a car boot sale, you can buy or sell almost anything there: bikes, baby clothes, furniture, you name it.  It’s a bit like a flea market, minus the fleas.

Though, come to think of it, I’ve been itching quite a bit since.