Monthly Archives: October 2008

Six Dinner Sid

It wasn’t long since I had another sneaky cat on here, but it’s time for Sid. I have searched high and low and can only conclude we don’t own a copy of the book, but never mind. Sid has made enough of an impression on me anyway. Could be the idea that six dinners is better than one.

I’ve been equally unsuccessful with Inga Moore, who wrote the book. The most I’ve found is that she is still alive, which is nice to know. With a name like Inga I wondered about any possible Swedish connections, but she is down as English on one of the few sites I found her. She did win the Smarties prize for Sid, though.

Six Dinner Sid

The book about sneaky Sid is really a reflection on society, and whether people speak to each other, rather than about a hungry cat. We meet Sid when he lives in a street with very unfriendly people, who never speak to their neighbours. That’s why they don’t find out that “their” cat also belongs to five other houses nearby. It’s only when Sid falls ill and gets taken to the vet by all of his owners, that the truth is revealed. Sid’s loving owners then kick him out.

Lucky for Sid, because he finds a friendly street with inhabitants who talk. And they don’t mind sharing their cat with a few of the neighbours.


Out of print

Do you remember the saga of Nick Green and his Cat Kin books? Faber said they didn’t want to publish his second book, because the first one hadn’t sold enough copies.

Then Nick published the sequel, Cat’s Paw with POD Lulu. He has recently found somewhere else to have the book published, with a great new cover to match The Cat Kin, and with an ISBN, so that it can be sold in the big online bookshop.

Nick has just had to cancel a bookshop appearance, because the shop was unable to order copies of the first book, The Cat Kin. It seems it has sold out. I wonder if that still counts as not having sold well? So now there is a second book which doesn’t have a first book to match.

I suppose the good news is that Nick reckons that we hardy souls who bought the Lulu version of Cat’s Paw, own a very rare book. And mine is signed.

This is where I would have shown you the two matching covers, except something on Nicks website prevents me from grabbing the images. Look for yourselves.

B is for Bookwitch

When I looked in the mirror last night, my face was as purple as my clothes. If you ask Julie Bertagna, she’ll say it’s the effect of the cold Edinburgh weather. But at the very least you can say I matched my clothes, and I’m all for colour co-ordinating. I started the day with popping along to The Children’s Bookshop to meet Vanessa who was in the throes of getting ready for Neil Gaiman, and a few hundred fans. She still had time to take me to the bank(?), give me tea, back to the bank (at least it was warm in there), and she knows her Gudrun Sjödén clothes when she sees them.

Then it was on to Son’s flat for some warming soup and general admiration of household skills and all that.

After which Son and I set off for the boutique hotel Neil was staying in (I so want to be a bestselling author, but only in some respects), where they offer you drinks as soon as you sink into the comfy armchairs in reception. Son ordered tap water, hoping that would be free of charge, so I’ve brought him up well. Julie Bertagna joined us, by design, rather than by accident, and it was really good to meet her after talking on blogs for so long.

Bonham meeting room

Soon the biker gang turned up as well, and that was the Gaiman entourage, safely back from another event. The lovely Ian from Bloomsbury ushered us into a meeting room, with purple chairs, and Julie and I interviewed Neil while Son snapped. And boutique hotels are capable of good tea, I can tell you. The chat went well, and the results may turn up here in due course.

After so much excitement, Julie and I staggered off to collapse in peace and quiet, first sending Son on his way to his other job. Julie is good at finding Italian restaurants, and we had a wonderful dinner. (The toilets in this place gives you lessons in Italian…)

Braving the Edinburgh buses in the rush hour and in the dark, we made our way to the Church Hill Theatre where Neil was doing his rock concert thing. It’s the only way to describe it. I have never seen that kind of reception of a writer anywhere. The audience was mainly student age fans, with a few children and some “normal” people, and they loved Neil.

Neil Gaiman signing How could you not love him? The man must have been feeling shattered with all that travelling and all the talks and interviews, but you couldn’t tell. He was calm and funny and entertaining. Neil read us a whole chapter of The Graveyard Book, the one about the Dance Macabre. I just may have to re-read the book. Soon.

The queue for signing was LONG. I don’t want to think how many hours it will have lasted. Julie and I disappeared after a while, to catch our trains home. And Julie, witches know their Dundee trains from their Perth trains!

Half term miscellany

Being awfully miscellaneous here again. And here isn’t where it was yesterday. I have packed a suitcase full of Neil Gaiman books and travelled north. Why see Neil in Manchester when I can go to Edinburgh instead?

I’m still trying to make sense of the public address system at Manchester Piccadilly. It did sound as if they said “if you need a brain surgeon while on the station”, but I’m sure they can’t have. Although, maybe I do.

Daughter has been lent to another blogger over the half term week, so please beware of getting too friendly with me. I may send my children to you. This time it’s the lowebrow family in Germany who are the lucky ones. Daughter apparently read two books over the weekend, so will now be scraping the barrel, having only one book left to last her a week. And she had one of those “don’t mention the war” situations, when the German history teacher asked about history in English schools.

I was surprised to find that Grandmother, who I’m staying with, had a copy of the Daily Telegraph lying around. But there is a reason for most things, and this time it was a front page photo of Offsprings’ step second cousin, (almost) kissing a man.

So, today the witch will be all over Edinburgh. Hopefully carting round three maps of the city will prevent me from getting too lost. I still think it’d be a good idea to visit J K Rowling, except I’m not sure exactly where she lives. However, if it turns out I don’t get tea and cake from JKR, Nick Green has recommended a good café, with home made cake. Authors can be so useful.

It remains to be seen whether I can manage to find Julie Bertagna hovering somewhere today. She thinks I look like a vase of flowers, and when I googled images of her I came up with my own photo of Cathy Forde. The web is weird. But interesting.

The Boy Who Lived

This is Harry Potter condensed. I hope Neil Gaiman won’t be offended, because he’s his own man, but The Graveyard Book really has a lot in common with that other boy’s life story.

Bod – short for Nobody – is a very special, but normal, boy. Rescued from being murdered as a toddler, he ends up living in a deserted graveyard. Who knew dead people could be so lovely? Bod has a good, if somewhat unusual, life growing up with the graveyard inhabitants.

There is a prize on his head, and he is continously in danger, but the skills taught him by the dead people help him. Unlike the other famous boy survivor, Bod’s adventures need only one book to reach a conclusion, and a very satisfying one, too.

There’s a lot of good advice for the living in this book, and Bod proves to be very talented at dealing with bullies, as well as those more dangerous people who are after him.

I’ve never thought much about what the Dance Macabre might really be, but Neil’s version is a good one. And if you don’t want to look up dead US presidents, then no. 33 is Truman. Had rather hoped it might be Reagan.

This is a very, very good read.

I’m off to visit a graveyard.

Findus the baby

My heart melted at the sight of little Findus, lost, red-eyed and all scared, and I don’t melt that easily. Findus is usually a cunning and clever cat, so this was a real revelation. And Pettson has changed from being an old and confused man, into a loving Dad figure. When Findus Was Little and Disappeared is an adorable story. It’s a newly translated book by Sven Nordqvist, and one I hadn’t read before.

When Findus Was Little I knew Findus sort of hailed from a packet of frozen peas, and this story tells you how he came to live with lonely, old Pettson. He is mostly very Findus-y from the start, but the sad tale of the day he got lost, shows the reader another side to this cat. And I don’t think I’d realised that the funny little creatures we see on just about every page are invisible to Pettson. But they are still capable of helping in a sticky situation.

Less sure about the badger. It’s all very well that it scared poor Findus, but I actually dreamed of a hippo sized badger after reading the book.

My heart is still working on un-melting itself.

Seeking the Dead

Kate Ellis can’t leave history alone. Her new crime series, featuring policeman Joe Plantagenet, and set in fictional Eborby, has some fairly unsavoury historical facts as background to the modern day murders.

The Resurrection Man goes round murdering people by putting them in coffins until they die. Not very nice, in other words. As can be expected, the police end up with a chase against time, trying to save the last victim from an unpleasant, certain, death.

Joe Plantagenet is an interesting detective, who initially intended to become a priest. He works with his superior officer, Emily Thwaite, who combines being a wife and a mother of young children with police work.

Eborby, which is really York, is a perfect creepy historical setting for crime. I couldn’t work out how to pronounce it, without getting my tongue in a twist, until I asked Kate the other day. Now I know.

I did work out whodunnit, but I kept wondering if I was just falling into a trap set by Kate, to make me think I was clever. But, no, it was…aarghh….

A Friday miscellany

Happy Birthday to Daughter! I didn’t really know this, but it would seem that becoming 16 is a bigger thing than silly old me could ever understand.

Thursday saw the witch back in Didsbury for another literary lunch. Adèle Geras had expressed an interest in meeting Kate Ellis, so I oversaw this event, in an Indian restaurant, which was empty apart from us three. Was it something we did? Kate and Adèle compared notes on how to write novels, and I sat there pretending to know all about it, too. 

The book world is small enough for everyone to have at least somebody in common, but I don’t believe there was anything incredibly juicy being said. I was far too cool to bring any books for signing, but Adèle brought a Kate Ellis novel with her to be signed. And we were so busy talking about other things, that the promised gossip from the Booker evening was forgotten. Typical.

Afterwards I made brief forays into a couple of charity shops for Christmas presents, and there was a coincidence involved, but I can’t mention it here, because then it won’t be a surprise.

A modern tale

Once upon a time there was a small business. Like many others, it relied on computers and on the internet. The owners, John and Mary, were of an age not to be all that used to the finer points of computers. But they worked hard, and Mary in particular did as much as she could. Eventually they came to know a man and his son, who were both able to help them. The man advised on their computer needs, and the boy, like many teenagers, was good at installing software and generally doing things with computers.

He did work for them cheaply, as and when they needed it. One day they bought a new laptop, and asked the boy to come and install new software on it, and they asked him to supply and install some hardware, too. The task took longer than the day put aside, due to complications with their computers and very slow broadband. The boy spent three days on this, giving up his spare time. Unfortunately, as is the case with computers, not everything worked 100% when he had to leave for his ‘real’ job.

The problem could have been easily solved by asking his father for help. Instead, John and Mary panicked, and asked advice from virtually the first person they saw that day, and who generously offered to help, since she had some IT experience from her work. Unfortunately that experience didn’t mean she knew what a firewall is. It does sound rather unpleasant, so with their helper, John and Mary deduced that a firewall was a bad thing. There was also something called Firefox installed on the computer, and it’s easy to see that they should panic over that as well.

When you panic, you tend to be less polite to people than normal, so they said a number of choice things both to the boy and to his father. The boy, being young, wasn’t as polite in his response as he should have been. So, not only did the relationship with John and Mary come to an abrupt end, but they refused to pay him. The boy generously decided to forego any claim on pay for his time. But he did feel they should reimburse him for what he’d bought for them. Living on a budget himself, he had got the stuff as cheaply as possible, so their bill was smaller than it could have been.

Eventually they paid for the software, but said that as far as the hardware was concerned, they’d never asked for it and they felt it wasn’t suitable for them. The boy’s father had been present when they asked for it, but John and Mary were adamant. The boy felt that in that case they should let him have it back, so he could re-sell it and recoup some of his money.

Some months later the new laptop was stolen when the business was burgled. The worst aspect of this wasn’t the theft of the laptop itself, but instead the loss of all the hard work that had gone into designs and other information stored on the laptop.

The boy’s father felt John and Mary may have been careless leaving the laptop lying around unsecured, but he had an idea. He knew his son had most likely backed up the contents of the laptop before undertaking the work he did. (Or the tampering as it got called.) He asked him, and as luck would have it, the boy knew exactly where the data was stored. He’d put it onto the external hard disc he’d bought for John and Mary. The very same piece of hardware they didn’t want and hadn’t paid for. They had spent years running their business without backing anything up, and didn’t feel like starting because some teenager told them to.

The father relayed the good news, out of kindness despite their behaviour, but it didn’t cheer them up. However, they soon saw the value of this turn of events but were unable to retrieve anything from the disc themselves, so asked the man to come and help as he had offered to do. And what do you know? The pesky boy had saved all the important business information, and it was sitting there on the unwanted little hard disc. John thanked the father for his help, but Mary seemed unable to show any gratitude.

Whether they will now feel they should pay the boy what they owe him, I don’t know. And will they turn a new leaf and take up using the hard disc regularly?

Bambert’s Book of Missing Stories

Bambert's Book of Missing Stories Read this book to a child near you. Bambert’s Book of Missing Stories by Reinhardt Jung is the perfect read-aloud book, and I almost felt like going out and finding myself someone to read it to. It’s also a very beautiful book, with great colour pictures by Emma Chichester Clark. You could easily sit and study the pictures in detail for a long time.

The plot is a little bit strange, but very charming. Bambert is a lonely and slightly odd man who sends his stories out into the world and asks for them to be sent back to him. The stories he has written are so traditional in style that you feel you have read them before, except you probably haven’t. You know them, and you don’t.

It’s a melancholy sort of book, but not so sad that it’s not child friendly. Try it on your child, or borrow one.