Friday, 31 July 2009

Lunch with Paul May

I saw my old friend Paul May for lunch yesterday. Paul came up to Cambridge for the day from his home in rural Suffolk and we yakked on for hours in the Michaelhouse Cafe about all sorts of things, but mainly - of course - writing.

Writing is an essentially solitary occupation, and I have always found writers to be eager to talk about what they are doing, how they work, books they have enjoyed and so on. It is a release, I suppose, for all those hours spent alone with our own thoughts. It is also an acknowledgement that only other writers know what it is like to be a writer.

Writers can be cagey with each other of course. No one wants to go into too much detail about what they are doing. Not for fear that someone will rip them off, but because as much as writers often present themselves as world-weary old cynics, we all know deep down that there is a kind of magic to the process and we don't want the spell to be broken.

A painter friend of mine once said that he did not like to talk about plans and hopes too much, in case the very act of talking about them would make them disappear - as if the gods of good fortune would take them away to teach you a lesson for being so presumptuous. Neither of us were superstitious people and yet I knew exactly what he meant.

Paul May and I used to share an agent and a publisher and so used to meet at least once a year at the Random House Christmas Party. Now we have to make more of an effort.

And I am particularly bad at that kind of thing.

Thursday, 30 July 2009

I'm up on the 11th floor. . .

I hope it was sufficiently clear that I was joking when I mentioned Chris Riddell a couple of posts back. I am enormously grateful to Chris. In fact when he came to the launch of Uncle Montague's Tales of Terror, I was so intent on acknowledging his generosity to me over the years that I clean forgot to mention David Roberts.

My six-year stint at The Economist started in 1990 when I sat in for Chris when he was on holiday. When he came back it was felt that there was enough work for three - Chris, Dave Simonds and myself. Actually there was also Kevin Kallaugher who works as KAL, submitting from the States (something he still does) and Bobby, the pocket cartoonist.

Anyway, cue many drawings of Sadam Hussein, George Bush Snr, Helmut Kohl, John Major, Boris Yeltsin etc etc and heated debates about 70s rock bands, football, old TV programmes and goodness knows what. I do miss the camaraderie, if not the actual work. It was a bit like sitting at a bar all day. Without the booze. And with the stress of trying to get Bill Clinton's nose right. So not like a bar at all really.

I had worked for The Economist on and off for years (and for Penny Garret, the art director there, at The Listener before that) but this was the beginning of a weekly attachment to the paper and (hopefully) a life-long attachment to Chris and Dave.

It was Chris who suggested I write a children's book one evening while we were sitting in a row up on the 11th floor at The Economist. It was Chris who took the book I eventually wrote and handed it to Annie Eaton at Transworld and in so doing, it was Chris who effectively kickstarted my career as a writer.

Wednesday, 29 July 2009

A sneak preview



The page proofs of Tales of Terror from the Tunnel's Mouth turned up today, complete with David Roberts' illustrations in position. It gets exciting at this stage because it is getting so close to the finished item. Not long to wait now before my advance copies of the books will arrive (and however many books you've had published, that first printed copy is always a thrill, believe me).

They will be in the shops in October (along with the paperback of Tales of Terror from the Black Ship). Personally, I think Tunnel's Mouth is the best of the three Tales of Terror books.

But of course you'll just have to read it when it comes out to see if you agree.

Tuesday, 28 July 2009

Sex scenes and strips


And speaking of Chris Riddell, I spoke to him yesterday. He and Paul Stewart had been up in the Lakes at the same time we were, but there was no phone in the cottage and no mobile coverage. I actually received a text from Chris as I was half way up Dove Crag. We must have walked into a tiny sliver of reception and out again. It was Chris's first time in the Lakes and it sounds like he had an energetic introduction thanks to Paul who is a keen walker.

We talked about what we were up to. Chris was in the middle of writing a sex scene. At least, I hope that was what he said. I haven't had much to do with sex scenes. My books have not strayed into that area at all.

Yet.

Thank goodness.

I should perhaps have finished off talking about strips by saying how linked my strips have been to Chris Riddell. As I said last time, Bestiary was done in partnership with Chris, at a time when Chris did the political cartoon on the Independent on Sunday. When Chris left to go to The Observer I was to take over as political cartoonist at The Independent on Sunday.

However Chris persuaded me to move to The Observer with him. I was to do a portrait each week for their profile page and I came up with another strip called Babel. Babel was inspired by the wonderful Feiffer strips that used to grace The Observer.

I met the then editor of The Observer, the charmless Andrew Jaspan, who tapped a David Hughes drawing with his biro, and said, 'This is the kind of thing I don't want to see in my paper.' David Hughes was about the only decent thing in the magazine at that point (and they could actually do with something of that quality now). I should have seen it as a sign.

Things didn't work out. Having said that he hated the standard big head on a little body caricatures you always get in newspapers, Jaspan now decided that was just what he wanted. I was dropped from the profile pages and the only satisfaction is that I outlived him at the paper. The strip too was eventually dropped by the then editor Will Hutton not long after he took over as editor.

I was working at The Economist all through this period (along with Chris and Dave Simonds) and it was an ex-Economist journo - Andrew Marr - who called me in to work at The Independent (where Chris had also done the Monday political cartoon). Andrew was now editor of the paper. So I left The Economist and moved to The Independent.

I had worked for The Independent for years as an illustrator, but Andrew wanted me to do more. He had the idea that as well as doing comment page illustrations I should also do illustrations to news items when he felt it was right. These often appeared on the front page.

These (full colour) drawings were done at such speed (an hour was not unusual) that it was often a struggle to make sure they were merely competent. There wasn't a lot of time to do anything particularly creative. Though I was grateful for the opportunity to have such incredible exposure, and I never lost my affection for Andrew, I began to feel as though I was being given the chance to play in front of thousands, but they weren't really my tunes and I'd had no time to rehearse.

I wanted to do the political cartoon spot, and Andrew gave me my chance. I took my inspiration from American cartoonists more than British ones (or at least living ones). I get very tired of the seaside postcard nonsense of British Political cartoons. But I think I'm in a minority.

The strip I did for the Indie was a daily strip was called 7.30 for 8.00 and was a perpetual dinner party. It was a good idea, I think, and one I may return to. As with everything I did for the Indie it was done far too quickly and without enough planning. It took a little while to find a stable form and by that time it was dropped. Andrew had been dispensed with and I knew I would follow. I wasn't actually fired, but things had run their course. They made it easy for me to go. My very short career as a political cartoonist had come to an end.

Andrew moved on to a very successful career in television. Chris is still political cartoonist on The Observer (several editors later). Dave Simonds is still at The Economist and also does the political cartoon on the New Statesman. I have no idea what Andrew Jaspan is doing.

I had a baby son and I was happy to put the stress of doing a daily cartoon behind me. Well - 'happy' is probably not the right word. It did hurt. I had worked as an illustrator in newspapers for twenty years - for the pre-Murdoch Times when it was still in Grays Inn Road, for The Independent when it was in City Road, for The Telegraph when it was still in its Deco building in Fleet Street, The Guardian, the F T. I had been lucky enough to work with some great old school art directors - David Case at the F T, David Driver at the Times, Michael McGuinness at The Independent and Graeme Murdoch at The Telegraph. Newspapers had paid my rent for many years. But it turned out to be the best thing that ever happened to me. It gave me a break and I could stand back for the first time in ages and see what I wanted to do.

And it turned out that what I wanted to do most of all was write.

Chris Riddell popped up again in my strip-writing career, though. He had been brought into the New Statesman and had been asked to help get some decent cartoons into the paper. He asked me if I wanted to do a strip, and hey presto, Payne's Grey was born.

Monday, 27 July 2009

Coventry Inspiration Book Award

I came back to a mass of emails. And some good and bad news.

The good news was that Sarah Odedina had been in touch to say that Uncle Montague's Tale's of Terror has been nominated for the 2010 Coventry Inspiration Book Awards under the Read It or Else category. Thanks to the good people of Coventry for selecting my book from the crowd.

The bad news was that my New Statesman strip - Payne's Grey - is about to fall victim to that curse of the strip cartoonist: the 'redesign'. Magazines seem to redesign themselves every couple of months these days, in the same way that shops move everything around every now and then to make us feel like we are in a new and exciting place. Actually we all know we are in the same old shop, its just that now we can't find the pasta.

But Payne's Grey has survived for many years so I have no complaints. It was my last contact with the world of newspapers and it will feel weird not to do it when it comes to an end in September. Maybe this will be the spur to do another strip elsewhere. Or maybe it is a reason to stop doing them altogether.

I have done a few now. My first was with my good friend Chris Riddell in the Independent on Sunday some years ago. I came up with the idea and wrote the strips; Chris did a brilliant job with the pics. It was called Bestiary and was an extended riff on the fun to be had with inventing animals on the back of awful puns. Like, oh - I don't know - The Unwanted Hare, for instance. Or the Sole of Discretion. Or the Maiden Ants. Or the Cricket Bat. You get the idea. It amused us, anyway.

We did the strip for many years and it could have gone on, but for Chris moving to The Observer. In fact Chris is still shamelessly mining this particular seam in a pocket cartoon he does for the Literary Review, published as The Da Vinci Cod. . .


Some of us are fated to come up with original ideas; some of us are fated to steal our friends ideas and pass them off as our own. T'was ever thus.

Saturday, 25 July 2009

More me
















































We are back in Cambridge after a week in the Lake District. I have moved around so much in my life that I do not have any one place I consider 'home', but though I have never lived in the Lakes, driving along Ullswater into Patterdale does seem like a homecoming every time I do it. I don't pretend that I have any real ownership of that place, but I do have a real attachment to it. I feel more 'me' when I'm there.

Wednesday, 15 July 2009

Giant ants
























Mention of big ants a couple of posts back made me think of really big ants. I loved all those 50s sci-fi movies when I was a kid: The Incredible Shrinking Man, The Fly, Invasion of the Bodysnatchers and of course Them, featuring - admittedly rather unconvincing - giant ants.

But maybe bad special effects were good for me. Maybe it was good for the creative juices having to put in some work to make those movies convincing.

Maybe.

Tuesday, 14 July 2009

Prehumous fame

Josh Lacey got in touch today. Good to hear from him and I hope to meet up with him when I get back from the Lakes.

Malcolm Hardy brought the manuscript of his book round yesterday evening. There is a great deal of trepidation on both sides during the exchange of a manuscript. It is a tough thing for a writer to give up the work. But it has to be done, of course. You can't be a writer without a reader. Unless you die and have all that posthumous fame. But do you want posthumous fame, or do you want, er, prehumous?

Before I read Malcolm's tome, however, I will have to read the revised manuscript of The Dead of Winter, which came in the post today. Helen Szirtes has cast her beady eye over it and I need to see what she has to say. It's always worth hearing.

The editing process on a book is a tricky thing, as I've said on more than one occasion. You can look at your own work too long, and simply lose the ability to read it naturally or with any enthusiasm. I find it best to have a break and come back to it afresh. So when it goes away to be scoured, I do not look at it at all. I try not to think about it even.

Luckily I have such a terrible memory, this is not a problem for me.

Monday, 13 July 2009

Big ants


I had a long chat to Tony Bradman today on the phone, ostensibly about a thing I hope to be doing for OUP - Tony being the lead author on that project. I've never met Tony but this is the second long telephone conversation we've had, in which we seem to have established a long list of similar enthusiasms and inspirations.

I mentioned to Tony that I had just read Cormac McCarthy's The Road and it was no surprise to discover that Tony had also read it and had a minor obsession with it. It is a haunting book. Images from it keep popping into my head and I suspect that they will for some time to come.

Tony hadn't come to the book as a Cormac McCarthy fan, like I was. He had tried to read All the Pretty Horses and had not got on with it. I suspect he will have another go. All the Pretty Horses is a brilliant book and I am still traumatised by Cities of the Plain, the third in that trilogy of novels.

The Road is a beautifully written thing that is almost an antidote to the nightmarish cultural eradication the book envisages. If someone can write like this then surely there is always hope that, whatever the evidence to the contrary, the human race can be better than it seems to want to be. Science may hold the answer to the problems facing the world, but has also been the cause of many of them. Culture is the thing.

Without culture there seems to be little point in human existence. In Alice Roberts' excellent recent BBC TV series The Incredible Human Journey, a case was made for art being the deciding factor in the human race's supremacy over the neanderthals (technology having previously been thought to be the key factor). Art gave a form to belief and bonded us. Of course you could argue that it was belief that bonded us and that art merely articulated that belief. But without articulation beliefs are in a constant state of flux. We defined ourselves with the creation of sculpture and wall paintings. And stories, surely.

Without culture, human beings are just big (and comparatively inefficient) ants.

Sunday, 12 July 2009

Norman invasion

We had to get up hideously early this morning because my son was off to Normandy with the school. They are going by coach and ferry so they needed an early start. Alarms were set for 5 am and we turned up bleary-eyed to watch all 100+ kids get assigned to their groups and their teachers and their coaches. And then they were off. Bonne chance France.

We have not yet given in to the idea that all children over the age of eight have to have a mobile phone or they will spontaneously combust, so we will have no contact with our son for five days. I hope he enjoys that feeling of detachment. I know I did when I went away with my school. I think that is diminished if he could phone us every evening. We'll hear all about it when he gets back.

It was also our wedding anniversary today, so though we felt shattered, we decided to go for lunch in Lavenham to celebrate. And a very fine lunch it turned out to be.

Friday, 10 July 2009

Uncle Montague's nether regions


I have been asked to remind everyone that Uncle Montague's blog - Uncle Montague's Nether Regions is being updated. Apparently the old fellow was having some sort of problem getting his posts finished and there has been a huge backlog. He is gradually filling in some of the enormous gaps. To be fair, he does have other things on his mind, poor chap.

I noticed one amusing entry where he chides David Roberts for drawing Uncle Montague to look like Max Schreck in Nosferatu. The strange thing is, that though he and David have never met, as far as I'm concerned David has the old devil bang on.

Wednesday, 8 July 2009

Loser (continued)






So once again I lose. Six award nominations for Uncle Montague. Six! And not one win. Come on. That can't be right surely.

The shortlist for the Calderdale Book of the Year (primary section) consisted of me (for Uncle Montague's Tales of Terror), Matt Haig for Shadow Forrest, Tom Palmer for Foul Play, Brian Keaney for The Haunting of Nathaniel Wolf and Joshua Lacey for Bearkeeper. Matt Haig was the winner. Well done to him. No, really (mutter, mutter, mutter).

And thanks to all the librarians and staff at the library in Halifax for organising the event and looking after us so well. Well done to the children for sitting through such a long day with such a great attitude. Everyone was really excited but also incredibly attentive during the author sessions and there were lots of great questions.

I arrived in Halifax in a terrific rainstorm yesterday evening and checked in to find a note at reception from Josh asking if I wanted to join him for something to eat. I'd met Josh a few years ago at an author event in Heffers in Cambridge (during another rainstorm) when he was promoting A Dog Called Grk. I bought a copy and my son was henceforth a big fan of the Grk books. Josh is such a nice guy. And I'm not just saying because he might check this blog.

Our fellow shortlistee, Brian Keaney, was also at the hotel and having found his room number we went to collect him and went for a meal in the dining room. Publishers and agents should never allow authors to meet because when they do, there is invariably a long and sustained bitching session about all aspects of the writing business. All except the writing itself, of course. Writers love writing. Or they should.

I was alone among the three of us in thinking that it was in any way odd that adults (who weren't parents of children of the appropriate age, or teachers, or librarians or other children's authors) should read children's books in preference to adult novels. This did not strike me as especially controversial, but it was interesting to hear two intelligent adults state a contrary view. Brian wondered why I wrote for children - as if by saying that I preferred, as an adult, to read adult literature, that I was somehow denigrating children's literature. But I really wasn't.

There are some incredible books for children and I love writing for them. I love their enthusiasm and I know how important books can be in the life of a child. I would die a happy man indeed if I wrote just one book of the quality of say, Tom's Midnight Garden. I am against age-banding and I am happy for anyone of any age to read any of my books. But I do definitely write them for children. And though I do read a lot of children's books, I do so because I work in children's books, not because I buy into the notion that children's literature is the 'home of the story'. I do not share that distrust of the modern novel. And even if I did, there are just so many classic novels I have yet to read. Adult fiction is not 'better' than children's fiction. But it is different for a reason.

Speaking of which, the tediously long rail journey from Cambridge to Halifax (four hours, two changes) did at least provide me with a good chance to read a novel from cover to cover. Cormac McCarthy's The Road has been on my shelf for a while and I've taken a couple of nibbles at it in the last few months. But this is a book best swallowed in one, I think. It is so bleak, so merciless, that I'm not sure that I would have kept going. In a post-apocalyptic America, a father and son walk south under perpetual cloud through a dead landscape covered in ash, trying against all the odds to avoid starvation and the attentions of the 'bad guys'; trying to survive with their humanity intact .


That doesn't sound like much of a review, I grant you, but if you love Cormac McCarthy's writing - and I do - then it doesn't get much better than this. And I would also make the point that the interaction and dialogue between the father and son is perhaps the most convincing I've ever read. Without that at its heart the book would fall apart.

In children's literature we talk - obsess even - about plot much of the time, but there is also the strange alchemy that occurs when the way a book is written seems to shimmer and take on a life of its own. McCarthy does divide people - some will not get past the absence of speech marks or apostrophes - but his work excites me in a way that few other authors do. It is a tough book to read, but its worth it. McCarthy is right up there with any great writer you care to mention. And this book is up there with any classic novel you can think of - of any genre, of any period.

My one warning would be that if you are a father of a son then be ready to cry.

Tuesday, 7 July 2009

Midday crisis

Francis Mosley got in touch yesterday and showed me some recent paintings. I also had an email conversation with John Clark who also sent some pics of his recent work. It all makes me very eager to get some of my own painting done. Andrew and Lynette, my other studio mates, are away in Australia for the month and it means I have the place to myself (John mainly coming in before he goes to work at Sony).

Francis asked me if I was showing any signs of a mid-life crisis and I said no (with the caveat that I have been in a perpetual state of crisis since I was a teenager) but then promptly became incredibly depressed.

I have a bit of rule with myself that I try not to worry about things I can't effect, but I don't always maintain discipline on this and yesterday was one of those days.

There is something about receiving bad news, as I did yesterday, that makes trivial things even more annoying. Or at least that is the effect it has on me. I lose what little patience I had with the nonsense of life and then get angry with myself for letting it bother me. And depressed if I have made the mistake - as I often do - of mentioning that annoyance to someone else.

I remember reading somewhere a long time ago that people who think the world is inherently fair are more likely to be depressed than those who take a more jaded view. I certainly don't think the world is fair (and I do not suffer from depression as a rule) but I do make the mistake of thinking that everything can be resolved by talking. It can't. In fact talking often makes things worse. In fact many of the world's problems could be resolved if all those in positions of power simply shut up for a couple of years.

The great Jules Feiffer called one of his collection of strips cartoons The Explainers. That's what I am - I am an explainer. But explaining can often be just another kind of complaining.

But hey, I'm an artist and I'm a writer. It goes with the territory. We are screwed up so you don't have to be.

You're welcome.

Monday, 6 July 2009

Calderdale children's book (or rather books) of the year





I should have mentioned that we were at the annual concert of pupils organised by my son's piano teacher, Anne Marsh-Penton. As usual it was held in the chapel at Churchill College (with its beautiful John Piper windows) on a lovely summer evening, with cricket being played in the distance, long shadows and great globes of mistletoe in the trees outside. The quality of the playing from the young performers was very inspiring. I always come away with the urge to learn.

I'm off to Halifax tomorrow for the awards celebration for the Calderdale Children's Book of the Year. I have not been able to find anything about who else is on the shortlist, but it is a little confusing as the Calderdale Children's Book of the Year was awarded to Sally Nicholls in June. It seems I am in the primary age range category (though they both seem to be called the Calderdale Children's Book of the Year). Confusing, no?

Perhaps all will become clear on Wednesday at the event. I hope so. I'm staying overnight tomorrow, attending the event, and the coming back Wednesday. The journey is rather convoluted and involves three changes. It takes about four hours.

Sunday, 5 July 2009

And the answer is. . .

This chirpy chap is, of course, Edgar Alan Poe. He is a writer most people have heard of without having necessarily read his work. If you haven't read his short stories, then you really should. I would recommend The Fall of the House of Usher, William Wilson or the Tell-Tale Heart to get you going. Edgar in Uncle Montague's Tales of Terror is named in his honour and Pitch in Tales of Terror from the Black Ship is a deliberate homage to the great man.

This is H H Munroe, who wrote as Saki. His short stories often feature child protagonists who are tormented by maiden aunts, just as Saki was as a boy. Unlike Saki, though, his characters wreak their revenge.

This is Robert Louis Stevenson. I am a huge fan of all his work, but The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde is what gets him a mention here. Again it is a work that everyone 'knows' without having necessarily read it. If you haven't, you should.

This is the great M R James, sitting in his study at King's College, the scene of his Christmas Eve ghost story sessions. That's King's College Chapel through the window. Uncle Montague is named in his honour and he set a kind of gold standard for the art of telling creepy stories.

This woman should be instantly recognisable given the incredible fame of her creation. She is Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley, daughter of Mary Wollstonecraft and William Godwin, wife of Percy Bysshe Shelley and teenage author of the amazing Frankenstein.


This is another person whose face really ought to be more recognisable than it is. He is Bram Stoker, author of Dracula.

Friday, 3 July 2009

Name that author








I was on another school visit today - to Parkside School, here in Cambridge.

Parkside sits next to the big green space of Parker's Piece and is the school my son now attends. I was doubly pleased therefore to find that the children were incredibly attentive and well-behaved. It was an early start - my first session was at 9.40am - and it was horribly hot and stuffy, but they were great. Thanks to all the children and staff, particularly Ms Minett and Ms Andre for organising the visit and looking after me so well.

Of course, my PowerPoint didn't work here either. After much Googling I have discovered why: you have to have the movie clips in the same folder as the PowerPoint and reinforce the links by erasing the clips and then reinserting them. Sounds more trouble than its worth, mind you.

I read The Black Ship from Tales of Terror from the Black Ship, as it is a story about storytelling and you could have heard a pin drop both times. I then went through some of the slides in the Powerpoint. I showed the children some of the authors who have inspired me to write creepy stories. They are at the top of this post.

See how many you can recognise.

Answers tomorrow. . .

Thursday, 2 July 2009

Night of the hunter







Another hot and sweaty day, made all the sweatier by my being sat over a computer - or rather two computers.

My laptop has finally come back from Dell. Having replaced the DVD drive some time ago, they have replaced it once again, replaced the touch pad, the hinge with its touch sensitive buttons and the microphone socket. They also replaced the hard drive so I have spent all of today replacing the software they wiped when they took it off.

And when I wasn't doing that I was looking at my PowerPoint show and trying - with the input of my son - to figure out why it seems to work perfectly well on my computer at home. It must have been the computer at Oundle, I figured and rejigged it for my talk at Parkside School tomorrow.

I watched Night of the Hunter last night. I bought the DVD ages ago but have only just got round to watching it. Night of the Hunter had a big impact on me when I first saw it - I'm not sure how old I was. The sequence of the children drifting downstream in that boat has stayed with me all these years. It is magical - more like animation than live action. Charles Laughton sadly only directed this one movie. The critics hated it and he never recovered from the disappointment.

Night of the Hunter is always teetering on the edge of going completely over the top. Robert Mitcham's performance is bizarre (but fantastic at the same time) and the filming is so stylised it is almost like a silent movie from the German expressionist era. This is emphasised by the presence of silent screen star Lilian Gish as the force for good who stands in the way of Mitcham's demonic preacher. If you haven't seen it, I'd urge you to grab a copy and see something truly original.

Wednesday, 1 July 2009

Oundle

I went to Oundle School today, in Oundle, Northamptonshire. It was a horrible drive - very hot and along the hideous A14 for a lot of the way, with its roadside billboards stating just how many people have died in accidents in the previous months.

I had never been to Oundle before. It is a pretty little town that had a bit of a Cotswold feel about it. The school library I was visiting is in the churchyard of a lovely spired medieval church. All rather different to my own school experience I have to say.

I gave a talk to a large group of Year 7 and Year 8 children. I had spent a lot of time on a PowerPoint presentation and had made little videos in Photoshop and embedded them in the slides. It was going to be amazing.

But of course it didn't work.

I still went through the slides and the talk went well enough. The children seemed engaged and certainly asked a lot of very good questions. But it was annoying all the same. The thing is, you just have to forget something like that and move on. Never make your whole show based on something that might not work. You have to be flexible.

After the talk I signed and sold copies of Uncle Montague's Tales of Terror and Tales of Terror from the Black Ship and then did a couple of workshops in the library. We talked about creepy stories and how they work and what kind of things you have to consider when writing one. Then we tried to come up with one.

I had a chance to have a brief chat with a boy whom my son used to know when we lived in Norfolk, but missed his twin brother. It was lovely to see him and triggered a bit of nostalgia I have to say.

All in all a pretty intensive morning but it is always a privilege to meet bright children and hear what they have to say. A pleasure too to meet another great librarian in Leigh Giurlando, who I had assumed from the name during our email conversations to be a man, but is in fact a woman - and an American at that. As always I feel I have to point out how lucky any school is to have a good library and person like Leigh who knows about and cares about books.

Once again - librarians rock.