You’ve all heard the joke about the traveller who jumps into a taxi and demands to be taken to his hotel, and is refused. The hotel turns out to be just across the road. I thought my taxi driver looked a little less keen than I’d have expected. It wasn’t quite across the road, but let’s say the meter didn’t have to tick for long. I’ll consult google maps next time I go somewhere, though Haggis-knee was quite happy to be driven.
First things first, so it was lunch in the company of shortlisted authors and library staff. Before much time had passed, we were given advance notice of one of the young readers, a boy who has taken part in the Lancashire Book Awards. He sounds just like my kind of person. The Lancashire awards people are very nice and friendly. There is literally room at the inn, even for bookwitches.
Not all the shortlisted authors could come, but here in Preston we’ve got Craig Simpson, who writes about things Norwegian; Sarah Wray, who sounds very Northern Irish – to me – for someone coming from England; this year’s winner, Sophie McKenzie; and Tabitha Suzuma, who’s brought her Mum.
They don’t skimp on the festivities up here, so Friday afternoon offered a Q&A session with a hundred and thirty readers from participating schools. The award is sponsored by the University of Central Lancashire, and that’s really good to see. Keep it up! I like a librarian with good taste in ties, and they have one here. (Btw, if anyone finds a dried cherry in the lecture hall; it’s mine, but I don’t need it back. I noticed food was banned, so nibbled on the quiet. Just happened to drop one.)
I have discovered an unexpected fondness for Johnny Depp among the authors gathered here. And I think that taking up writing books as an antidote to too much football at home, is a most sensible thing to do. As is considering a career as a reader. But I will have to disagree with Tabitha; I positively crave happy endings, and according to her Mum the book I have read is the happiest of the lot…
Friday evening it was time for a grand dinner. It’s a hard life, but someone has to go to events like these, and I’m glad it was me. How many authors can you fit into the back seat of a small pink car? Two, plus one mother, in this case. Plenty of hilarity over seat belts, with conversation along the lines of ‘I’ll do yours, if you do mine’ and much giggling. Almost a shame the drive was even shorter than my taxi ride.
I think I could just about get used to dining with a live string quartet in the background. Plenty of speeches, from adults (politicians, librarians, that kind of thing) and from children. The young speakers were all astoundingly accomplished, and a hanky wouldn’t have been entirely out of place. I was especially taken with Leesa from my table, who may have been very nervous, but who spoke un-scripted and exceedingly well. The mayor type chap with the fancy necklace seemed to be in agreement with the witch on this.
They are a little wrong about stuff like Lancashire being the centre of the Universe, however. Actually, no, maybe they are right. I’d love to come again, folks. (I know, I know. I was seriously under-dressed, but that can be remedied. I’ll get out the family heirlooms.)
A little disappointed that ‘facilitator’ Adèle Geras never got as far as singing, but that is a pleasure still to come, I hope.