Continued from last week's Part 6 - The Call from England, Our First Book Contract.
For our second book, The Encyclopedia of Papermaking and Bookbinding, my Mom Mary and I got to travel to London, England for two weeks. The plan was to have all of the step-by-step photos taken by the DIY photographer Paul Forrester in his London studio.
What's a step-by-step? It's the individual steps that it takes to do each project in a DIY/craft book. In writing the book, we broke down each and every project into individual steps to help the reader reproduce the project in their home. An example is this page which shows the eight steps to doing the Layering technique:
A lot of photos are required for a book the size of this one. Since the book contained 51 different projects + gallery shots and a total of 158 pages, we had two weeks (or 10 working days) to take approximately 700 photos. This meant shooting a minimum of 5 projects per day. It was an ambitious schedule and we had to be very organized and well-prepared to make things go smoothly.
We arrived in London laden down with supplies. Everything from bowls to paper samples, large pieces of papermaking equipment, delicate paper sculptures and bookbinding samples. We lugged our suitcases through the London Underground, onto a bus and finally to our destination. For the purposes of this post, we'll call our destination, the hotel, "Hotel Disgusting".
From the moment we entered the hotel, we felt ill-at-ease. Hotel Disgusting was very, very old. It smelled strange. And the neighbourhood was seedy. The publishing company had chosen the hotel because they were footing the bill, so we gamely got settled and resolved to make the best of it.
After a dinner of shawarma at a local take-out place, my Mom and I got into our twin beds and turned out the light. I fell instantly to sleep, having not slept a wink on the overseas flight from Toronto to Heathrow.
A short while later, I was awakened by my Mom's urgent call from the bathroom. "Heidi, you'd better get in here!!" she said in a panicky, barely under control voice. I leapt out of bed and staggered to the bathroom.
"Check your armpits!!" she said. I lifted my armpits and peered into them.
[WARNING: stop here if you are squeamish]
There in the warm crevices of my arm pits were dozens of live bedbugs.
I screamed. My Mom showed me her arm pits, they were the same.
We ran to our bed and stripped back the covers. Around the still-warm imprint of our bodies were hundreds of bedbugs. Under the pillows, bedbugs.
We started smashing those bedbugs and wiping them off ourselves until the beds were a smear of blood.
It was carnage. We lost it and collapsed into sniveling, weeping messes. Messes covered with bedbugs. I feel gross just writing this.
I called my husband back in Canada and he helped us pull ourselves together, just barely, in order to get cleaned up and put on some fresh clothes. We put our pyjamas into plastic bags, sealed up our unpacked suitcases and set them on top of the table. I marched down to the front desk to explain our situation and demand anther room.
Except the night manager was drunk. And he didn't care about our bedbugs. More precisely, he didn't believe me.
But I persisted and after a whole lot of yelling and crying, he consented to give us another room. We moved all of our stuff to the new room on a different floor and sat down on the beds. We didn't want to sleep, we were so freaked out about what had happened. But we started to drift to sleep...nodding off sitting up...when one of us woke up and shreaked "They're coming out of the walls!!".
Yes, the bugs, or whatever they were, were crawling down the walls making a bee-line for our bed. The logical next action would have been to get out of Hotel Disgusting PRONTO! But we had no where to go at 3 am in London, England where we knew nobody. We HAD to stay put.
We experimented and figured out that as long as we kept the lights on with some minimal movement in the room, the bugs stayed away. We left the lights on, watched a TV black and white move and stayed awake ALL night. At dawn, we fled Hotel Disgusting, arriving at Paul's studio will all of our luggage, bedraggled and exhausted. We ended up taking working a full day punctuated only by calls to our publishing company to insist on different lodgings.
Bites and all, by evening, we were installed in a lovely bed and breakfast in Hampstead Heath. We had many days of work ahead of us, but happily the worst was over.
Above: Mary doing step-by-steps for the papermaking section of the book.
Above: Me taking a tea break in the middle of our supplies and materials. After missing so much sleep, we came down with some wicked colds. Thus we drank a lot of tea during those two weeks!
Above: Setting up a shot with Paul Forrester, photographer.
Just joining us? Catch up by starting with Part 1: "Maybe we could make a business out of this" or How I Became An Entrepreneur