Category Archives: Travel

Bath time

Many years ago as I was at home in central Brighton, waiting for Mother-of-witch to arrive, I heard what could charitably be described as a motorbike on steroids drive up our little cul-de-sac. It was the right time, but definitely not the right sound. But as I looked out, it turned out to be her after all. Seems she had lost a bit of her exhaust en route.

At the time I thought nothing about her driving around England. It’s only as I’ve got really old that I understand how brave she was being, getting her car on and off the ferries, and driving on all those roads with roundabouts everywhere, and on the wrong side, too.

I gave her tea. It was the least I could do after her exhausting ordeal, and she told me about her drive from the Lake District. Earlier that day she’d had a look round Bath. And after she had seen what there was to see, she had gone up to a policeman and asked him where she had parked her car.

Bath policemen are obviously really good, because he was able to tell her. (It probably helped that she had made a note of the name of the street.)

As a parent myself I have occasionally ‘entertained’ Offspring with this story. I’ve never expected them to listen, or to remember it.

But last week as Son made his Bath debut with a day trip to this beautiful city, he came back and asked about that story about his grandmother losing the car in Bath. Had I been with her?

I explained that if I had, I clearly wouldn’t have permitted Mother-of-witch to lose a car like that.

But I’m quite impressed. He’d listened. He’d remembered, and even placed the lost car in the correct place.

I may need to be more careful what I say. More silly anecdotes could resurface when I least expect it.

And we had the exhaust fixed before she drove home.


What they do for reading

As I mentioned at the time, it wasn’t until I saw Meg Rosoff limping, walking back to her hotel, after an event in Glasgow two years ago, new boots causing her discomfort, that I really stopped to think about what it is they do, all these authors who travel to meet their fans.

You know, travelling and not sleeping in your own bed is one thing (or would that count as two things?), but to have hurty feet as well? It’s just heartrending.

This week it was World Book Day. It was also snowy. That’s not a good combination, as we had authors travelling the country for WBD events. Or not. Lots of events were cancelled. Partly due to the snow and travelling difficulties. Partly because of schools closing. (I bet that didn’t go down well with the thousands of parents who have had to come up with WBD fancy dress for their children, only to find the schools were closed on the day.)

And the authors who were already ‘out there’ when the snow hit. Could they get home? Some did. Mostly with difficulty, being delayed, cold, hungry, travelling on crowded trains.

Some didn’t. What do you do when stranded in a town, and there is no room at the inn? Everyone else got there first. Possibly because they weren’t performing in a school, so had an opportunity to book that last room.

Just as heartrending as Meg’s new boots, was the fact that I noticed one author asking around on social media if any of his/her friends happened to live in this town and had a spare bed. The case I saw had a happy ending, with someone offering a bed pretty swiftly.

But it’s sad, isn’t it? You come to talk about your books at a school, and then you are stranded. (In this case I believe it didn’t end the next day, because there were still no trains home.)

Thank you all!

Snow stops play

So. Snow.

It can be quite annoying, at times. Even if all that white looks pretty, what with the beautiful light coming into your rooms and everything.

We had a full Thursday planned. I was going to Edinburgh for some Swedish church stuff. Daughter was flying in from the continent to join me. (At one point it looked like both the Resident IT Consultant and Son were going to come along too. Unheard of.)

After that we were going to hang out somewhere nice for a bit; maybe Dishoom.

And then we’d go to Blackwells and launch Helen Grant’s Ghost again.

But you probably know what happened. Snow closed airports and railway stations and the trains and the planes went nowhere. One Scottish children’s author managed to leave the country on what must have been about the last plane out of Edinburgh on Wednesday.

Ghost was postponed. Personally I blame this weather on the children’s author who was going to chat to Helen about her book at the launch. She had gone out and bought garden things, envisaging some imminent opportunity for sitting out in the garden over drinks.

At one point it looked like church was cancelling itself too, but with the help of higher powers the minister found a train out of Newcastle. On the other hand, I doubt she had many ‘customers’ as I suspect most of the others couldn’t get anywhere either. I certainly couldn’t.

And with snow closing Geneva airport as well, Daughter could no longer blame it all on the UK and its way with snow.

I remember The Big Snow in 1968. It’s just that back then we had few plans for our time. It didn’t matter too much. Today, Son is/was due to go somewhere [ridiculously far] for the day. Dodo’s family are/were coming north for the weekend. The Resident IT Consultant even had to cancel a phone call due to snow.

But it does look quite nice.



Ordeal by teacher

I grew up surrounded by teachers. Yes, I know, most of you have had quite a few of them in your early lives. I had a few more, what with being the child of one and therefore getting to enjoy many more teachers as friends of the house, so to speak. And that didn’t stop when I left school, for obvious reasons.

I have liked them as much as you like people in general. No better but no odder than the rest of us.

So I was at first surprised by the Resident IT Consultant’s feelings about teachers, but I have become aware how right he is. One of the main characters in this old blog post of mine is a former teacher. And that’s probably half the trouble. Some teachers aren’t nice in the first place. Others forget that they are no longer teachers, with the ‘right’ to tell anyone and everyone off at all times. Those that remain teachers lose track of who they can reasonably treat like naughty children.

And no, that does not include me.

Which brings me to Nicola Morgan, who is excellent in so many ways. She is an author, who does school events. What’s more, she has done extensive research into other areas and written books about her findings, and now she travels the country giving talks on this. She’s good. She has made interesting discoveries and she presents them really well. Anyone would be lucky to hear Nicola speak.

But do those teachers behave? No they don’t. Well, quite a few do, of course, and she has met many good hosts during her travels. But recently she had one or two bad trips, where [head] teachers forgot she is a professional, invited by them and paid by them, and she shouldn’t be treated like a child, whose every move has to be controlled. Or that you drive off leaving her standing alone in the dark outside a school at the end of a long day, with her hoping a taxi will turn up.

Nicola is surprisingly polite still, but decided to put some of her experiences into a blog post on her website. I suspect she’s still holding back a little, but urge you to read what life at school is like, even for invited adults.


Read in Geneva

I have trained her well. If Daughter sees something she feels could make a blog post, I might discover she has emailed me some photos that I can use. In this instance it’s the Geneva bookshop she happened to walk past a couple of weeks ago.

Booked in Geneva

Having time on her hands, she entered, and found they had a largish section of books in English. These are the teen books, so I’m guessing that were we to add adult books and picture books, there would be a great deal more of them.

It would be unfair to compare this kind of offering with the equivalent French section in Waterstones. I mean, I don’t even know if they have a French section. But books in English are easier to supply anywhere in the world, as they can be bought and read by many more people than are native English speakers.

I’d still say this is a good selection of books, for those who can afford them. I understand they were quite expensive. Whether this was with domestic UK book prices in mind, or what Swiss residents can afford on their higher salaries, I’m not sure.

Booked in Geneva

It’s good to see this kind of thing. Even if the shelves do seem to be bending over backwards.


The instruction booklet

It can be hard to read. And understand, I mean.

Daughter dug out the board game she got a while ago, but we had been too busy to play, and now, with no Christmas or anything else getting in the way, we made an evening of it.

Ticket to Ride, Europe

But first you have to read the instructions. While Daughter unpacked all the cards and the colourful little plastic trains (this was Ticket to Ride, Europe) and the railway stations, she told me to read the rules.

I read and I understood all of the words, but I had great difficulty making sense of those words, in an all-together-now kind of way. I handed the booklet back to her, and the Resident IT Consultant and I waited dutifully while she deciphered those sentences.

It brought home to me how hard any kind of reading can be, depending on who reads, what they read, and where and when and why. And possibly some other wh-words, but these will suffice.

To play it safe, we avoided the railway tunnels like the plague, at least to begin with, until we had almost grasped what you had to do. I never mind if I don’t win, so felt safe enough merely playing, waiting to see how it would go, not needing to know exactly how to plot and plan.

Whereas the Resident IT Consultant had that smug face he always has when we play games and we know who will win.

But it was fun anyway.


Time flies

I used to be a big fan of Emily Barr’s. I’ve not necessarily stopped; it’s just that life changes and you simply end up doing different stuff.

For instance, I could have sworn that Emily wrote her travel column (which is what I enjoyed so much) for the Guardian maybe a little over ten years ago. But it does seem like time has flown somewhat, without me noticing.

Her new YA book, The Truth and Lies of Ella Black – out next week – is something like her 13th book! Back when she was travelling and telling Guardian readers about it, she was single and childfree and had written no books (that I know of).

Now, Emily has a family, and a dozen books behind her. I remember hearing about her first novel being published, and I’ve read the odd article about her over the last ‘ten’ years, but I still wasn’t allowing for the twenty years it must have been…

Anyway, here are my tulips bowing to her latest book.

Emily Barr, The Truth and Lies of Ella Black