Friday, 29 May 2009

Big thanks to Wimbledon Library

I have had a brilliant day. The sun is shining, it's almost the weekend and I had such a great time at Wimbledon Library this morning.

The sun was already bright when I got up, so I thought,
'Oh-oh no-one will turn up, they'll all be doing something outside'.

Then it clouded over and I thought,
'Oh well everyone's probably got plans now anyway.'
And in my head I'd convinced myself that there really would only be me and Catherine (fab librarian) and The Schnoops.

But actually there were quite a few children there - and what fabulous, fun children they were. And so were their parents: really supportive and welcoming and you know we all had lots of fun.

I always love to hear children laugh - especially at something I've written - and laugh they did. A LOT! And I am especially encouraged when I hear adults laughing when I read 'Extremely Very...' because what Ian and I wanted from the outset was something which would appeal to children and their parents alike. So thank you Wimbledon parents for laughing along too. You made my day.

At the end I was asking the children which was their favourite bit of the story. The boy right at the front said,
"Erm, I know....the end!"

That has made me chuckle all afternoon.

Thursday, 28 May 2009

The Schnoops do it in a library - again!

Just a quickie to let you know that The Schnoops are appearing at a library near you tomorrow....well it's near you if you live in Wimbledon and I do appreciate that a lot of you don't. So that was a silly thing to say!

But me and 'the children' (i.e.Little Doogs and his friends) are going to be doing our stuff in Wimbledon Library tomorrow between 11 and 12. And I know that with it being Half Term and supposedly a glorious day there is absolutely no telling how many people will turn up. So I'm playing it by ear and just doing whatever feels right at the time.....famous last words, possibly.

If the worst comes to the worst Catherine (the rather wonderful children's librarian) and I can act out a few scenes from 'The Extremely Very Scrambled Up World of Little Doogs' and you know that alone could be worth popping in for!

I am ashamed to admit that I was so thrilled when I saw one of the posters for the event in Wimbledon I sneakily took a photograph of it on my phone.
Sad, very sad!

Tuesday, 26 May 2009


I'm afraid I'm all out of synch (again). I've got photos of the Chelsea Flower Show which I keep meaning to upload but for reasons beyond my control (i.e.they're on Robert's iPhone) I haven't managed it yet!

So instead of gardens let's talk about those delicate little blossoms - teenagers. I for one love them: I love their passion, their belief that anything is possible, their (for the large part) fiercely funny sense of humour. And I think if the future is in their hands, we're going to be OK.

I know that I'm talking from a standpoint of not actually having a teenager of my own, and if I did have one, well I'm sure I might be telling you something very different. Yes they can be loud and cruel and do stupid things - but can't we all?

It was heartening to read last week about the Make Your Mark with a Tenner campaign funded by Nesta (the National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts seeing as you ask), Dragon's Den person Peter Jones and the founders of Bebo, Michael and Xochi Birch. Teenagers who enrolled for the scheme were each given £10 with the brief to set up a company which not only made money but which also had 'genuine social impact'.

Now if the 'Daily Mail' is to be believed you would expect them to nip down the shops and start slugging back WKDs with the dosh, but in fact 16,000 teenagers took part, making an average of £42 profit with their cash and so far 90% have repaid their original investment. And, hearteningly, most of them have chosen to make a donation to charity out of the remaining profits.

Companies ranged from ones creating cookery books to ones selling fruit to City businesses. The individual winner with a profit of £736.77 rented a 1920s bathing suit and organised (and modelled in) a period fashion show.

Many participants commented on how much they had enjoyed being in charge of their own business and now plan to do the same in future.

If, as I keep hearing, it is true that entrepreneurs can lead us out of recession, then my tenner might just be on those teenage ones!

Tuesday, 19 May 2009


As well as having at least one notebook in every handbag I own, I also have lots of bits of paper. Some of them have names and numbers scrawled on them (I have no idea why when I could have written them down in the notebook) and some of them are 'things of interest' I have torn out of magazines. Now I should be more like Little Doogs I know, and have a Special Notebook for Special Thoughts and Special Things in which I stick everything as soon as I find it. Alas I haven't managed that - yet!

What usually happens is that I carry the bits of paper round with me for ages, then on a murky old day when I'm feeling a tad bored, I take them out, decide whether they really are worth keeping then chase up whatever was so fascinating in the first place!

That is exactly what happened a couple of days ago and I discovered a fantastic website that not only sells the most gorgeous notebooks with hand-made covers it sells fabulous necklaces and brooches too - win, win, win!

It is called

I tried to buy something but couldn't so sent an email and received the loveliest one back the next day from Barbara who runs Frippery saying that she was in the midst of an Open Studios in Brighton and would send me pics of her stock next week. She also makes things to order if there's nothing there which exactly fits the bill. Even better (and what made me laugh) was that she assured me she was typing everything in a northern accent having moved south only last year.

Win, win, win, win, win!!!!!

Sunday, 17 May 2009

When I'm in London and I hear a northern accent I immediately feel a connection and have a look to see who it belongs to. I can recognise the ones from my part of West Yorkshire and I want to rush up to the person it belongs to and start talking about 'home'! I have so far resisted the urge, but it is only a matter of time!

Similarly local place names always leap out of newspaper articles. But the other week I'm not sure whether it was because 'Todmorden' leapt from the page or it was the photograph of an attractive young woman surrounded by sheep which made me stop and read the article.You must by now have got used to me banging on about my desire for a lamb or two.

Anyway the article was about Beate Kubitz who gave up a high-flying job in the city, moved to Todmorden bought some sheep and now runs the very successful Makepiece company which makes THE most gorgeous knitwear.(You could say she took one enormous 'Leap' to quote the title of my business partner, Ian Sanders' first book). The website is lovely. What makes me smile is that in and amongst the list of very swanky London stores which now stock the designs are notices about fashion shows in Hebden Bridge (a small pennine town with a reputation for bohemia for those uninitiated among you!)

The one drawback is that at the moment there isn't the facility to buy online but I think that is coming later this year. I have my eye on one or two of the rather fabulous gossamer-like creations. And I love the fact that each piece says 'Spun in Bradford knitted in Todmorden'.

So next time I meet one of those Yorkshire voices down here I might just whip off my cardigan and start to wax lyrical about 'home'! You have been warned.

Friday, 15 May 2009

Party Time!

One of the best things about writing for children is the letters I get. Just the fact that someone has taken the time to write to me means a lot. I have had a couple of duff ones where the girls took umbrage about something I'd written, but it transpired that they were friends and had been egging each other on. (I won't be writing 'Och aye the noo' again any time soon though. Oops I just have!)

I received an email the other day from a librarian who said that Year 5 pupils at her school write to their favourite author as part of their English curriculum. She had a letter for me but hadn't been able to find my address. She had actually bothered to go out of her way to track me down and not just send the letter to HarperCollins. I always get letters in the end if they DO go there, but it means that I usually get them a month or so after they've been written. Then I always think about the poor little girl (letters are invariably from girls!)sitting waiting for a reply and thinking how rude I am because I haven't responded. I always ALWAYS reply, even to the rude ones! (Although I do appreciate that I'm hardly J.K.Rowling and don't have to wade through 'fan mail' to get to the door!)

And I had another surprise yesterday. A parcel! A parcel full of 'The Sleepover Club: Party Time!' which is the reissued edition of 'Happy Birthday Sleepover Club!'. It might be a few years old, but it's looking good!

Thursday, 14 May 2009

Hot water!

I am cold. I could do with a hot shower. I quite possibly smell....

We haven't had any hot water or heating for, ooh, a fortnight now, give or take the couple of days in the middle of the whole sorry 'what-the-hell-are-they-doing? Call-themsleves-heating-engineers!' saga.

I can forgive human error. We all make mistakes (some of us even apologise for them!)But 4 'human errors' on the trot....hmmm patience is virtually eroded. But it's the level of service we've had that makes me despair - having to wait a week for a part which was in stock at the manufacturer's but because the engineer's supplier didn't have it on his shelf....ooh dear, what can we do? So much red tape tangling everyone up, it's as though everyone is too frightened to apply common sense.

And when we'd been waiting a week wouldn't it be sensible to priortise us and appear first thing? You'd think wouldn't you? But no, the guy appeared at 8.30 on Friday night meaning our plans to go out went the same way as the hot water. And that didn't happen once but twice...

Robert is always very calm and surprisingly nice - last night I was ready to get up and at 'em with a meat cleaver!

I am a cold cross bunny at the moment and channelling Honey...maybe I should adopt Jezza's approach and just go to sleep until it's all sorted!

Monday, 11 May 2009

I have a craving for lambs. Not to eat of course, to see frolicking around in a field, to touch, to feel that curly white hair. And if I had a couple of lambs I'd need a cow too. And some hens. And definitely a donkey.....

Sadly our garden is too small and I'm not sure that I'm ready to move out of Wimbledon quite yet. And if I want my fresh air fix (sadly without livestock) we're lucky that the Common is almost literally on our doorstep. Not only that but we also have the very lovely Cannizaro Park too, so beautiful at this time of year.

It has in the past looked a little sad and neglected in parts, due to the inevitable lack of funds. But the Friends of Cannizaro have done a great job in sprucing it up, and it even has its own herb garden now which the chefs at Cannizaro House take advantage of.

Ted and I love it there best of all at this time of year with the banks of azaleas and rhododendrons coming into bloom. It smells fantastic too so it is quite an assault on the senses all round. The perfect way to start the day. Even without the lambs.

(The photos are well down to my usual standard, but I did take them on my phone!)
I don't know about 'Sorry' being the hardest word. 'Thank you' seems to stick in a few people's throats too.

Friday, 8 May 2009

Post offices!

Not the most exciting title ever is it? But say those two words to me and steam starts to pump from my ears, I start to froth at the mouth and....well THAT'S surely exciting, in a sick and twisted kind of a way.

Time was when I had a parcelto post I would pop down the road, queue for a few minutes, bump into someone I knew, have a bit of a gossip and come home. Now I have to DRIVE to the nearest Post Office, park 5 minutes away because there's no space any nearer, queue up outside because there are so many people waiting and then when I'm finally served I have to listen to them recite all the services on offer - including deals on savings accounts which are apparently with an Icelandic Bank - before I can leave to run and find the car has been clamped.

But at least I can drive and I have a Post office to drive to - in my Mum's village the Post Office was the centre of the community, people went there to do their shopping, to get their papers to meet their friends, as well as to buy their stamps. Now it's closed down and the nearest one is a bus ride away.

It is wrong, wrong, wrong!

The only good thing is that I now have an excuse for all those parcels I keep forgetting to post. It's not a case of your cheque is in the post, it's more a case of your cheque is still sitting on my desk because it's raining and I can't be bothered to get off my fat bottom and queue in the rain to post it. Sorry!

Wednesday, 6 May 2009

Hello California! (San Diego to be specific!)

I'm waving now to my friends in California who I know check this out from time to time....Helloooo, how are you?!

I know that there are lots and lots of things for you to do out there but I'm going to recommend one special thing - for one day only, a never to be repeated offer (until next year) there's a Children's Book Festival at North University Community Library, La Jolla and I really think it would be worth popping along to.

WHY? I hear you ask ...

Well, what better way to cheer yourself up in these gloomy times than by looking at some wonderful, uplifting children's books?

And I know these things can sometimes be overwhelming so I suggest that you head straight to the AuthorsDen booth where there are some fabulous books to look at (AND BUY!!!)including of course 'THE EXTREMELY VERY SCRAMBLED UP WORLD OF LITTLE DOOGS'. Not only that but the lovely people from AuthorsDen will be handing out lots of Little Doogs' stuff including gorgeous bookmarks, funky postcards and rather fabulous fridge magnets. Oh you lucky people! Can you afford to miss it???

Friday, 1 May 2009

I'm back!

I've had a very frustrating week without the Internet. I didn't realise how much I used it until I couldn't. It was much worse for Robert of course who relies on it for his work. The only thing I NEED it for is to check emails which seem to be the first port of call for anyone trying to get in touch with me these days.

I've been hunched over a computer at the David Lloyd Club most mornings - when I could get on one of them and man are they SLOW! Patience isn't a virtue I know much about so that was quite testing. It did take me back to our 'Big Trip' in 2007 when I had to seek out Internet access in strange places to keep up to date with the blog. It was a real focus for me......and remembering that made me think that I could really do with a holiday....

I'd been waiting for an email for weeks about a Children's Book Festival in California and had given up hope of hearing anything. So of course it was Sod's Law that it came yesterday (when I was checking up on Robert's iPhone) and discovered that I was in IF I could get the books to them by next Friday. (Sadly it's only the books and promotional stuff going NOT me....I couldn't get things sorted out in time, although goodness knows that would have been a great holiday!)So manic packing and posting has been going on and best of all the Internet was back up and running so that I could sort out all the financial stuff securely online!