Category Archives: Blogs

How wrong can you be?

I used to be paid to make mistakes.

I still make them, but these days it’s for free. However, I do know where I live.

Was unaccountably saddened and angered yesterday when I found out my address isn’t ‘quite right.’ This from a magazine publisher who has failed five times this year to send me their magazine. Apparently I must have given them the wrong address.

Bescause, how would I know? I only live here.

Funnily enough, when they invoiced me, the letter was capable of turning up in my letterbox. I erroneously took that as a sign that future mailings would also get here.

I know we have far more important things to worry about at the moment, but after having stayed relatively cheerful the last five days, discovering I don’t know where I am was surprisingly upsetting. I think it was the ease with which they suggested I am too incompetent to receive mail that got to me.

Suppose I should be grateful something got to me, as their magazine definitely isn’t.

But as I said, I once got paid to make mistakes. We all make them, sooner or later. It must be wonderful to have the self-assurance to tell a customer they don’t know where they live. They are now going to get the Swedish Post Office (the very people who paid me my ‘mistake money’) to tell Royal Mail how to deliver post.

I wish them luck.

And if they’re not wrong, I suppose it has to be me.

Elephants and other foreigners

I inadvertently framed this weekend with Indians and elephants, in two completely different book reviews. Karma, perhaps.

Elephant

Obviously ‘no one’ read blogs on Friday, so no need to be concerned with causing offense. Not that I would be anyway. As for now, I don’t know who reads what. I feel the need to avoid too much ‘news’ because so far it’s not really news, but more speculation, and none of it designed to make anyone feel better.

What’s interesting in the two books I reviewed, is [slight spoiler alert here] the prejudice.

Dindy’s mother is very anti-native, in this imperial tea plantation setting in 1946 or 47. For her children the setting is completely natural, and they love their native ‘spare mum.’ They speak the language. They have been warned about a lot of things they mustn’t do, but the local people don’t scare them. They just are. Just as they themselves are.

The adult men, their father and the doctor, appear to be happy with both the British and the Indians. But when the doctor is replaced with an Indian doctor, it takes an emergency for the children’s mother to accept him. Even though he trained in Britain.

In the adult crime novel Inspector Chopra is fiercely pro-Indian, obviously, and refuses – like his hero Gandhi – to accept British favours. It’s quite reassuring that such a change has taken place, I feel.

And yes, anyone who knows India well, will be able to tell that I don’t. I’m merely sitting in – or maybe just outside – Western Europe, spouting opinions.

Speaking of doctors, Son was delivered by an Indian doctor. Daughter was helped into this world by a Brazilian midwife. Both occasions were in England, a mile away from the street we lived in, where the the neighbourhood children were quite happy to tell mine to go back where they came from.

Delivered

Holiday post

This pile won’t beat its competitors in the big I-have-been-away-pile race. Happily some people receive even more books than I do. Good luck to them with their reading. I know I won’t get through all of mine.

And I refuse to speculate on how recent developments will affect the book trade. I’ve almost forgotten the changes after October 2008.

Thirteen at the tables

It couldn’t be helped. There were 13 for lunch. At times we stood up together, as though that would somehow safeguard our future. If we have one. I blame Helen Grant, with her sense of doom. I mean, you can’t completely control how many invitees will come, no matter how many, or few, you invite. (Hmm, I suppose inviting fewer than twelve would work…)

I’ve had these cinnamon buns hanging over me for a couple of years. Figuratively. It’d be silly to have real cinnamon buns. And then I had this bright idea; why not invite every* single person in the Scottish children’s books world all at once? And never mind the cinnamon buns.

Some people suddenly had to go to Norway or Norwich, which is more than understandable, but a surprising number said yes. I had tears in my eyes when someone I’d never met and who didn’t know me said she’d travel several hours on the train in order to come. One author required the Resident IT Consultant to guide her over the phone, just so she could escape the clutches of Denny.** Some people have day jobs. Others said they hope to come ‘next time.’ Right.

Helen Grant had been summoned to hold my hand, and also ended up making salmon lilies and bartending.

Seen from my point of view, it was a lovely lunch. The event, not necessarily the food. Much stuff was discussed, and I’m not telling you anything at all about that. Or who was here. I’m just amazed that they were so kind to a mere witch. One of them even left a tip. (Will be returned to its rightful owner if you can describe it satisfactorily.)

The tip

I have so many flowers I could start a flower stall (didn’t know the Resident IT Consultant had it in him, all this flower arranging), and mountains of chocolates and other nice edibles.

It seems if ‘you make the smörgåstårta, they will come.’

Thank you.

*To clarify, by this I mean ladies, as it’s far better to gossip single-sex.

**That’s a place. The wrong place.

The bottles

(I quite like the Spencer Tracy film Father of the Bride, where he sits among the debris of the party. The above is fairly tame in comparison.)

The 2016 medals

I was witchier than I thought, yesterday morning. Chris Riddell reported being on his way to the Carnegie ceremony, and I thought to myself ‘he’s not won, has he?’ and ‘no, he’s just going because he’s the children’s laureate.’ It was early. I couldn’t remember who was on the shortlist and who not.

And then I forgot to watch the live presentation of the awards, having only thoughts for my dinner, so I had to consult social media for the results, and watched later. Never having made it to one of these events, it was fun being able to see what goes on, and to hear the winners’ speeches rather than read them.

Sarah Crossan

One won! (Sorry, couldn’t resist.) Sarah Crossan’s novel in verse, about conjoined twins, is one I’ve not read, and I was so expecting The Lie Tree to win, that I didn’t speculate that much, even in private. Sarah’s speech was a great one, partly in verse, and it seems she might have brought up her daughter in verse, too. Sarah ended with a few poetic lines about an MP needing to use the toilets at the library, which is something they ought to think about before closing them all down.

Chris Riddell

Chris Riddell, who did win [the Kate Greenaway medal] after all, for The Sleeper and the Spindle (with Neil Gaiman), also spoke about how crazy our dear leaders are, and how children should be allowed to read without having to be tested on it, and all that. This children’s launderette (I believe this is a private joke) praised all his co-shortlistees, pointing out how talented they are, and reminiscing about kindnesses shown him in the past, and how he doesn’t like Campari.

‘Reading gives you ideas.’

And that’s presumably what worries them.

Change – the new notes

When I started moaning about change six years ago, I had no idea it would turn into my [own] favourite topic. Like when I had to go to the bank and ended up leaving all my ‘dead’ 50 öre coins on the counter, because this money institution had a slight problem with actually taking/handling money.

The bank has now moved on from such simple tricks. Literally. It has moved upstairs, so no longer has a street level presence. Where I was unable to launder money, you can now buy toiletries, in the town’s umpteenth new pharmacy (I knew there was a reason they used to be state-owned in the good old days. One or two will do nicely for any town.) where – to be fair – they actually gave the Retired Children’s Librarian a free face cleaning product last week. (No, she wasn’t dirty. She had her stuff confiscated by airport security.)

Not having ventured up, I have no idea what they don’t do, but my bet is on serving customers in general. And when no one has ventured up for a year or two, they will be free to close it down due to a lack of demand.

Anyway, Sweden has new bank notes. Daughter and I carefully spent all the first batch of old notes last August, so we wouldn’t have trouble this year. Only to find a) that the Resident IT Consultant still had his old notes and b) that shops still hand them out as change… Only 12 more days of this though. The new Astrid Lindgren twenty is very nice, but like Son said, it’s a shame she had to kick Selma Lagerlöf out.

The second batch of bank notes will be a year later, so I foresee a repeat next summer of trying to lose the money before it’s too late.

Which brings me to the loose change. The coins are going as well. The hoarder in me didn’t merely collect 50 öre coins in the past. I have a lovely collection of, mainly, one krona coins. It was topping 400 on arrival three weeks ago. And I rather despaired of going to the bank with my hoard, for obvious reasons.

Son and Dodo kindly bought ice cream with some of it; taking a bag of 50 each time they went. I forced one bag on the Resident IT Consultant to have in the car, and to park extravagantly, i.e. the right side of the river, whenever we went into town. I bought a loaf of bread (it has to be small purchases) with my last Selma and then laboriously counted up seven coins while the shop assistant fell asleep waiting. In other words, I was just like all those other old women you end up standing behind in a queue.

I’m hoping someone will come and buy more ice cream, or perhaps engage in minigolf, with the rest of my bags of money.

But what I really want to know of course, is how to go to the toilet in future. How to spend a penny, even if that penny is more poundlike. Or will there be no more public toilets?

MCBF – ‘a festival to grow up with’

It’s almost that time again. The Manchester Children’s Book Festival launched yesterday. Without me, but a launch is still a launch, and they have Carol Ann Duffy.

I like the way they describe their programme, suggesting that if you’re a little bit older than you were six years ago when they began – oh so beautifully! – you might have grown from younger books to some of the older, YA books and their authors. I really like that idea; that you grow up with a festival.

James Draper and Kaye Tew

And it goes without saying that once grown up you can still never be too old. After all, just look at the festival directors. Do Kaye Tew and James Draper strike you as old? No, I thought not.

I fear this may be another festival where I miss Sarah McIntyre and Philip Reeve. I have seen them, but they feel like my forever missing act. I don’t even know if I’m going this year. I’ll wait and see if I’m suddenly afflicted by energy, next week, or the week after.

The other side of Jacqueline Wilson, MCBF 2012

They have a lovely patron in Curtis Jobling (I’d like to think I made the introductions, but that could well be fake memory syndrome), so I don’t see how they can go wrong. And I love the fact that on their home page there is a photo of Jacqueline Wilson from a few years ago, with Daughter shooting away in the mid-background, and a virtually invisible witch next to her. We’ll never go away!

There’s a poetry competition, with judges of the highest calibre. If I wrote poetry I’d love the opportunity of being read by the poet laureate, and her Welsh counter-part, Gillian Clarke.

So, for two weekends MCBF takes over various venues across Manchester, including the library and Waterstones, where on the last day you can check out local boy Danny Weston with Sally Green [she’s not a boy].

That sounds good, doesn’t it?