Category Archives: Travel

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.)

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?

Just over 50%

I’m on book five of eight. That’s pretty good going for holiday reading. I always pack too many, but better that than not enough. Although, there are books here too, that could be used in an emergency.

And considering I packed with a view to reading on the train all the way to Stockholm (but was far too sleepy to), and all the way back as well (forget why I didn’t, but I didn’t, apart from the last half hour when there was trouble on the track and I could foresee an endless evening waiting), that’s not bad.

Especially considering I had a party to prepare and survive and lots of visitors (very lovely, but not conducive to me reading for pleasure), I’m surprised that two thirds of the time I am over halfway through the hopeful holiday pile.

I have cheated too, by reading too many house magazines, of which there are many marvellous ones in the shops and a witch can’t really be expected to walk past them and not buy. It’s educational. With Monday breakfast I learned the Danish for korsvirkeshus [bindningsverkshus], and now I just need a better word in English than mock Tudor, as they predate Tudor. But you know, those dark wood criss-crossy beams you get in old houses. The reason I learned this was that the journalist in question didn’t stop to think what it might be in her own language, so plunged ahead and used the Danish.

But, as I was saying, I’m on book five. Depending on how things go, two more should be doable. I always cherrypick when travelling, and I’ve conveniently forgotten what I left behind at Bookwitch Towers, not to mention what might be waiting there when I return.

Skallkroken

Late to the party

She’s by no means ancient, but the Retired Children’s Librarian isn’t as young as she was. So it was much appreciated that she popped round for a couple of days, even if she was late for the party. On purpose.

Plane at Halmstad airport

Flying in from Stockholm to our local, rather small, airport, she wisely refrained from staying with us and went to a hotel in town. We had an Indian dinner, followed by ‘Indian’ coffee, which apparently wasn’t very good. This is a woman who only drinks water and coffee (many years ago when she really wanted to try muesli, she agonised over what liquid to have it with, and opted for coffee…)

I’d hoped to lure her into the – to her – new library, on the way from dinner to bed, but she declared it ugly and said no. I gather she is still in touch with her old boss who keeps her updated on who [from the library] has died in the last year, which is a helpful service to have.

Don Quijote at Särdals Kvarn

We had elevenses at the windmill, and she instantly recognised Don Quijote in the car park. ‘What’s he doing here?’ she asked. I suggested she stop and think about what the good Don usually does, and the penny dropped. (In fairness, my penny took years to drop.)

Went home and I was given my birthday present. We decided this was all right, as she’d not had the official invitation that said presents weren’t allowed. It was a book. Obviously. A new biography of Astrid Lindgren, by Dane Jens Andersen, and it looks very promising indeed.

Jens Andersen, Denna dagen ett liv

Then we fed her leftovers, and she read [my friend] Ingrid Magnusson Rading’s book on the local area, and was most impressed. She enquired about when I last spoke to Meg Rosoff, so I had to own up to having seen her only last week, and went on to show her Bookwitch’s thoughts of it all. The Retired Children’s Librarian is not into computers, so never reads what I write.

I offered her one of our copies of Meg’s I begynnelsen var Bob, but she replied ‘God forbid, no!’ which I suppose was appropriate.

And then she was returned to her hotel. On her request, I hasten to add. She also requested the scenic route via various seasidey places, the best café for coffee and cake, and her old block of flats. Also had a look at where the very young Bookwitch used to live, in the very olden days. A bit overgrown, rather like the witch herself.

My little red book

Well, it was better than a trip to Lunar House. (I pray that regardless of what the UK referendum in three weeks’ time will decide, that I don’t have to go back there.)

The trouble is that Sweden has got a lot tighter with its citizens, and not just by forcing the Danes to check passports before they let people cross the Öresund. But after months of panicking, Daughter and I visited the local police station for new passports.

We came well prepared, if a bit worried, as we are definitely not the ideal kind of customer. One of us born in one place and one in the other, the first one living in the other place and the second one living in a third place. And how many nationalities do we have between us and how many have we turned down?

But we live in hope of getting our new little red books soon. Neither of us look especially pretty in the photos they took of us, narrowly avoiding the hooligan mug shot look.

And sometimes you despair of doing it. I went to pick up a parcel a few days ago, for which you need photo ID. I showed the girl in the shop my ID card and she looked puzzled and asked ‘what’s this?’ As a former pro at this kind of thing, I was suitably horrified, but pointed out that we don’t all drive cars, while silently wondering what she herself had used when – not all that long ago, judging by her looks – she wouldn’t have had a driver’s license either. Maybe she never picked up parcels.

The poetry roadshow

For a witch who claims not be be all that keen on poetry, it was quite a revelation to see the photo in the Guardian Weekend of four poets about to hit the road and cover the UK’s indie bookshops from the south to the north. Because I have actually met three of them, and I even own at least one signed volume of poetry by those three as well.

It’s only Gillian Clarke from Wales that I didn’t know. Carol Ann Duffy, on the other hand, comes from my old neck of the woods, as does Scotland’s new makar Jackie Kay. And Imtiaz Dharker I came across on that first visit to the Gothenburg Book Fair many years ago. (I was never quite sure how safe it would be to travel with her The Terrorist at my Table in my bag…)

Imtiaz is – according to Carol Ann – their ‘world laureate’ and that’s a pretty good title to have. As is poet laureate, of course.

I quite like the idea of these four ladies travelling the length of the country to read poetry in bookshops. My closest one is probably St Andrews, but that is still too far for a Saturday night outing.

Anyway, the fact that I have some of their work, might be an indication that these are very much user friendly poets, if that’s an OK kind of description. None of that feeling I had when I was at school, that poetry is boring, and pompous.

(Googling the article, it was suggested I might be looking for ‘pets’ and not poets. Honestly!)