Tag Archives: Library

The Book Week in Fife

I have nothing against child labour. I have made Offspring do all sorts of things for me, but mostly they have to be the long arm of Bookwitch when I find myself geographically challenged. Like with this Book Week Scotland thing I mentioned earlier.

On Thursday night I made that arm reach Fife – while I was ensconced in Oldham – by telling, I mean asking, Daughter to pop along to her local library on her way home from the cinema. Small town, so they are almost next to each other.

St Andrews library had a Scottish Crime Evening with local sheep farmer James Oswald and the rather scarier Allan Guthrie, and Daughter only missed half of it. Not liking turning up late, she was more than relieved to find that James, who is very much a gentleman, had left a ticket at the door for her to make (her) life easier.

Apparently James had read the same piece he read in Stirling in September, so I didn’t miss much. (I mean, I know what he read, rather than it is no good.)

In the Q&A there was a writer of ebooks who wanted to share with James, who himself was a writer of ebooks before being discovered. (Doing what, I don’t know.)

The idea was that with my photographer in place, I’d get photos. Allan seems to have escaped by running for it. A train, supposedly, but you never know. But here is James next to a Swedish coloured poster for books. (And she only brought her mobile, so none of the paparazza shots. She went, which is what matters.)

James Oswald

Daughter’s opinion is that next time they organise a book event in town, they should tell every department in the university, because she is sure she knows people who would have been interested.

So there you are! Posters for uni noticeboards.

Book Week Scotland

With my usual impeccable timing I am leaving Scotland on the day Book Week Scotland starts. Well done, Witch.

‘Nationwide celebration of reading’ and ‘seven exciting days’ are phrases I find hard to ignore. I feel I’m missing out. And I obviously am. This seems to be for every nook and cranny of Scotland; no excuse if you live in some remote spot, like Orkney. You will get books. Authors, even.

Those crazy people who run Bloody Scotland are going to tour the nation (by which I – and they – mean Scotland) in a bus they don’t have and can’t afford petrol for. (Probably means they’ll drive. A car. Or go by train. Boat, to Orkney.)

There is little point in me listing authors. I think they’re all in it together.

Same with places. Stirling will have events. St Andrews will be getting the professional killers for St Andrews Day. Which probably means I will blackmail my photographer to pop along, even if she’s kicking and screaming.

In short, I’d like to be here next week. Or do I mean there?

Now could be a good time to move.

Bookwitch bites #116

I am really grateful to the kind people of Wexford, Ireland, for arranging somewhere I could park my broom the other night. (Not that I have actually been to Wexford, but its proximity to Eoin Colfer makes it seem like a very nice place. That, and the broom parking.)

Broom parking

So, I’m resting a little. No flying while it’s windy. Besides, you can’t trust people not to be setting off fireworks at the moment. And that is very dangerous for witches on brooms. For others, too, but I am mostly looking after me.

We can’t all be like that lovely man, Terry Pratchett, who is a wee bit more modest than he needs to be.

Terry Pratchett

And so was the poor woman in Ystad who was locked into the library. 91-year-old Dagmar sat comfortably reading something, as you do, when it was time to close and staff claim to have ‘looked’ but seem to have missed Dagmar, so set the alarm, locked up and went home for the weekend. (It was Friday the 13th.) When eventually Dagmar moved, she set off the alarm, and someone came to find her, and even let her out. And being 91 and polite, she apologised for having caused trouble…

But you already knew that Ystad is a dangerous town. Just ask Wallander. Bet he’s never been locked in a library, though.

Locked in, is something we connect with Al Capone, among other things. Gennifer Choldenko’s third Alcatraz book Al Capone Does My Homework, is already out in the US, but the rest of us have to wait a while. Sob.

Gennifer Choldenko, Al Capone Does My Homework

And I can just sense that you like being told about books you can’t buy yet, so I’ll show you the cover of Ruth Eastham’s to-be-published third novel, Arrowhead. Like Al Capone, it will come. One day.

Ruth Eastham, Arrowhead

As I go to pick up my broom, I will leave you in the capable hands of Meg Rosoff. Although, considering what she can do to a piece of paper with a pair of scissors, I’m not so sure about those hands. If I think about it.

Wheee!!!

And then it was time for lunch

First I need to get the pink pyjamas out of the way by mentioning them in passing, like this.

Right, that’s that done then.

For a very long time I didn’t meet Teri Terry. And then I see her twice in eight days. Which was very nice. On Tuesday she had some librarians to talk to at Waterstones Deansgate, and being a friendly sort of person she inquired as to how many willing and able lunch companions Manchester had to offer for a meal beforehand.

George Kirk, Jon Mayhew and Teri Terry

Seven, in the end, as some people were working, and some people remembered in the nick of time that they are parents and would actually need to pick up their children from school.

Marnie Riches, Jo Dearden, Nina Wadcock and Lorrie Porter

But the rest of us met up for lunch, with Jon Mayhew the lone male, surrounded by lovely women writers. And me. It was great food, and great fun. I’m so discreet, however, that apart from the pyjamas I will say no more.

Well, not much more, anyway. We talked ebooks at my end, and praised Harry Potter (yes, really), and there was some publishing gossip. And people brandished their copies of Teri’s and Jon’s books for signing. (We never forget we are fans first.) Marnie Riches who came despite being a parent-picker-upper left early. Which was a shame, but better than nothing.

Teri Terry

The day started with me boarding Teri’s Pendolino* in Stockport, so that I could gently guide her from Piccadilly towards Deansgate, and by happy circumstance interview her as well. I felt Waterstones café was a suitably bookish venue for this kind of thing. Teri bribed me with apple juice, so I will only say nice things about her. (I would have, even without juice.)

Marnie Riches

Marnie, eager to get in early to make up for parenthood, joined us there, and I saw the attraction in this and appointed her my photographer. The rumour must have spread, as Jon also turned up early, but by then the camera had been packed away. And in order to feed Marnie before she had to leave, we crossed the road to the Mexican restaurant someone had suggested.

Their cheesecake could have done with being half the size.

*That makes me feel like a cowboy who jumps from his horse to the stagecoach for a daring rescue.

Launching Shine

The custard creams made all the difference. They and the Coke. Halfway through the launch party for Candy Gourlay’s new book Shine, I was overcome by an urge to liberate ‘a few’ custard creams. They were looking lonely, sitting on a table at Archway Library. That sugar rush kept me going all night, more or less.

Archway Library

I arrived just in time for The Three Hundred Word Challenge. Candy read out as many entries as there was time for, and her collected authors pitched in with their thoughts. The advice was good. The fledgling stories were even better. It’s reassuring to find that young people still want to write, and that they know how.

Teri Terry, Candy Gourlay and Jane McLoughlin

While this was going on in front of an audience so numerous they ran out of chairs, people went about their business in the library, and there was a nice mix of festival special and ordinary library behaviour. (It was the first day of the first Archway With Words Festival.) The authors couldn’t always agree on their advice, which should go a long way to proving that there is no one correct way to write. (I thought they were going to come to blows. Which would have been exciting.)

Random's Clare, Simon Mason, Philippa Dickinson and Keren David

Once it was time for the launch proper, I had a job recognising people without the customary name badges. I managed some. I was discovered in my corner by Random’s Clare, who was almost on her own doorstep for this event.

There were speeches. MDs Philippa Dickinson and Simon Mason came. David Fickling, on the other hand, did not. Replacing him, Philippa and Bella Pearson spoke, but they couldn’t quite manage David’s voice, so Candy had to help out.

Candy Gourlay with Philippa Dickinson and Bella Pearson

In her own speech, Candy told us of the long hard slog to get there. What’s three years between friends? Bella went on maternity leave, and came back. Candy said nice things about her editor Simon, even after he told her that her first attempt was no repair job.

Candy’s daughter Mia and friends sang a cappella. Absolutely lovely.

Candy Gourlay at Archway Library

Dave Cousins

We mingled. There were more authors than you could shake a stick at. (Not that I’d want to, I hasten to add.) Fiona Dunbar and I met where we always seem to meet. I met several facebook friends for real. (They exist!) Teri Terry was surrounded by young fans. Dave Cousins came.I recognised Jane McLoughlin but took ages to work out who she was. Missed Joe Friedman. Ruth Eastham was over from Italy, which was very nice. She introduced me to Sarah Mussi, whose book I just ‘happened’ to be reading, so I hauled it out for an autograph. (Very scary. The book. Not so much Sarah.)

Sarah McIntyre

The other Sarah (McIntyre) also ended up signing stuff, although not for me. Keren David said hello, and then goodbye. I chatted to Inbali Iserles and Savita Kalhan. I spoke to people I have emailed with, and to people I haven’t. Sam Hepburn.

Steve Hartley

And then Mr Gourlay went round saying it was time to go home. So we did. To the Gourley home, where the eldest junior Gourlay was looking after food and drink. There was a lot of it.

The Gourlays

They have the loveliest of gardens! Admittedly it was dark, but it was all lit up and the evening was balmy, and there was somewhere to sit. Not the trampoline for me. Spoke to DFB basement man Simon, and the kind Tilda who once bought me a sandwich. At some point I had to admit to a fondness for the Circle Line. (Yeah, well.)

The wine flowed (the recycling men were most impressed with the bottle collection the next morning) and there was cheese beginning with the letter c, and for the carnivores pork sausages on the barbecue, very ably operated by Mr G.

It was dark. As I said. So I gave up on the camera and simply enjoyed, which is why there are no scandalous shots of anyone. I think the man who hugged me before he left long past midnight might have been Cliff McNish, despite him being underwhelmed by my drinking.

Recommended crime to beautiful blonde, who was impressed with my recent meeting with Colin Bateman… When it got too cold we repaired to the inner regions. In the end most people went home, and Candy was left with a mere five houseguests. Eldest son politely gave up his bed for an old witch, and was banished to his godmother’s ‘vomiting room.’

In the morning I got up long after the six o’clock taxi guest had departed, and people had dispersed to school and jobs and things. I met my brand newest facebook friend (less than 24 hours) in her pyjamas. And then Candy made us breakfast and we gossiped about the great and the famous.

But I had a noon train to catch, so shouldered my nightie and toothbrush and walked up the hill to the tube station hidden in mist. Once I got to Euston I encountered the Poet Laureate on the escalators, going the opposite way. Bought some treats for the Resident IT Consultant to celebrate our first 31 years, and hopped on my train.

Tired library visitor

(I know how that doll feels.)

The medalists

There is something special about the CILIP Carnegie and CILIP Kate Greenaway Medals isn’t there? Being awarded a medal sounds so very right and proper. I often imagine past winners as walking around wearing them.

From now on Levi Pinfold can impress with some metal on his chest, and I’m really pleased for him. I have not read his wonderful looking picture book Black Dog (and why not??), but I will rectify it as speedily as is physically possible. So, no meaningless waffle from me on what I don’t know, but Black Dog certainly looks like a Kate Greenaway Medalist sort of creature.

Levi Pinfold, Black Dog

And – DRUMROLL – Sally Gardner has won the Carnegie Medal for Maggot Moon! I’m particularly happy that she receives it for what I feel is her most outstanding novel, even for someone who specialises in outstanding books. Worth the wait, and all that.

Sally Gardner, Maggot Moon

These Medals are also such decent prizes, since they actually benefit others. I hope Levi and Sally both still have a local library to which they can give their £500 worth of books.
Sally Gardner
And, in a way I don’t want to harp on about Sally’s dyslexia again, but I hope her win today will persuade those in power that they need to change how they think and act in regard to ‘hopeless’ children. I know it’s what Sally will want to talk about in her speech.

‘Sadly’ both winners will have to enjoy today’s ceremony without my ‘help’ but I should have some photos for you later…

Programmes, programmes everywhere

They just keep coming. I am almost beyond even a quick browse. But I will persevere and do my utmost.

First came the Gothenburg Book Fair programme. The full one, in Swedish, which was rather a treat after years of having to get by on the abridged English language programme.

And I find I have changed. I used to look only for English language events, and then preferably children’s authors. There’s been less of them in recent years, and I’ve had so many festivals closer to home, to feed my obsession.

This time I noticed lots of talks on other, related, things. Children’s reading, libraries, stuff in general. Maybe I’m growing up? Anyway, I could see myself going again this year. There is the small matter of cost, not to mention my stamina (hopefully not my lack thereof) and the annoying fact that you have to decide all this well in advance.

But a programme with an event like ‘Dewey – could libraries in 138 countries be wrong?’ It’s tempting, isn’t it? I suspect the answer is ‘yes,’ they can be wrong. After all, 9 million Swedes can’t possibly not be right.

The next programme to pop up was Bloody Scotland. And luckily for this exhausted reader, it’s a short one. I was about to say it’s because it’s only on for three days, but Gothenburg is only four. It’s because it’s a fledgling festival, and anyway, size doesn’t matter.

I found lots of good events in it, and the funny thing is that Daughter, who was most definitely not going to mess up her fresher’s week by attending this year, called to tell me about what she can’t possibly miss. So I might not be as lonely as I had been counting on.

Although,  you can’t go wrong with the lovely Eoin Colfer. (What is so Scottish about him??) Or the very Scottish and lovely Linda Strachan. And then we have all the Swedes and other murderous ‘Nords’ who are also not terribly Scottish. Bloody, though. Lee Child. I don’t know what he counts as, but the ladies will swoon.

My mouth is watering, and I will have to be strict with myself to make sure I don’t attempt too much, again. They’re only two weeks apart, and I can tell already I will be ‘less keen’ when the time comes.

Restraint, witch. Restraint!

Ach, it’s Auchtermuchty

‘Did you bring even more books I have to read?’ asked Daughter. ‘Yes!’ I did. With a car you should make the most of not having to carry stuff back and forth.

It was student moving day. While the more normal parents had come from Berkshire and beyond, to convey their little darlings back home after a year at uni, us abnormals traversed half the country (in the last few days I’ve been on more scenic routes than I thought possible) in order to give a lift to someone’s belongings from one room to another, two minutes down the road. And then go home again, with as empty a car as when we arrived.

So naturally I took the opportunity of providing more reading material seriously. Meanwhile, the Resident IT Consultant checked out the new landlady’s library, and found it reasonably satisfactory.

En route for this mini-move we stopped in Auchtermuchty for elevenses at the Tannochbrae Tearoom. Very Dr Finlay it was. Strangely quiet little town, but with lovely cake, and a refill of coffee for the Resident IT Consultant. I was a little taken aback to find a portrait of Alex Salmond perched on the cistern in the toilet, but each to their own, I suppose.

(For anyone who fancies running a tearoom, I gather it’s for sale.)

Oddly enough it was my second ‘Finlay sighting’ in two days. Helen Grant lives near a street called Rintoul Avenue, so my mind was already on Dr F.

David Rintoul

If I’d had my wits about me you could have been admiring a picture of the tiny, but lovely, Auchtermuchty Library here. But I didn’t, so you can’t. I blame it on the lemon & lime cake. And the portrait in the WC. (I’d have understood if they’d put David Rintoul there.)

While all this was taking place, Son and Dodo set off for Sweden, to cut some grass, encountering rather hot weather. Son had a meeting to go to, so parked Dodo in the library park in the sunshine while he talked business.

Halmstad Library

It strikes me that that’s two pretty long trips for two small jobs. I’m glad insanity seems to be hereditary.

Innerpeffray Library

Innerpeffray Library

You know when people share their favouritest place with you, and you’re afraid you’ll hate it and that it will cause problems between you and all that? Helen Grant has been going on and on about Innerpeffray Library – almost in the middle of nowhere in Perthshire – for so long, that I thought she might, just possibly, be deluded.

Innerpeffray Library - graveyard

Innerpeffray Library

Dear reader, she’s actually right. Innerpeffray is the place to go (especially if it doesn’t rain) for the library experience with a difference. (Pardon me if I sound like an advertisement.) It’s a beautiful old building, next to an old chapel – with graveyard – in the loveliest of settings; green fields with sheep in, a grassy ‘drive’ covered in tiny daisies, lovely plants along the path there, future nettle soup on the side, and a warm welcome when you arrive.

Innerpeffray Library

The librarian is called Lara, and I have rarely had such a fantastic guide anywhere. She talked history with the Resident IT Consultant and Helen, while I listened to these well educated, knowledgeable people, pretending I was too. For any little topic that came up, she found the book to illustrate it. (It’s almost as if Lara reads the books they have in there.)

Innerpeffray Library

She found me a Swedish book. They have two, but the other proved elusive when searched for. There was a book on witchcraft, which I gather is the vilest of crimes, trumping everything else. Hmm. This year’s exhibition is on crime, since that’s what we mere mortals like.

Innerpeffray Library

Lara climbs on the exceedingly tall ladder as though she was born to it. Apparently you have to go on a ladder-climbing course before you can work there. (Very relieved to hear that volunteers aren’t allowed to. So I could volunteer…)

Lara at Innerpeffray Library

They do events. Helen Grant did something spooky there recently, and has vowed to return for Halloween (which sounds great; if a little scary). Alexander McCall Smith is appearing at Innerpeffray to play very bad music. In fact, this coming weekend is full of fun sounding things to do. At one point Lara had to go off to see to some champagne. Later there was smoked salmon business needing her attention.

Innerpeffray Library

And even though it is now in a deserted corner of Perthshire’s lovely fields, when I asked that most commonly asked question ‘why is it here?’ I learned that when it started, it was a very busy part of the world, what with the river below, and all sorts of things.

Innerpeffray Library

People came to borrow books, and you can see the register of borrowers, which includes servants, and I found ‘a serf’ as well. This freedom with the books remains today. Unlike other museum type places where you can touch nothing; here you are allowed to. (Only not if your fingers are covered in clotted cream.) In the end I was frightened I’d tear one of the pages, so hardly dared to leaf through the witchcraft tome.

Helen Grant at Innerpeffray Library

So, I can totally identify with Helen who comes here a lot. She suffered over the winter when they were closed, and could hardly wait to pop over when the library winter came to an end.

Innerpeffray Library

And you know, somewhere that has a purple panelled toilet, as well as a chapel where you can get married, beats a lot of places you might visit. If you can find it. You go down that road, and then you take that almost invisible turning, and later on you go left, follow the winding road and at some point you turn down some other road, at the end of which you will find you’ve arrived.

Unless you approach from some other direction.

Innerpeffray Library

Only politeness made us leave when it was Lara’s lunch break. That, and the fact that we too needed lunch. We went back to Schloss Grant and shared bread and cheese and salad, with fresh strawberries (which were very nice), and after that we actually ate some Battenbergs too. We talked books and publishing. The cats were woken so they could say hello.

Helen told me something I mustn’t repeat, which I won’t, because not only am I nice (so so) but I have forgotten what it was. She gave me her new collection of short stories, which I hope won’t scare me too much (I’ll get back to you on that) and then she showed us the door. Very politely.

I would recommend this outing to anyone. Unfortunately, not all of you can do the last part, but Lara and the library are waiting for you. Perhaps get married there, and provide them with some essential, financial support!

Innerpeffray Library

(My apologies for the numerous photos. It’s the kind of place where you just can’t not take pictures. Besides, Adèle Geras has demanded them. I’d recommend going now. It’s sunny, and nature is at its prettiest.)

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.)