Tag Archives: Kaye Webb

There’s Nuffin like a Puffin

‘It’s a shame it wasn’t in a better place,’ the Resident IT Consultant remarked as we left Lyme Park after seeing the Puffin exhibition there. And he doesn’t complain at the drop of a hat. (That’s my job.)

Don’t misunderstand me; Lyme Park is a wonderful place and Lyme Hall is a great house, and the There’s Nuffin like a Puffin exhibition put together by the fantastic Seven Stories was interesting. But it would have helped tremendously to be able to see all of it.

A dark corridor leading to the toilets and the restaurant is not the place in which to see.

I’d been sorry to miss the original exhibition in Newcastle and I was excited when it came to my neck of woods (even though it took me forever to find a free weekend to go and have a look) so that I could take it in after all.

They had long (wide) photos of Puffin book spines. Close to knee height for me, so I didn’t see so much of those. They had letters from Puffin’s past, shedding some light (hah!) on how the literary business was handled in those golden days. Except, letters behind glass, high up on a wall in the dark…

Sometimes exhibitions exhibit old things which would die very quickly if subjected to daylight. But most of what we saw were facsimiles of letters and illustrations. They would have survived some lamplight.

One bonus of Lyme Hall as a venue was that we were allowed into rooms I’ve never seen before. One rather nice one where children could paint and have stories read to them. There were boxes of older books, too, but I suspect it’s less likely that parents bring that age group to this type of thing. A piano to bang – sorry, play – on was a nice touch.

The room for fans of Percy Jackson and Artemis Fowl was empty, apart from the bemused room steward who tried to tell us why we were in the wrong place (for our age group). The room for the Borrowers, on the other hand, was just perfect. Daylight and stuff to see and touch. Stig’s room of rubbish, likewise.

There's Nuffin like a Puffin - Borrowers' room

We came to the conclusion we were too old for the Puffin trail through the gardens, so finished off in the Orangery where we found a by now not so hungry caterpillar. He was resting on the echeveria, looking quite content. Bet they will soon realise it’s a mistake to put a caterpillar in an Orangery. They eat stuff.

In a hitherto unknown room behind the scenes, we could have coloured in butterflies, and they had Puffin bookmarks to design. Very nice. I took one home to do. Two, actually.

We were glad we went as adults. It would have been hard to hit just the right age with a child or two in tow. It’s easy to think that children’s books are just right for ‘children.’ Any age.

Who wants to read letters to and from Kaye Webb? Not your average six-year-old. I wanted to, but couldn’t. I was glad to find that even back then authors were lovely people who would draw and paint for someone they liked and cared for. There was a wonderful letter from Jill Murphy to Kaye Webb, and a card from Tove Jansson, featuring a Little My doodle.

So, as the Resident IT Consultant so rightly said, somewhere else, where we could have looked at all of it, with enough lighting and enough space to allow necks to remain un-cricked and knees not being required to bend to toddler level, it would have been most enjoyable.

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The Random Christmas Party

After frenzied discussions on facebook as to the level of insanity of me travelling in this snowy weather, it was all a bit of an anticlimax. Nothing untoward happened as far as my travelling was concerned. To go or not to go. That was the question. And until I put my coat on and locked the door behind me, I didn’t know myself.

Sat next to someone on the train who wrote a list of cocktails on his Macbook, and I wanted to scream when he listed vodke. But to point it out would have been to admit I was reading his document.

And while on the subject of drinks, I may have been standing in the part of the room at Random’s Christmas party where all (well, two) the wineglasses broke, but it wasn’t me. They simply exploded next to me.

I knew I was in the right place. Address, not exploding bits of glass corner of room. Partly because I’d been there before, and also because when I got to the front door Klaus Flugge stepped out of a cab, which was as good a sign as any.

Everyone was there. Except for all those less than intrepid souls who cancelled because of the weather. If I could broom in, then anyone could. Maybe. I understand it’s normally more of a crush at these parties, and although I was unable to hear myself think, Mum Clare told me it was on the quiet side. Of course it was.

Someone even missed Daughter, which was awfully kind of her, and it made Daughter’s day to have been remembered. I’d heard about these parties, and decided that people might dress to the nines for them, but that my Arctic explorer persona would allow me to be sensibly dressed. So I was only slightly disconcerted to find beautifully assembled guests ahead of me. And the rest of them changed into their party toilettes in the toilets.

So, who was there? Philip Pullman was there, until he left. I steered clear of him on account of me having complained about his writing speed only last week. Same for David Fickling, to spare him any more embarrassment. Eleanor Updale came, and I missed speaking to her too. Didn’t even see John Dickinson.

I did spy Sarah McIntyre, so decided to make myself known to her. Her beautiful spectacles and lipstick make her instantly recognisable. I looked at the floor to see if Sarah was wearing very exceptionally, extra high heels, but she wasn’t. I felt a wee bit short. Sarah introduced me to Neill Cameron, who’s one of her David Fickling Comics colleagues.

Neill has a book launch (for Mo-Bot High) today in Oxford, so make sure you don’t miss it. I hope Neill doesn’t miss it either. He looked worried when I said the forecast was for his non-return to Oxford, and said he’d leave at the first sign of a snowflake. We spent some time shouting to each other on a variety of subjects, from what three-year-old boys should read to me being followed on Twitter (and I don’t even tweet) by a fictional 17th century Scottish faerie (hi, Seth!).

I saw Jenny Downham, who actually had a new book out yesterday. I say they missed a seriously good opportunity for a book launch party there. I was introduced to Klaus Flugge, who is too old for blogs. I’ll show him!

Ian Beck was there, and so was Steve Cole, but I never made it across to say hello. Didn’t speak to Anthony McGowan either, and I so wanted to ask him to smile at me. Lindsey Barraclough was there. She’s the neighbour of Random’s Annie Eaton, and who will be a publishing sensation next year. Annie smiled at me and touched the sides of her head. She might have been saying her hair was very nice or that mine was awful. Either way she’d be right.

Agents Rosemary Canter and Hilary Delamere chatted by the window, and Philippa Dickinson made a good speech. It was all about hairnets and labcoats and Puffin’s Kaye Webb, whose biography we must read. I’m more worried about needing to wear a hairnet to operate my laptop.

At some point I found myself clasping a small spear and wondering why, as I had no intention of stabbing anyone, until I remembered it had arrived with a tasty mozzarella ball which I had eaten. Many delicious canapés were being walked around the rooms, but I seemed to attract mostly the sausages and the chicken. If there were no breadsticks left, I suspect it might have had something to do with me.

I have finally met Pete Johnson! And he wasn’t anywhere near as short as his name had lead me to believe. I was so overcome I couldn’t even recall the title of his book which I read about a year ago, so I had to assure him I could remember everything about it except the title. (The TV Time Travellers)

With elderly knee and hearing both giving out, I decided to call it a day before I ended up spending the night (I had threatened poor Clare that I’d come and sleep at her house if the trains were cancelled!) and broomed away pretty swiftly and caught the second last of the offpeak trains where I had a choice between sitting next to a John Boyne lookalike and a Nick Green lookalike. I picked Nick because he had a window.

Bookwitch bites #11

We hurriedly required a zombie free book for Daughter to read. In the middle of the night. Historical was requested, so in the end we plumped for Mary Hoffman’s Stravaganza, which Daughter had not read, despite repeated suggestions. They may not do a lot for the exam results, but the books have sort of melted away in her hands. I suspect she likes them.

Speaking of Mary, her old literary magazine Armadillo has undergone a substantial facelift. Do go and have a look. Even I am impressed, and that’s hard to achieve.

‘If you ever get offered that book about Kaye Webb,’ said the Resident IT Consultant one day last week, ‘it’d be very interesting to read’. Since a copy of So Much To Tell by Valerie Grove was already sitting in the living room, I had to break it to him gently that his request had come true instantly. After which it took several minutes before he carried the biography about the Puffin lady off in one hand and a mug of tea in the other. They seem to have got on well together.

After my walk round Uppsala with Son on Friday afternoon (we had to walk off lunch, to make room for tea and cake), I did a quick foray into Akademibokhandeln to see what they had to offer. Nice end aisle display of Meg Rosoff’s Just in Case, Swedish paperback version. And, around twenty copies of that embargoed book I hinted at last week. It’s still embargoed, so I can’t tell you what they are engaged in selling prematurely.

Someone had decorated the headrest of the seat in front of me on the plane on Thursday with Moomin stickers. One sticker featured the Groke. Let’s just hope that no one with a Groke phobia sits there. Or could that explain the rather bumpy descent into Arlanda?

And Candy Gourlay has been making a short video for her new book Tall Story. Is there nothing she can’t do?