Category Archives: Travel

It all adds up

The Resident IT Consultant had to explain to the garage that next Friday Scottish school pupils sit their Maths exam. And he needs his car, so that his little group of hopefuls don’t fail, simply because the garage ordered the wrong part.

In the last few weeks he’s taken on a ridiculous amount of Maths tuition sessions, with old and new students. If it was going to go on for much longer I would not have allowed it, but felt he could cope with the pace for now. We just didn’t reckon with the car feeling unwell. Or the wrong part.

Getting a tutor for your child – or for yourself if you are a university student – is [mostly] proof that you want to do well, and that in itself is an encouraging thing. Often those who do don’t really need a tutor. They need confidence, and exam techniques. Some erroneously believe that finding the tutor will absolve them from having to do work, but they don’t tend to last long. You still need to work on your Maths, and you still need to sit the exam.

Since we live in a smallish town, several of the students live some distance away, so have to have ‘double Maths’ to make the drive there worthwhile. And to do that, the car needs to work. Being stranded in some attractive, but remote, spot isn’t ideal.

The garage could see his point, and promised the Resident IT Consultant a courtesy car in case the right part didn’t turn up the next day.

(Yes, I could lend him the broom,  but you should see the amount of paperwork he carries around.)


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.)

Going Continental

I don’t drive. [You need to remember this.]

So, there we were, after ten days of a rented Danish car, and with me barely closing my eyes on The Bridge as we crossed. A little, but mostly not.

So, there we were, picking up our own car at the airport, and the Resident IT Consultant and I arranged our belongings and got ready for the drive home. Once I had my padded jacket where I wanted it, I traipsed across and waited for the Resident IT Consultant.

He’s a polite man, so when he saw me standing there expectantly, he asked if he was in the way, or something? Did I want him to move? ‘Oh, I’d say so,’ I replied, looking at him meaningfully. Still took him a while to cast his eye over the car, before he clocked that he been about to drive from a seat devoid of a steering wheel.

I wasn’t generous enough to mention that I’d been quite surprised to find a steering wheel on my side, as I’d wrestled that jacket into position. But I was quicker to work out what had gone wrong.

Usually this only happens in the rented cars, when he gets in and finds they have forgotten to put in a steering wheel.

I tell you, this getting older is no picnic.


A nice bit of gossip is always, well, nice. At the weekend I fed the holiday Bookwitch Towers neighbour some tea and tosca (from Börje’s, so it was almost as good as Gösta’s) and learned that the chap across the road is dead. We’d thought not, as the place – still – looks like a tip, and had assumed it was only an obstinate man clinging on to life that would prevent the place being sold and made presentable. Preferably by razing the house to the ground.

The neighbour had witnessed the [much earlier] emptying of said house, with the people doing it wearing hazmat suits as they removed the piles of newspaper, the countless old fridges and the rats. I had previously believed it was mainly the outside that had been adorned by dead fridges and even deader cars, but it appears his collection was vast. His heir seems incapable of doing anything, so who knows how long this state of affairs will continue?

You could write a crime novel about it. The dead man arrived virtually overnight. (That’s back when he wasn’t dead, obviously.) We always wondered what happened to the family of seven who used to live there. Seven people don’t just get up and go in the middle of the night.

And the man’s ‘wife’? Or maybe she was the maid? She didn’t last long, and when she disappeared their son remained with his father, who spent years shouting at the poor boy.

There used to be an enormous lorry parked outside, and I’m fairly certain it wasn’t just the goods he officially delivered that travelled in the back. On at least one occasion I saw a small car being driven in and out of the lorry. Getaway car? Getaway from what? I had a theory once, after reading about something or other in the paper.

I had hoped that with his father finally dead, the son would stand a chance of a normal life, but it seems not.

Speaking of sons, Son has always said he’d like to live there. I think – hope – after the razing to the ground and rebuilding, but I can’t be sure. Even derelict it’s probably worth a fair bit.

And you want to be careful in case any old henchmen, or worse, suddenly were to materialise outside your front door.

Out of order

If they’re not careful, old SJ will soon have trains that are no better than those of their competitors’. During yesterday’s travels on two trains, out and back, they had ‘unserviceable’ toilets, and it is always the one nearest to me. But then, with trains going so fast that soon they will arrive at their destination before they have left, you won’t really need an on-board comfort stop.

We went to Lund, the Resident IT Consultant and I. It is so gratifying being wanted, even if people are only polite. (Also intelligent, literate, literary and generally pleasant.) And on the plus side, I will never have to cook them a meal ever again; I couldn’t possibly come up with anything that professional, so might as well throw in the towel.

Speaking of which, since Swedes start off  any visit by giving you a guided tour of their home, I now know that our hosts have some nifty towel rails. (Just thought I’d mention that.) That’s in what is a very nice house. There was a tour of the garden too, and I kept seeing rhubarb. On my second go, luckily it was rhubarb.

We met young Master Happy and his parents for the first time. Master Happy knows what he wants. He wants cake. And he was so right in wanting that particular cake, and it was worth his ‘suffering’ through some normal food first to be allowed some.

I was sent home with a new book. It has words such as Attosecond in its title. (I don’t even know what that means.) Thank goodness it wasn’t for me! All I did was offload a few books for Master Happy.

There was barely time to read on those trains, but I did finish one novel, which ended rather similarly to the one I reviewed earlier this week, with a chopped off Queen’s head. Must be all the rage, I suppose. I then began another, the second in a series, where some Bookwitch raves about the first instalment. I should probably believe her when she claims that she ‘loved it!’