Category Archives: Blogs

Gifts on a road trip

Why do children grow older so fast?

I have unearthed an embarrassing number of books, mostly children’s, that I had stashed away to give people in place of flowers and stuff. They last so much better than flowers. Or chocolate, or wine. Last better than the children, too. Or perhaps I mean they last better than childhood. The children are still here. Just older.

As for giving English language books to Swedish children, there is a thin line between the books being too childish or the English too hard. If I can’t give these books to someone now, it’ll have to be the Salvation Army next.

Or, possibly, someone’s grandchildren, if people could only acquire some and have them grow at a suitable speed. Actually, as I moan, I have realised that one old/new friend got herself a grandson three weeks ago. I hope he is a fast learner.

We are setting off on a road trip. I hate travelling, especially driving. But we have some people we want to see, who are best seen by driving, and too far away for a comfy day trip. Besides, we are being dis-located. Son and Dodo are coming, and they are bringing Dodo’s parents and siblings, which means the Resident IT Consultant and I have to clear out for a week.

The house is boiling. They are welcome to it.

Those who have nothing

To continue with my book-eating shark topic, I was reading Den luttrade bibliotekarien’s blog and what she gave up on reading. Like many others, she has only more recently begun allowing herself to give up on books.

It made me think of what we used to say back in the late 1960s; ‘eat up’ and think of the poor starving children in Biafra. Not quite sure how me stuffing myself with food I didn’t want, was supposed to help those with no food.

Reading to the end could almost be the same idea. You should be grateful you have a book, however bad or boring it might be, because there are people who don’t have any.

As with food, what’s fascinating is that we all feel differently about what is good, or bad. And in times of real need we will be thankful for whatever comes our way.

I tend to cherry-pick what I pack for my holiday reading. I don’t want to be stuck with nothing, so take more than necessary. If I’m going to carry books back, I want them to be good enough to trump the something nice I could buy to take home with me. Those I’ve given up on stay in Sweden. I sometimes think that if I came here unexpectedly with nothing else to read, I’d be grateful for what I’d find, and give whatever it is a second chance.

And on that cheerful note I suppose I ought to ban anyone from ever being allowed near my shelves, because you will see what I didn’t carry home again. (Some are doubles, though!!!)

Books I have eaten

I mean read. Of course I do.

The thing is, I have been let down twice in a row here, and I have nothing for you. Put one book on hold, and put one book down. Although not literally. I just saw no point in continuing.

So while I swelter in the summer weather, I can only offer you teeth. Not reviews.

Shark

Some Edinburgh trams for you

What enabled us to waste all that time on the coffee with the ridiculously large dollop of whipped cream for the Resident IT Consultant, was the fact that he insisted on getting to the airport the long way round. I mean, why spend 30 minutes when you could make it last almost two hours?

So, we got the train and then got on the famous Edinburgh tram. Which is now actually running. It can’t have taken them more than ten years to build. It’s a very strange feeling to look down the tram tracks and see an actual live tram coming towards your stop. Almost as if you were in Manchester, or Gothenburg.

It was quite a nice tram, with wipe-clean seats (I sat on one of the priority seats and the Resident IT Consultant almost died with shame) and plenty of suitcase racks. We had combined train and tram tickets, but the conductor still had to give us a real tram ticket. It bears the words ‘Edinburgh trams’ at the top.

When I see that, I see the word ‘trams’ and in Swedish that means rubbish. The nonsense kind, not what you put in bins. And I suppose that when you take into account all those years we were despairing of ever travelling on a tram, you could possibly label it Edinburgh nonsense.

Other than making me get out of bed two hours early, it was a fine way of travelling. Not trams at all.

(Not like Son and Dodo who made sure they were on the very, very first tram on the first day. That’s a bit trams[igt]. Albeit fun and dreadfully important for every self-respecting nerd.)

Airborne books

‘Can I look in the bookshop?’ the Resident IT Consultant asked. I was tempted to say no, but gave my permission. We were at Edinburgh airport with too much time on our hands, and after using up the full Caffe Nero card which entitled him to a free drink (naturally he chose the most expensive concoction, something topped with whipped cream), he was dying to look in The Bookshop.

I looked in there myself, and they didn’t have much. Even WH Smith had more. By some coincidence we met up there after deciding to look around on our own. Neither shop stocked Into A Raging Blaze, special airport edition or not. We had both looked.

WHS had their fiction mostly arranged by numbers, a sort of books chart. We couldn’t work out whose chart, i.e. who decided, nor how to find any given book, short of looking at all of them. ‘There’s a blog there,’ said the Resident IT Consultant suddenly. I looked. ‘Where?’ I asked. I couldn’t comprehend the idea of a blog sitting anywhere on those shelves, but felt I needed to check.

Turns out he meant that the difficulty of finding a specific book could be turned into a blog post… Duh.

I had actually walked in there thinking I just might pay for a book. But only the recent fourth James Oswald novel. It’s Scottish, so maybe they’d stock it for that reason, I thought. But, no. Once I’d turned round a few more times I discovered some books arranged in the conventional alphabetical way, and there was a James Oswald book. The wrong one. Or the right one, depending on how you look at it. Not the one I was after. But for the Oswald novice it’d be good to find the first one, seeing as you mustn’t start anywhere else.

For children it was the usual suspects; The Gruffalo, David Walliams, Horrid Henry. I believe I’ve said this before. It’s excellent to find easy to read, good, fun books. But not if you’ve already read those. Then you need something more unusual.

And Terry Pratchett’s Raising Steam made it to the non-fiction.

Pebbledashed

We are not sure of the significance of the decrepit looking balls this poor chap is balancing on his birdbath.

Garden ornament

In fact, he is looking almost as pebbledashed as the wall behind him.

Whereas I’d never knowingly buy a boy balancing anything at all on a birdbath and put it in my garden, I seem to have done that very thing. And I’m keeping him.

Actually, if there was one kind of house I’d never buy, it would be a pebbledashed house. I seem to have done that, too. Oh well. Can’t be helped.

Bookwitch bites #124

Aren’t you lucky? Two BW bites in two days. It’s the first time I have succumbed to such gluttonous behaviour. I’m thinking they could be as nice as the vegetable pakoras we had the other day were. Won’t be, but not harm in wishing.

I am not at YALC. I wish I was. It seems like the whole world is going to be there. YALC is Malorie Blackman’s vision of doing something for YA literature, and it is on this weekend, sharing space with the London Film and ComicCon. There will be talks by some of the greats in YA.

And those not talking will be there to listen, if reports on fb are correct. Authors are falling over themselves to get there, and to be there early enough to get into the talks they want to go to (time they learned what it’s like at book festivals when an event is sold out…), or begging for tickets when they have somehow missed ‘the boat.’

It’s not even as though I’m in the wrong place. I just imagined I’d be on holiday, come mid-July.

Speaking of wrong places; since I got here I have been at the receiving end of emails telling me about Scottish authors in Brighton. That’s very nice, both for them and for Brighton, but I’d like Scottish authors to be right here, in Scotland. And it’s not as if I was ever in Brighton. Well, 30 years ago I was. But not while Bookwitching.

I was sad to hear that Walter Dean Myers has died. I knew very little about him, and only ‘met’ Walter through Sharon Creech’s Hate That Cat book a few years ago. But he seemed so nice, both in the book, and what I later read about him.

And that reminds me of Sharon’s Love That Dog, which preceded the Cat book, but which I read second. People do love their dogs.

Sara Paretsky is one of them. She even wanted her Callie to run for Mayor, but sadly Callie died recently, before having the opportunity to tackle politics. Callie might never become Mayor, but you could win the t-shirt. See here for how to – maybe – get yourself a Callie4Mayor t-shirt. It was the potholes, apparently. Callie wanted to fix them.

Home is where the heart is

Someone gave me a heart yesterday.

Heart

Then we consumed tea and cake, and after that we ate an indecent amount of Indian food. I discovered it’s a good thing to have visitors soon after you’ve moved in. No need to be even vaguely tidy, or even clean. I mean the house. I was reasonably clean.

And next time I will forbid the Resident IT Consultant to go to Balmaha. But it worked out all right, and the floor is only a little sticky. (Cue my newly bought mop.)

Mcbf, the end is near – for now

There has already been afternoon tea in Manchester. Today – on the last day – there will be more afternoon tea, and a quiz. I’m trying really hard not to mind.

While I’m busy not minding, I give you some more borrowed/stolen photos from the Manchester Children’s Book Festival. It is run (or do I mean organised?) by Kaye and James. They work very hard. By today they must be absolutely shattered. I know I am, and I wasn’t even there.

That’s why I will show you their happy smiles as they rubbed shoulders with the great and the famous this week. The one at the beginning was Curtis Jobling, who they worked pretty hard. Here they are with Curtis and his hat.

Kaye Tew, Curtis Jobling and James Draper

Then James seems to have got Sufiya Ahmed to himself.

Sufiya Ahmed and James Draper

After which we see James wondering what on earth Kaye has to laugh about. Are they not there to work? Their boss, the Poet Laureate is looking on.

Kaye Tew and James Draper

And look, here is James with his arms round Carol Ann and Kaye. He looks right at home.

Carol Ann Duffy, James Draper and Kaye Tew

More ladies for James; Jenny and Rachel.

James Draper with Jenny and Rachel

And with that Cerri Burnell off television.

Cerri Burnell and James Draper

Then luckily we have a break from our pair, as Kevin does his fan stuff with Guy Bass.

Kevin with Guy Bass

But then it’s back to more hanging out with authors, with Kate Pankhurst. James is testing out the intelligent look.

Kaye Tew, Kate Pankhurst and James Draper

Next is Justin Somper with our hard-working couple.

Kaye Tew, Justin Somper and James Draper

Imtiaz Dharker speaks at the poetry event. Proper grown-up it looks, and no Kaye or James. (Though I’m sure they were there…)

Imtiaz Dharker

Andrew Cope is looking pleased to have avoided the camera happy organisers.

Andrew Cope

Oh no, here they are, back with Andrew.

Kaye Tew, Andrew Cope and James Draper

Steve Cole got the whole line-up of mcbf helpers instead.

Steve Cole and mcbf volunteers

Cathy Cassidy and ‘her boys’ who, as I’ve said before, are among the nicest in children’s fiction.

Cathy Cassidy

Former MMU student Liz Kessler was back with her pals Kaye and James.

Kaye Tew, Liz Kessler and James Draper

And finally, Ali Sparkes with, surprise, surprise, Kaye and James.

Kaye Tew, Ali Sparkes and James Draper

But you know what I’m really trying to say, don’t you? These two lovely people work, and work, and they organise a rather nice and most friendly book festival. They deserve to be photographed with their guests. They deserve the limelight. Because they do this so well, with an ever present smile on their faces. Well, two smiles. One for each face.

There was no witch to ask to see James’s socks this year. No witch to send to the back of the room. And no cake for the witch. Or tea. Or quiz, which I would surely have won. Had I been there.

(The photos are by the mcbf photographer. I simply smuggled them onto my flickr account, because earlier this week I produced a nice post which suddenly lost half it’s pictures because someone went and pruned the mcbf gallery…)

Andreas Norman and the chicken sandwich

Andreas Norman uses a fair bit of English when he talks, so I needed to come up with a way to mark his English words and phrases in the translated interview, where English is so plentiful that you’d not notice. Those are the green bits, in case you were wondering. (Why green, I couldn’t tell you, though.)

Andreas Norman

Here is the interview, homemade translation and all. And the green bits, totally untranslated.

His novel Into A Raging Blaze is published today. In it Andreas says uncomplimentary things about the MI6 and the Swedish Foreign Minister.

The chicken sandwich is what got slightly in the way of conversation at his end. Beats Ferrero Rocher, I suppose.