Category Archives: Travel

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.

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.

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.

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.

Bread sticks and brain sticks

Being attacked by a goose isn’t as bad as it might seem at first. It sets off your adrenaline and a few other chemicals and makes the required jump across a really high gate possible. It’s only if you then dwell on the constant possibility of further goose attacks that you might feel stressed in the wrong way. And that’s not good.

Nicola Morgan's shoes

Last night I went to the launch of Nicola Morgan’s new book, The Teenage Guide to Stress. I always forget how interesting Nicola is and how well she talks at events like these. There was absolutely no need at all for her to walk round persuading people they needed more wine before she began, but she did anyway. And there were bread sticks. Three kinds.

Nicola Morgan

The room at Blackwell’s – we really must stop seeing each other like this – was full. Nicola was wearing gorgeous shoes, and pink trousers I could have killed for, if I thought I could wear pink trousers. Even I, as a relative newcomer, knew a few people there, which is always nice. Nicola tried threatening us at the back with special treatment if we didn’t move to the front, but soon all seats were taken, so she couldn’t actually do anything about us. Me, especially.

She had stuff to offer. Free posters, rolled up, which looked just right to hit people with. Nicola introduced her brain sticks, which are USBs filled with useful material on brains, and which she has spent 1000 hours on producing. There were three tea-towels to win.

Nicola Morgan

People who say they never suffered from stress when they were young are wrong. They suffer from amnesia, which is a coping strategy. It helps you forget the bad stuff. Before, there was not a single book for teenagers on stress. Now there is one. And this is important, because teen stress is different from that suffered by adults.

It’s the constant, low level, kind of stress that won’t go away, which is so bad for you. It is constantly having to ‘perform at things you are not good at’ which makes the teen years such hell. It leaves less ‘bandwidth’ for other things. The two main bad things are exams and the internet. Teenagers don’t have the life experience we oldies have, and they tend to believe they are alone in their suffering. Adults are generally able to stop doing what they are bad at; in Nicola’s case maths and singing.

Nicola Morgan

With her book Nicola hopes to settle minds. That’s what people need. The book has three parts. The first is what stress is. The second what the stress is about. And the third how to deal with it.

She has looked into the research on whether chocolate alleviates stress and it appears it doesn’t. However Nicola feels there are more ways to look at this, and urged us to do more research. Generosity is good, which is why she offered us all some 70% dark chocolate.

Nicola Morgan

And speaking of generosity; you know what had to happen. I won a tea-towel. I already have one, so didn’t feel I needed to win, but as I stood there looking at the tickets in the envelope, I knew* that no matter which ticket I picked, it’d be the winning one. And it was. So I gave the tea-towel to the man behind me, scooped up some chocolate I can’t eat and took it home and gave to the Resident IT Consultant to see if generosity is as good as Nicola suggested.

I suppose it is.

*I’m a witch. I feel these things.

Nicola Morgan

EIBF and me, 2014

It is here. The programme for this year’s Edinburgh International Book festival. And I’m sorry, but all I can think of is that Sara Paretsky will be there. It’s been three years, and she is finally coming in the summer rather than freezing her nether regions off in February/March. Which is so sensible.

OK, there must be a few other authors scheduled for the two and a bit weeks. Think, witch, think!

There are some very interesting looking events where authors one admires talk about authors one admires. I’m going to have to see if I can catch one of those, because they look like tickets might sell out fast (small tent). Then there is Patrick Ness who will give the Siobhan Dowd talk and Val McDermid will pretend to be Jane Austen.

Wendy Meddour is coming and there is a lovely pairing of Francesca Simon and Irving Finkel. Another interesting pair is Caroline Lawrence with Geraldine McCaughrean. Elizabeths Laird and Wein will cooperate, and Gill Lewis is also making an appearance.

Many more excellent authors like Sophie Hannah and Arne Dahl, Tommy Donbavand and Liz Kessler will be at the festival. I have to admit to paying less attention to the ‘grown-up’ authors again, in favour of my ‘little ones.’ Those who are given orange juice instead of wine (although I am sure not at EIBF!) because they write for children.

Have to admit that many of my hoped for events are school events. I am glad that some of the best looking events are for schools, because it means someone thinks school children deserve the best. I want to be a school child on a very temporary basis at the end of August.

Deck chair

I’m hoping for plenty of stamina on my part. I have planned a number of full or nearly full days, for about two thirds of the festival. (I was thinking of having a holiday at some point.) The event I am fairly certain I won’t be able to go to but wish I could, is Eleanor Updale talking about Vera Brittain. That would be really something.

Perhaps I will see you in Charlotte Square? (If my eyes are – temporarily – closed, just give me a gentle nudge.)

Interning

We put Daughter on a plane yesterday, and then she put herself on yet another, bigger plane. She’s off to see whether Dr Sheldon Cooper is real, or not.

I believe he is. (How could he not be?)

Up, up and away

My eleven weeks of Daughterlessness is Pasadena’s gain. She packed a number of books to read for fun, which I applaud. Her choice of reading material was perhaps not what I’d like to tell the world about, so I won’t. Needless to say her suitcase was over the limit, but it appears ‘real’ airlines don’t fuss too much.

Now let’s see what we can get up to… I know! We could move house!

Launching demons in Edinburgh

From the ‘dark underbelly of Crieff’ emerged two fabulous ladies to chat about The Demons of Ghent. I’m – almost – not sure who I liked best; author Helen Grant or her ‘chair’ Suzy McPhee. It’s a rare thing when two people sit in front of lots of other people and it’s both fun and interesting. (On the way back to Waverley I wondered why I felt so hungry and realised I’d forgotten about food. That’s how much I enjoyed it.)

Helen launched her new book at Blackwell’s in Edinburgh – or Thins, as the Resident IT Consultant prefers to call it – and for me who’d never been before (sorry) it made for a nice experience. I had enticed Son and Dodo to join us (Son used to work there…) so it was a family affair, with only Daughter missing, which is why the photos are not what they should be.

Demons of Ghent launch

I’ve obviously been around some authors too much when I recognise their parents even when I’ve never met them before. Their children. Their facebook friends. Nicola Morgan was there, a week early. Presumably to do a practise run before her launch next week.

The place was full, and the wine flowed. I found a most comfortable sofa to sit on. It was a bit difficult to get up from it again, but it was good while it lasted. The youngest there was 7 (and a half) weeks old. Didn’t ask how old the oldest one was.

Suzy McPhee and Helen Grant with Ann Landmann

Blackwell’s events organiser made one of the best introductions I’ve heard at an event like this. Admittedly there are a few words Ann Landmann actually can’t say, but we only found out one last night. (So we’ll have to return for more…)

Suzy McPhee and Helen Grant

Helen described her British rustiness, which is why she writes about Germans and Belgians. She and Suzy had some difficulty in finding spoiler safe topics, but settled for the famous altar piece, which plays such an important part in The Demons of Ghent. There was something else Suzy wanted to ask, but which met with a resounding ‘no’ after some whispered negotiations behind hands.

Helen Grant

Helen never set out to write YA books, but just wrote what she wanted to write. There is no need to ‘write down’ to younger readers, and they can always look things up on Google if necessary. Suzy described how she had needed to look up rorschach tests, and proceeded to test Helen on some inkblots she’d printed out and brought along. (See, not all people in her position would think to do such a thing.) I will await the results of the ‘dead chicken’ interpretation with interest.

Without the internet Helen reckons it’d be impossibly expensive for her to get research right. She’d need to travel to Ghent to find out how high the pavement is in the spot she needs for something to happen. And making sure Veerle eats the right kind of waffles, and not simply any old waffle. She doesn’t want it to be ‘Britain dressed up.’

She’s now eyeing up parts of Scotland for future books, and described her happiness after finding a hidden church in a churchyard, when all she’d expected were more old tomb stones.

Helen Grant

In the end there was no time for a reading and Ann craftily suggested we should (buy, and) read the book ourselves. Someone wanted Helen’s phone number to call for a private reading, but she hastily offered to put a chapter up on her blog. So I suppose that will have to tide us over while we wait for Urban Legends.

And there was time for more wine.