Category Archives: Blogs

Brunch

Helen Grant and I have probably convinced Lee Weatherly – who is a recent convert to living in Scotland – that we can’t get babysitters. We have brought our sons to meals out with Lee, which is a weird thing to do, considering everyone’s ages. Ours and theirs. But still; they are charming boys and surely anyone would love hanging out with them? (One at a time, obviously.)

Yesterday it was Son’s turn to have brunch with three older ladies. Trains were cancelled or people missed their train. Luckily I had brought a book. Son and I kept the table warm, so to speak, and sneaked in some extra chai while we waited. Luckily Dishoom gives you as much of the stuff as you want, and then some.

We ate our spicy breakfasts and gossiped books and translations and looked out onto St Andrew’s Square in the sunshine. It was very civilised.

When we were almost too full to move, we permitted Son to foot the bill and then sent him back to ‘school.’ The rest of us had shopping to do, ribbons to cut in libraries and plastic screw caps to paint. (I’ll leave you to decide who did what.)

I suspect I might have worn the wrong colour shoes.

But that’s OK.

Picture this

My Photographer – aka Daughter – was here over Easter. This meant I could take her to do the honours at Lari Don’s event, leaving me not only with free hands to take notes, but with some much better photos than I can take.

Once upon a time I had her services, if not always, then quite often. She was even prevailed upon to pop back home from school for half an hour if I had an author interview in the house. It was very handy, and I hope not too cruel.

We made our Edinburgh bookfest debut soon after her GCSEs, with a new, proper camera and everything. The press photographers might have found it strange to share turf with a teenager on her school holidays, but they could learn a thing or two from her, I reckon. Because she took pictures of authors the professionals didn’t. By that I mean mostly children’s authors, but also others of ‘lesser’ interest.

In fact, what the professionals do is wait to be offered people, a bit like when children wait for an adult to give them their tea. Whereas we ended up sticking our noses into every larder and fridge we came across, to keep the meal metaphor going.

Last week I asked if she’d seen the ad on facebook for an author event, where they had used her photo. And yes, she did see that. They’ve paid for it, so can use it for anything they like. It’s one that the author particularly liked. That one came from an official photo shoot, but there have been others that have pleased the subject enough to want to buy the rights. And that’s because we’ve been everywhere, and sooner and later you just catch the right look, especially since they don’t know they are posing.

The sales have been priced somewhere between professional fees and giving them away; enough for a schoolgirl to pay for the lens sold her by another author. When the author pays, a cheque is likely to turn up soon. When the publishers pay you tend to have to send quite a few reminders.

One author who just happened to be snapped by my Photographer in the official photo shoot area and thereby got caught by the professionals as well, was later offered to buy a series of shots by one of them. It was illuminating how much he asked for. Unfortunately for him, this author had already been permitted to use Daughter’s pictures. Besides, I suspect the money wasn’t there. Several years on, it was satisfying to find one of those photos in a press release I received last week.

The difficulty has never been finding authors to take pictures of. It’s mainly been a case of coming up with somewhere to do impromptu, more private, photo shoots of our own.

Jeanne Willis

We know who we like. And that’s not generally the latest Nobel prize laureate or Booker winner, but someone much more important. Someone who writes for children. Someone who gets them reading.

I just wish adulthood didn’t deprive me of this wonderful service. The Photographer’s, I mean. I’ll never be adult.

Tulips, redistributed

We ran out of time yesterday. You will have to wait until tomorrow to read about Lari Don at Blackwells (but by then ‘my story’ will be so much better). It was the sheer amount of travelling to see her on Saturday that took too much of our time.

OK, so it was only the Resident IT Consultant ordered to convey Daughter and me to Edinburgh, but that’s much the same thing.

We began the day by sitting on certain chairs at the big Swedish furniture store. It was a swift in and out, lasting 45 minutes, with no planned purchases. And while no unexpected tealights were bought, a few other small things happened to become ours. But fastly.

Among them a simple frame for one set of Debi Gliori’s tulips. I spent all of five minutes last night framing them in order for Daughter to pack them and take them to A Road In Switzerland. (It was the usual scenario, with the two of us weighing every last item to go in that suitcase.)

The other tulips went to Son, after we invited ourselves for afternoon tea, having argued that tulips travel more safely in a car than in a rucksack. He complained they had not been signed, so I suggested he should invite Debi for afternoon tea and present her with a pen.

After the buying of frames we had lunch out. I can safely say it was the rarest of places, as my tip was – almost – refused. After which we repaired to Blackwells, being greeted at the door by Ann Landmann, telling me the couch was waiting for me.

Post-Lari we met up with Baby Tollarp for the first of two consecutive afternoon teas (I know. It’s a hard life.) Daughter exhausted herself on this her first session of keeping a very young man occupied. But he did like her and smiled a lot, until he got too tired for smiling. Stairs in bookshops can have that effect.

That about covers our day; shops, lots of food, and tulips.

(There might have been more food with Doctor Who. I wouldn’t like to say.)

Gifted

We never did find Joey after the Grandmother died.

I know the Bible mentions that it’s bad form to covet that which belongs to others, but I always wanted Joey, from the moment I saw him. He was the saddest, loveliest little china dog you could imagine, and he’d been the Grandmother’s since she was about six. She went on holiday as a child and fell in love with him in Woolworths.

I accepted that he wasn’t mine, but thought that maybe I could inherit Joey at some point. Except, as I said, he seems to have vanished off the face of the Earth. Maybe he broke, and perhaps she didn’t mention it to us.

There is another sad dog in my life. One with no name [that I can remember] and with only one ear. But the remaining ear is a rather long and floppy one. I look at him every now and then, wondering if I really need keep him, more than forty years from when a grateful university friend gave him to me, in return for lecture notes.

Dog

Recently I came to the conclusion that I will still remember her, even if I don’t hang on to the sad dog. And remembering the friend, whom I’ve not seen all these years, is what matters. Just like the [now] slightly chipped bowl I was given as a leaving present at work, almost as long ago, is not needed in itself. It’s the memory of being given it, and of the givers, that I need to hang on to.

I thought these deep thoughts as we trudged round an antiques centre yesterday, looking for gifts that Daughter could buy for important people in her life. Yes, by all means consider what they would appreciate, and what they are like as people, but you can never predict what they will cart around with them for the next forty years.

Hence, do think a bit, but not too much. They could hate it on sight, or they might love it forever.

Still haven’t made up my mind about the dog.

(I’m worried he’ll look even sadder if I do the unthinkable.)

Off the Page 2017

If there is one thing that I have against Stirling’s Off the Page libraries book festival, it’s that it’s so hard to find the information I want online. I follow links to pages that aren’t the right ones, and then I swear a bit. Luckily the Resident IT Consultant brought home the printed programme for me, so I have finally been able to catch up with what will be on.

And things are on, so that’s good. Some of them not terribly convenient, at the further away libraries, which just proves what a large catchment area it is for Stirling. But there is good stuff.

Teri Terry is back (I mean, will be back, as this is in early May), but only for a school event. I’m guessing they like her there.

Alex Scarrow is coming, as is Ross Collins and Chae Strathie, whereas Craig Robertson is already here, being local. James Oswald is semi-local.

The names above are the ones I’ve highlighted for my personal interest, but there are many more. The Grandmother’s pal Crawford Logan is appearing at the Smith Art Gallery and Museum, for instance.

My track record for attendance isn’t terribly good, I must admit. I’ll have to see what calamities will prevent me from seeking these various libraries out next month. I hope none.

Paint it black

It wasn’t an entirely traditional Easter Saturday, but I suppose it was all right.

The Resident IT Consultant drove across half of Central Scotland searching for black spray paint, and as soon as he brought some home I went outside and sprayed it all over the dining table. After enough cans had been used up, the table looks sort of finished. And black.

The [formerly green] grass is also slightly black.

And my arms hurt. Who knew paint-spraying was so tiring?

I also sprayed some tomato all over myself, causing a red-orange streak down my front. As we didn’t have a bonfire to grill sausages on, we made do with the grill pan in the kitchen. And I didn’t fly over the cooker on my broom, partly because of lack of space and partly because a witch needs a proper bonfire to be sent on her way. Daughter bought one of those foil barbecue things, but I absolutely refuse to broom over that as well.

In-between the countless black layers I read Tanya Landman’s new book. It’s so good I didn’t always want to put it down to attend to my painting.

Daughter decided to stretch Lent as far as she could, so made us Lent buns to have with our afternoon cup of tea. I reckon as long as it was before Easter Sunday it’s probably almost legal.

We watched Doctor Who, which we liked, and then we played The Great Penguin Bookchase, which we also liked, and which I lost.

Easter?

I mourn my Easters. Some years ago I came to the reluctant conclusion that it made no sense for me to expect the other three family members to celebrate something that didn’t come natural to them. It was easier for me to go Easter-less.

(By comparison, I have always ‘insisted’ that we celebrate Christmas my way. But that’s OK, because the rest of the world also has some kind of Christmas happening, even if it’s different.)

Whereas Easter is virtually only chocolate eggs.

Don’t get me started on those eggs! I grew up on cardboard eggs with pretty pictures of Eastery things, or colourful aluminium foil, filled with simple sweets. Whereas Offspring’s friends down the road had a couple of picnic tables set up in their dining room, with row upon row of chocolate eggs; maybe ten each for the three children…

And then there are the feathers. Coloured feathers attached to thin branches of [generally] birch, displayed in some sort of large vase. Although that is for Lent. But I/we think of it as being for Easter, too.

I miss all this! Doesn’t matter that I can have all of it in the house, when I somehow can’t share the (totally non-religious) sentiments with my family. So imagine my pleasure the other week when finding that my friend in Lund had decorated her house in just the right Eastery way! It was so beautiful! And as with Christmas, it wasn’t exactly the same as mine, but you could tell we were on the same wavelength.

Easter witches

In protest I got out more decorations than usual a few days ago. I wanted to do my solitary Easter appreciation surrounded by more chickens and witches than I normally do. I’m puzzling over what to do foodwise, as not all the potential Easter type food will suit all the eaters.

Eggs. Real ones. What else?

We’d grill hot dogs on the Easter bonfires. I suppose an induction hob would do..? Not sure what the reaction to raw egg with lots of sugar would be. Yum?

I’ve still got a few hours to work something out.