Tuesday, 31 March 2009

The Schnoops on tour!

Little Doogs and his mates started their world tour yesterday. First stop Watford - California in October!!

I couldn't think of a better place to begin than Orchard Primary School - it sounds a happy place to be and it certainly lived up to that. I would like to thank everyone for making me so welcome, especially Mrs O'Callaghan and Year 2.

It was a happy day for me all round because I met up with Melanie whom I haven't seen since we left school (coughs loudly) years ago! She was looking great and it was good to catch up with her over lunch AND to have her support. (She took the photographs as well as doing all sorts of other things including operating the white board which, I'm afraid, defeated me!)

It was a brilliant day and I learnt so much:

1) Organisation is crucial but going with the flow is just as important. Children will always go off on a tangent and quite often it is one well worth exploring with them.

2) I suit a bowler hat apparently

3) Any mention of 'bottom' is always a winner

4) Whereas I think 21 is very young, to a 6-year old it is almost geriatric

5) Hearing a boy say "that's a great story, I loved that!" is better than gold-dust...or diamonds... or indeed a wardrobe full of boots

6) I most definitely have the very best job in the whole wide world ever

I had a great day, I hope the children in Year 2 at Orchard Primary School did too.
Their work was superb and I look forward to seeing them again on World Book Day next year.

Wednesday, 25 March 2009


Friends - where would we be without them?

I'm answering a series of questions for an interview at the moment - really different interesting ones too.
Eg : "If you could co-write a book with any author alive or dead who would it be and what genre would the book be?"
That's one to exercise the brain cells for sure.
One question asks: "What 5 things could you not live without" and my first answer without a shadow of a doubt is 'my friends'.

I have close friends whom I don't speak to as often as I should but the occasional texts let them know that I am thinking about them. I 'speak' to my more distant friends far more frequently via Facebook and goodness knows I would have sunk without them recently. But now of course the Government wants access to our profiles. They have obviously realised that my long posse ride to Dodge-City-On-Sea with my mates to sort out a rogue weasel was in fact a sophisticated terrorist plot!Yeah right - we were navigating revenue streams in canoes for goodness sake!

Today I caught up with one of my very good friends who lives very close-by but who I haven't seen since the beginning of January. Well, I SAW her at the book launch for 'The Extremely Very Scrambled Up World of Little Doogs' but I never really managed to speak to her. So today we'd planned an 'away day' together and with Robert's words ('Don't buy any more boots we've no more room!') ringing in my ear we set off.

It was just so great catching up. I didn't realise how much I'd done since I last saw her, she'd forgotten that she'd won an award AND been away since we last met....sometimes it's only chatting with a friend like that that you take stock and think 'Wow! I'm doing OK!'

So go and hang out with your friends for a while: celebrate each other's triumphs, sympathise with each other's woes. It's good for the soul.(And my bank balance - I didn't buy any boots, or shoes or even any clothes....I did have a glass of wine though. But that's OK, right?)

Saturday, 21 March 2009

A buzz

I feel as though there is a bit of a buzz starting now about 'The Extremely Very Scrambled Up World of Little Doogs' which is GREAT and makes everything so worthwhile. When Ian was in Texas he passed copies on to a couple of publishers out there, Lindsey my lovely agent has been so supportive and is taking the books to Bologna, which is the big Fair for children's books, next week. I'm going to the London Book Fair and to an event by the Society of Authors and of course most importantly of all I am going into schools to meet the children I write for.

As well as schools I had sent emails to local libraries offering my services to read to groups of children. I am quite passionate about libraries because they are such a valuable resource and I don't want them to go the same way as our Post Offices - do NOT get me started about that. I hadn't heard anything since firing off the emails so was feeling a little despondent, then yesterday I heard from Wimbledon library who are very keen for me to go in at Half Term. FANTASTIC!

I've been working all morning, preparing for my visit to Orchard School on 30th and I also seem to have been fielding a rash of phone calls offering me everything from help with my overdraft (non-existent I am happy to say) to numerous unbeatable share offers (like yeah, I'm really going to take that up over the phone). So when the phone rang yet again with a 'caller withheld' number I wasn't in the best of spirits. In fact I could possibly have been quite rude. Big mistake! It was Raynes Park library wanting me to go there to read. I feel so ashamed. I hope I made amends with my enthusiasm later, but really I have no excuse. I promise that from now on I will always answer the phone in a happy manner - because I never know who will be on the other end. Johnny Depp you have my number!

Thursday, 19 March 2009

I was going to write about 'dongles' today, for no other reason than it's a funny word and it made me and my friends laugh on Tuesday evening....

But then I thought 'no', I don't know what they are anyway.

Yesterday saw me going up to London to see my dentist. It was a beautiful day so we walked from Waterloo to the City alongside the Thames. And every time I do that I feel so proud to live here. It's such a beautiful city. And no matter how many times I do that walk I always feel as though I'm on holiday, seeing the view for the first time.

Yesterday there were lots and lots of tourists, exchange students mainly heading towards Tate Modern and the Globe theatre.( A lot of them had carrier bags from Hard Rock Cafe which I found a bit worrying as they seem to have them in every city all over the world, why would you want to buy a souvenir from London there?)And I wondered what they thought of the view, what they thought of the city in general. London always has the sound of glamour and excitement and I think sometimes that because I live here I don't experience it all as fully as I should. So I'm going to do that more from now on. When Em and Michael come to stay they explore places I'd never dream of going to. And I should. So I'm going to take a leaf out of their book from now on. (They photos are courtesy of Michael by the way.)

And the dentist.....well that's another (painful) story!

Saturday, 14 March 2009

Friday 13th

I'm not very superstitious. Apart from where single magpies are concerned - I salute for all I'm worth every time I see one of those. But as far as all the other things are concerned, they don't bother me. And to be honest it hadn't even registered that it was Friday 13th yesterday. Until I came back from my afternoon walk with Ted.

I'd gone out a bit earlier than usual, debated whether to take him to the playing fields over the road, but decided against it due to the possibility of lots of traffic when it came to crossing back at the end of our walk. It was Friday, 'rush hour' starts a bit earlier etc. etc.

Walking back home after 'going round the block' I saw a pizza deliver scooter pulling into a driveway then waiting to turn out again. I saw the 200 bus dropping off passengers and turning round. I saw passengers crossing the road and one woman go a little way and then go back due to oncoming cars. Recognising the woman as having the reputation as being 'mad' I hurried up a little wanting to avoid her, then remembered that the one time I had seen her close-to she had been very sweet to Ted.

The scooter pulled out, we walked on I heard a clatter; what sounded like a lot of plastic boxes being dropped from a height. I turned round for a second and saw only the scooter in the road and the rider attempting to get up, his pizza boxes scattered around. Cars slowed down, we walked on. Turning the corner for home I looked again. This time I saw people on mobiles in the middle of the road, the rider on the ground.

Ten minutes later there were sirens lots of them. The traffic was at a standstill, drivers using our road to turn round. Robert went to find out what was going on. The woman had been knocked down by the scooter and was critically injured. The road was now a crime scene in case she had been fatally injured, a very possible outcome according to the policeman.

I felt shocked. I had noticed nothing on my backward glance, I hadn't seen her lying there. But in that moment 2 people's lives had changed beyond belief. If I had been 2 seconds later I would have seen everything. It haunts me just how short life is, how we never know what is waiting for us around the corner.

And one detail which makes me almost cry is that a neighbour said "I thought it was her, I recognised her coat." None of us knew her name.

Friday, 13 March 2009


Ok so following on from my revelation about the benefits of swinging, I have found my perfect 'vehicle'. It is shaped like a horse, made from recycled tyres and available, conveniently enough, at John Lewis. The problem? We do not have a tree in the garden from which we can suspend it.....

Somebody somewhere must have an answer to that particular dilemma surely....

Thursday, 12 March 2009

Hold the front page!

Well the feature about me is in The halifax Courier today....it's kind of funny because I've only seen it online and I can't imagine what it looks like in a newspaper. Mum rang me up to tell me that it was a 'double page spread' and that it all looked good. All I could say to Robert when I saw it online was 'My face looks fat! It's horrible! Is my face really that fat? I can't go out if I look like that!' etc. etc. etc. so now he is blaming me for his awful headache!

I did enjoy talking to Virginia Mason because she was so much fun, and I knew that she wasn't going to twist my words. But the whole 'selling myself' is hard, I must admit. I'm just trying to get my profile together for a website which is for anyone wanting a children's author for a visit/talk/workshop etc. and I'm finding it difficult choosing just the right words, the right tone...I know that 'getting out there' is something I HAVE to do now. And something I AM looking forward to doing but....at the same time I'd quite like to just sit in my office and write.

Now we all know what a disaster I am with links on here so I will attempt to put one up for the article. If it doesn't get highlighted, I suggest going onto the Internet and googling 'Virginia Mason' then when the Courier website comes up, go on to 'Features' and look up the one entitled 'I'd forgottne how good it is here'
...then go back and read some more of Virginia's articles, because they're very good!


Friday, 6 March 2009

I've had a bit of a whirlwind week - shooting up to Yorkshire and back and doing quite a bit of travelling around whilst up there.

I met Virginia Mason from the Halifax Courier on Wednesday and had such a great time with her. The fun started with having my photograph taken on the swings in Stainland rec. - I so loved that (the swinging I mean, not necessarily the photo-taking!). I had forgotten how exhilerating it is. I think I might have to get one in the garden; it's the healthiest, cheapest form of 'therapy' I know.

Then it was off in search of coffee and cake, a search which ran into the buffers at a deli where we weren't allowed to sit in the cafe upstairs because they 'had no plates and the coffee machine wasn't on yet', so we took our sandwiches and sat outside and it was truly lovely, a bit chilly (or 'parky' as we northerners like to say), but really relaxing.

I think I might have waffled on a bit too much, but sometimes it's only when you're talking to someone else, someone you don't know too well, that you discover things about yourself. I found out just how much I'm looking forward to going into schools and meeting the children I write for. I reaffirmed how I eager I am to get back to 'Flipside' because the time for that is now. And I realised how in awe I am of Flissy who is just so passionate about her job as an early years literacy consultant and is such a wonderful warm communicator of her subject. Thanks to her I'm now armed with a bucketful of ideas, a couple of bags full of props and the desire to get out there.....

Big thanks to Virginia, I had fun.