Tag Archives: Doctor Who

Our visiters

The New Librarian is over from Sweden. She came with a group of 25 librarians to check out our libraries. To be cynical, it’s good they came while there are still libraries to check out. It’s a EU thing, apparently. They have been travelling all over the place to see and learn stuff.

Son and I went into Manchester on Tuesday evening to eat pizza with her. It was nice to see her here again. We do see her in Sweden, but it’s been a while since she popped over to Manchester on a regular basis to hear outlandish bands in concert. We’re dreadfully cool.

They had done Oldham; the main library and one branch. Today they are covering a university library and one other. Tomorrow it’s a new library in Birmingham, followed by one in London on Friday.

Before the New Librarian Mrs Pendolino called, to make us beautiful again. That was very necessary.

Steve Cole

And in between the two ladies we had Spiderman come round. It’s not something that happens often. I wish it did, because he’s a real tonic.

He was, of course, Steve Cole. I could tell, because he didn’t have his mask on (presumably it’s harder to drive a car if you can’t see). He’d been doing some school events in our neck of the woods, and a bookshop signing. When he was done, he texted to tell me to put the kettle on. (Politely, obviously.)

It was a flying visit, but a very nice one. Son and I gave him tea and a raspberry muffin, which he found hard to grip with his Spidey fingers. And I hadn’t really considered the questionable wisdom of pouring tea down the throat of someone who might well not have been out of that suit since some kind lady zipped him in that morning.

Steve is touring schools to talk about his new book, Magic Ink. He brought me a copy, and a postcard. I will read it and come back to you. We didn’t talk as much about it as I’d expected. It was more about Steve’s 96 hour deodorant and the comic book he made as a boy, and David Tennant’s Doctor Who ties.

Steve Cole

Before setting off to drive home, he struggled out of his Spiderman outfit (in the shower room) and then spread it out on the floor so he could fold it up neatly.

I’m sure Steve had no actual need to visit Bookwitch Towers while flying around the country like this. But it’s much appreciated that he did. I’ll probably go round grinning for days. As for Son, he had simply not been able to imagine such a crazy, funny person.

Steve Cole, Magic Ink

(Yes, I can spell.)

Stamps, Who needs them?

When someone on facebook got disgruntled about his most recent trip to the post office a few weeks ago, I had no idea I would be agreeing with him quite so soon. I mean, I was already gruntling along, and have been for years. But this is getting silly.

I have been concerned that I am single-handedly closing down post office branches. But I can’t be that powerful, can I? Besides, I wouldn’t want to.

The fb friend had been the target of the over-selling they engage in these days, even in the tiniest sub post office. I forget what, but have an inkling he wanted stamps and they wanted to sell him insurance. I generally pop in (although it has to be admitted, with increasingly longer gaps between visits) for stamps, other letter services or cash. So I don’t need to be asked if I require a top-up or if they can do anything else for me today? It makes me so uncomfortable I try and work out ways to avoid going in at all.

And if I avoid too many times, then closure of the branch is sure to follow. We don’t even get a newspaper any longer, although the chap on the ordinary shop counter is much more relaxed and never suggests I need a chocolate along with that copy of the Guardian. (The pick-and-mix sweets went three postmasters ago. Unhygienic.)

What I miss is the staff who would tell their colleague that ‘Mrs Bookwitch likes her cash in tens.’ Staff who sold me the stamps I wanted, and if I had forgotten to order them they would get them in anyway, because they knew roughly what I’d be wanting.

Jane Austen stamps

Anyway, on the day when fb friend wanted no insurance, I went in to buy the new Jane Austen stamps. I’d not double checked the issue date, but fb had been awash with comments on the postal Miss Austen, so I felt I was about right.

‘What?’ said the girl on the counter. ‘I would like to buy the new Jane Austen stamps, please,’ I said again. ‘Uh,’ she said. ‘We don’t have them. We only have the Doctor Who stamps.’ ‘OK, I’ll have some of them then.’ (I didn’t recall the issue date, but had no wish to argue.)

She went behind the scenes to speak to the boss, returning to say that they are such an insignificant post office they don’t get the Jane Austen stamps. ‘And we can’t even sell the Doctor Who stamps yet,’ she finished. I thanked her (for what?) and left, with no sale made. Not even a little top-up.

Once home I looked up the dates. Jane Austen was the day before my visit. Doctor Who is today. So it would have been very surprising to get them five weeks early.

This is precisely why I don’t want to go there. I can’t get what I want, and I can’t want what they can let me have.

Doctor Who stamps

The last literary stamp debacle was a couple of years ago when I rashly decided I’d like the fantasy book ones, featuring Nanny Ogden and Dumbledore and all the rest. So I ordered them from stamp headquarters in Edinburgh. The professionals. OK, so it cost a bit extra to have them sent, but I saw this as saving on the bus fare to the main post office.

These professionals sent me only some of what I ordered. I emailed to demand the rest I’d paid for. The automated reply suggested I should expect to wait five weeks for a reply. I emailed back telling them to get their skates on. They apologised and sent me some stamps.

Not all of them, obviously. I wrote back. Had another offer of a five week wait. I mentioned the skates again. They sent some more. Not all of them, obviously.

And so we went on, until my order had been fulfilled. The lovely thing about stamp headquarters is that they sell to philatelists, so wrap every stamp very nicely and well. That’ll be why they charge extra. This way, I had beautifully presented – albeit in short measure – stamps every time they posted some more out. That must have cost them a lot, in the end.

It was with this in mind that I really didn’t want to bring Jane Austen up at the local PO. Nor did I want to renew my email correspondence with those incompetent professionals up north.

One solution is to send no post. I suspect that far too many of us already do this (don’t do this?), and that’s why they are going under. My old postal heart is bleeding, but what can I do?

Bookwitch bites #95

I have rearranged my reading lists again. These days I put books into a pleasing colour order, and try and keep track of chronology by writing stuff on a piece of paper. Lately I’ve surprised myself by grabbing ‘old’ books to read. I also have a Kindle ready and raring to go, because I’ve ignored the ebooks for so long I can’t even remember how long it’s been.

It seems Eoin Colfer has an e-short coming this week. It’s lucky I came across Eoin’s own tale about this in the Guardian, since I’d not heard anything about it elsewhere. I have no idea if his is the only Doctor Who e-short, or if there are a whole bunch of them.*

This might not be the right place to admit I’ve never read one, but I haven’t. Someone close to me who has, was recently persuaded to prune a little on the shelves, so there are now not quite as many. They sound fun, but then a lot of things sound fun. Eoin’s introduction to the Doctor was very amusing. But he does have a cousin called Kevin.

Someone sent me a word manuscript of their latest crime novel, which has also gone on the Kindle. Unfortunately I am not allowed to tell anyone about it, so won’t be able to report back when I’ve read it… (Just thought you’d like to know.) There is that list from paragraph one to deal with first, though.

The Branford Boase longlist was made public this week. It’s really tricky when you like several books so much that you just dont feel it’s possible to have a preference. I suppose it will be easier once the shortlist is here? Maybe just one really good book will get through. Except that would mean the other great stories didn’t make it. Gah.

Interview tools

Something which didn’t make it this week was my interview on Monday. I’ll kill that iPod! Or perhaps just tell it off for slacking. Luckily the Resident It Consultant had bought another recorder thingy, which I’d decided to test run side by side with something old and trusted. To see if it worked. Hah.

From now on I will be known as Old Two-Recorder Witch. How can I ever go places with just one? (I’m not paranoid. Just cautious.)

*Now I have checked this, and there are 11. Apparently the old Doctor is 50 and they are celebrating.

Julie Bertagna, flying pigs and the future

The Midland Hotel

There is a first time for everything. I have never been womanhandled by an author before. And anyone half my size is ill advised to try it. But Julie Bertagna had a brave go on Saturday morning, and I slunk back to my favourite seat at the back. Seems I’m too much of a distraction at the front (naturally), which is why I like it at the back, and I had only been obeying orders to come nearer the front. Truly. Will never do so ever again.

Afterwards Julie said she realised I would write something like this. Too late! ; ) She blamed it on me being like family (i.e. an embarrassment). I was even warned about taking pictures…

The Midland Hotel

Julie had left the perpetual rain cloud hovering over Glasgow for sunny Manchester to give a talk on Friday evening to a large group of teachers, while missing the joys of accidentally bumping into Professor Brian Cox. (Sean Connery was quite enough for you, Julie!)

On Saturday morning the bookwitch crawled out of bed early, for eleven o’clock at the Midland Hotel. Very nice venue. I could tell that Julie’s teenage girl fans were impressed with their surroundings. Nice room, and tea and juice and biscuits. Unlike me they had dressed up a bit, too.

Julie based her talk on the Exodus trilogy, and started by going through science fiction in the olden days, from Frankenstein’s monster via H G Wells to 1984 and The Matrix. In Exodus it’s the Earth itself which is the monster of the story, when water levels rise, forcing a change in how people live. A few years ago when many places, including Glasgow, flooded, Julie found sales of her book rocketing, proving that people do want to read about dying worlds.

In her youth Julie expected the future to be robots, holidaying on the moon and other magic. Predictions usually go wrong. We do have magic these days, but not in a form you could have imagined. It’s our iPods and text messages and similar. Like my camera, when I can operate it and am allowed to…

She likes David Tennant best of the Doctors, talked about flying cows and other creatures in hurricane Katrina, the Large Hadron Collider, and how our Universe probably is like just one bubble in a bath full of bubbles. And Lord Byron was a male Lady Gaga.

Manchester Literature Festival 2011

Julie took the opportunity to help Manchester Literature Festival launch a short story competition for teenagers, featuring Manchester in the future. She came up with so many ideas, that even I could half see myself entering, were it not for those extra few years that would disqualify me. The girls in the room had lots of great plot ideas, that they were willing to share. We were reminded that Mary Shelley was a teenager when she came up with her science fiction, so there is every likelihood of this competition going well.

Julie Bertagna at the Manchester Literature Festival

They also had an unusually good selection of questions. One good way of starting a story is to write something that you then ditch, in favour of jumping straight to what matters. Julie might write a fourth book in the trilogy, but only if ideas that keep her awake at night pop up. She also likes endings that ‘infuriate you.’ I think that might mean endings that don’t spell out every little detail, leaving something to the imagination.

Poster for the Manchester Children's Books Festival

This was an especially good event. We all want Julie to come back soon; Manchester Literature Festival, Manchester Children’s Book Festival, the girls, and even me. (I’ll be the one at the back.)

(And you know why there are more pictures of posters and hotel interiors than of the star performer, don’t you? Good thing Photowitch was unavailable.)

Trunks

A Facebook friend mentioned she found it useful to put all her child’s essential items for university in a traditional trunk. Whereas we are all suitcases, rucksacks, cardboard boxes and rubbish sacks chez Bookwitch, reading about this trunk brought back memories.

Not that we have a trunk. But we used to. When I married him, the Resident IT Consultant owned a large silver coloured monstrosity of a trunk. It was vaguely useful as a table. Storage, less so. It began to smell, and when we ran out of somewhere to keep it, we came to the conclusion it would have to go.

We lived in Brighton at the time, so I put it outside the house on collection day, hoping my nice and friendly binmen would take pity on me and just take it. But when I heard them outside, discussing the trunk, and I caught the words ‘old man’, I decided to stick my head out and plead with them.

They wanted to look inside the trunk. Once they were satisfied my ‘old man’ wasn’t in there, dead or otherwise, they took the trunk and chucked it in the van.

I gathered – too late – that Brighton has a reputation for putting deceased husbands in trunks for disposal. If I’d known that, I wouldn’t even have tried.

Anyway, back to the black rubbish sacks of the present. Today it’s Daughter’s turn to flee the nest, as it were, and there is a tremendous number of bits of luggage going with her. The Resident IT Consultant always tries to make out he merely took a change of clothes and a few books on the train to his university, and that was that. Likely story! (Hang on! I just told you about his trunk. He must have taken loads of stuff…)

St Andrews

There are around twenty books of fiction in amongst the teabags and pillowcases and whatnot. Daughter said the other day that she needed to take books by her friends. (That’s you lot.) So we went through my shelves and (cherry) picked some reading for her. She has said she’ll return the books to me. I should think so! Some of them are even signed.

Not that she’ll have time to read. There will be ‘lessons’, and there is always Doctor Who and Downton Abbey. And some important person at the university has sent the students a copy each of Linda Grant’s The Clothes on Their Backs for everyone to read and then meet to discuss. She wasn’t sure about this, until I described Linda as someone who often comments on Facebook. ‘Oh, that Linda Grant!’ I think that means she will give it a go.

Excuse me. I’m off to cry a little.

Bookwitch bites #47

Back to Authors for Japan. I have been inactive for a couple of days, and what do I find? I could be a Julie Bertagna character. I didn’t know that. Julie definitely needs a bookwitch. Although I already own a signed copy of Exodus…

I’m not the only one who has Offspring who’d like to be a Doctor Who character. But that is one luxury which is a little beyond our means. And I have no reason to believe the bidding will slow down over the weekend.

Authors for Japan

Remember, you have until Sunday evening to part with your piggybank contents.

Frank and fearless with Katie Fforde is going up. People will pay anything to be insulted.

I have tried to tell Tommy Donbavand that he needs me. The bidding is up to £150 at the moment. That’s ten times more than my measly bid.

Came across this little conversation overheard on a bus: A mother tells her young son that when she was a little girl they had no computers. So the boy asks ‘but how did you get on the internet?’, and that is a valid question. How did we? And how would we bid on stuff like these wonderful things?

A clean house?

But at least we were nice and clean. Weren’t we?

Multiples

Is it a little bit over the top to have five copies of The Amber Spyglass in the house? I’m just asking.

Son appears to own three copies. One first edition hardback. One paperback, to read. And then the nice white woodcut one. Daughter has another paperback, and I own another ‘woodcutter’ copy.

I know I complain about lack of shelf-space now and then. Could this be one reason? Some things can be pruned. Not sure Philip Pullman falls into that category.

Sat down for a rest in Son’s room (why does he even have a room, when he doesn’t live here?) the other day, which is when I discovered the glut of Amber books. My eyes then travelled over the shelves and found quite a number of Eoin Colfer books, as well. Understandable, as we love him. But there were several instances of duplicate hardbacks of the same Artemis book. I thought about getting up from the chair and investigating, but didn’t. Must make the most if this sitting down business. I’m sure there is a reason for it. The Colfers, I mean.

Now, Harry Potter is what more (normal) people have bought several copies of. Strangely enough we only seem to have two lots. Plus the audio. Obviously.

Daughter keeps buying Doctor Who books. But she’s very good at keeping track of what’s what. When I go to her Who shelf my eyes can’t cope with all the almost identical book spines, and my head spins. (Because I have to lean backwards a little.) But thanks to that raffle win in the summer she did turn out to have a couple of doubles, even one where both the copies were signed.

The number one Meg Rosoff fan has quite a few  of her books. But never more than proof, hardback, paperback and Swedish translation of any one title. They stand next to the Potter lad.

Other multiple books are accidents. I’m fairly sure they are. Otherwise we’d be mad. Or forgetful. I did find a good Christmas present for the Resident IT Consultant for this year. I knew for a fact (unusual, these days) that we hadn’t read this particular book. Only, when I got home, I discovered I had sort of already got it last year, waiting for the right moment. But at least we haven’t read it!

What exactly counts as excessive?