For ten months now, I’ve been mostly locked down at home. It’s a drag, but it’s the smart thing to do if you’re high risk like me. When I can, I walk in local fields. My excursions are rare, and usually involve clinics and hospitals.
The one glorious exception is my trip last August to a TV studio. I went there to film an interview for an American Experience documentary about Elizebeth Smith Friedman, the amazing real-life female code breaker who is the subject of my next book, The Woman All Spies Fear.
Covid had wrecked our original plans to film in NYC in March, so I figured the documentary would go on without me. But I hadn’t reckoned on the determination of the producer and director, who found a way forward. At a time when local Covid levels were very low, they found an Oxfordshire studio that does work for the BBC and that was taking good precautions. They told me I’d be the only guest in the studio that day, with only a small camera crew at a distance, so I decided to take the risk.
It was a bizarre and wonderful experience. The film crew was terrific, and they’d rigged up a zoom link with the US-based team. That way, the director could interview me as if she were in the studio herself. It worked like a dream…
…except for the wasps.
While the camera was rolling, I was stung not once, but TWICE, by wasps that had found their way into the studio. I got out my Epipen but luckily didn’t need it — though I did need the two packs of frozen mixed veggies the film crew offered me from the freezer. After the second sting, the crew decided to wrap the lower half of me in a black velvet theater curtain, then stand guard over me (at 6 feet, with masks) to swat away anything that buzzed. And that’s how I did the interview, which went on for over six hours. It was quite a day.
If you’re in the US, you can see the film on PBS on Monday night — the first American Experience episode of 2021! It’s called The Codebreaker. I’m just a small part of it, but I think it will be GREAT! Catch it if you can.