Tag Archives: Neill Cameron

Rising Phoenix

I have read a lot of comics in my time. Not for a while, though, and never actually the DFC. I did try to lay my hands on a copy, but without any luck, which is why I’m especially happy to witness its reincarnation into the Phoenix.

If it hadn’t been for the sad fact that I could never persuade Offspring to understand the charm of comics, I’d have said it’s an essential part of childhood. Maybe it’s because their childhood didn’t take place while there was a David Fickling related comic? Let’s say that’s the reason.

Phoenix launch with David and Caro Fickling and assorted other people

I’ve also read quite a few bad comics, or at least iffy ones. That is not something you can say about the Phoenix, which is quality through and through, while still being fun. I knew some of the cartoonists from the comic books David has published, so that was nice. But some of the hitherto unknowns also proved to be fun.

They let me have three copies of the Phoenix, from varying stages. And I have to say that reading an exciting story which began in issue zero (honestly, zero…) and then coming back to it twelve weeks later, only to find that it ends in the most recent issue, is a bit, well… I’d have liked to see what went on in the middle. But it wasn’t to be.

And I have now left Good Dog, Bad Dog hanging in mid-air as well.

I’ll get over it.

Phoenix

An elderly witch does not have the same amount of comic-reading time at her disposal as her younger self had. If she did, there would be lots of stories to read every week and puzzles to solve and weird little comments from Tabs and Chops, the editors.

There are cleverly disguised book ‘trailers’ for new books recently or soon to be published. (That’s right. Get them hooked. Make them desperate.)

I found one adoreable spelling and one spelling error. The error was mine and I wonder how they knew I’d need to be told. It has now been edited out, and most of you will be none the wiser.

If I was young I’d want the Phoenix every week. If Offspring were younger they’d get the Phoenix every week, whether or not they wanted it. Anything that starts children off reading is good. And this is good.

What to do about 3-year-olds

To tell the truth; I don’t know. I have had two myself, but they have gone on to other things, like being four and twelve and even worse. One of them was a 3-year-old boy at one time, and it’s boys we are worrying about here. We must have done something with him?

It was while I was in the exploding-glasses corner on Thursday, chatting to cartoonist Neill Cameron that he asked what he should get for his 3-year-old. It’s hard being an ‘expert’ and standing there having no clue whatsoever. What did we do?

There appeared to be a gap between the plastic foam bath-book and the Oxford Reading Tree in the infants. Son read the Resident IT Consultant’s coffee table train book. He read it until it fell to pieces, but that was just looking at photos of choo-choo trains.

Thomas the Tank Engine. Book and video. Tootles the Taxi. We read that over and over and over and… Can you discern a trains and cars preference here? When he was three Son was an only child. When that stopped, Daughter arrived bearing a road mat as an introductory bribe for her big brother. So, more cars.

I was invited to Usborne parties. I remember that. I bought Usborne books. There were some nice ones about a farm; female farmer (so pc) and lots of tractors. Usborne also did some nice larger books with ten or twelve stories to read at bedtime. We read those a lot.

In fact, at the time I was still almost at stone age levels re purchasing for Offspring. ‘You don’t need much’ was my mantra, so we read books lots of times, instead of reading lots of books.

Vaguely recall books called Stories for 5/6/7/8/9-year-olds (not all at once, obviously), so it stands to reason there must be a Stories for 3-year-olds too, in which case we will have owned a copy.

Wolves. We had loads of wolfie stories. With or without pigs. Sometimes the wolf was bad, at other times the pigs.

Then came school and Kipper. The Kipper books kept us going until Enid Blyton and Roald Dahl arrived at about age six or seven. Another three years on we went potty over Potter and I know for a fact that Son was ten when he read Northern Lights. (But Daughter enjoyed it on audio at seven.)

Back to Thursday when I could only think of Steve Cole (who was there) and Philip Ardagh (who wasn’t). Later I remembered Andy Stanton and his Mr Gum. But they are all more of the six and upwards. But maybe they will do well a lot earlier if someone reads them to their child? Not having tried them myself I don’t know how early they can be appreciated. Barry Hutchison has written one book scarier than the last one, and his own son could only tolerate things up to the third one. Or so I believe.

As you can tell, I’m not getting very far here. Help!

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.