I’m rather enjoying this…

…semi-retirement.  It means that on lovely sunny days like today I can sit in my garden listening to the birdsong whilst doing my emails.  I also have had lots of time for reading – check out my Goodreads updates on this blog!

That doesn’t mean to indicate I haven’t done any work – I have and am – but choosing one’s own timetable and working late into the evening, if I want to, are lovely freedoms to have.  Don’t get jealous – I have worked and saved all my life to get to this stage – it is possible and it is achievable!

Meanwhile, I have enjoyed several book launches and events with different publishers – Otter-Barry Books, Hachette, for the Carmelite PictureBook Prize, and enjoyed a really full day seeing many publishing people at the London Book Fair.  This was followed really quickly by the Federation of Children’s Book Groups very enjoyable conference at Queenswood School in Hertfordshire.  These are always full to bursting with author and illustrator talks – all with opportunities to ask questions and get lots of books signed!  What a luxury!  This year was extra special as the FCBG is celebrating it’s 50th Anniversary. I am honoured to have been asked to join the FCBG National Executive – so I’m looking forward to becoming more involved with this very energetic reading organisation.   Watch out for the Golden National Share-a-Story month activities during May.

This past weekend I have been at the Raunds Music Festival – dedicated to roots music in East Northants.  The programme, as always, was varied with highlights for me being  Mawkin, Carter Dolby, Granny’s Attic, Steve Turner, and Greg Russell.  The festival is organised and run entirely by volunteers but has a good extended community support – which is great to see in these often less than community minded times.

My pile of books to review for School Librarian has just arrived – so I think it may be time to do some more reading…

 

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The last couple of weeks…

I thought the last few weeks in my ‘day job’ might be a bit strange – well feel a bit strange, and I suppose they did.  Going into the Swindon office of the School Library Association (SLA) for the last time.  We all had a lovely lunch together – and I’m still pondering how to spend the lovely token I was given – books obviously – just which ones?

My landlady for the last nearly 10 years was wonderful – and I shall always have a soft spot for Jackie and Roger at the Old Post Office, South Marston.  If you are ever down Swindon way do stay with them – it’s a lovely place to stay, and I shall miss the friendship, the warm welcome and the gorgeous breakfasts.  Don’t worry Jackie – I’ll be back!

Then it was using up my annual leave until the end of the month when I officially finished.  A lovely relaxed long weekend in Liverpool with the family including lots of eating and drinking done!  Plus, Sarah and friends ran the Liverpool half marathon too!  Very proud of her – I couldn’t run a mile never mind 13.

Then down to London to celebrate my actual retirement.  To start Will and I went to see the amazing musical that is 42nd Street at the Theatre Royal.  The stage is huge, but it was filled with a cast of 50, plus 20 musicians making this one of the most spectacular theatrical events – a great way to spend an evening.  The sound of so many tap shoes hitting the stage in unison is just mind-blowing!

412tLlnwukL._SX357_BO1,204,203,200_The next day we pottered – a lovely early morning in the Foundling Museum.  This is a fascinating and moving collection about the history of the Foundling Hospital full of emotionally engaging objects and witness statements on the way the place worked.  I had especially wanted to visit as there was an exhibition of the wonderful artwork for The Lost Words by Robert McFarlane and Jackie Morris.  Great to be able to get up close to these wonderful illustrations of the natural world.

We then moved on to the John Soane Museum in Lincoln’s Inn Fields – an amazing house full of Soane’s eclectic collections.  Fascinating, but especially so for any students of architecture.

When you are in the house you are asked to turn off all electrical devices – so it was not until we came out into a rainy London we heard via a voice mail that the venue I was holding my ‘Semi-retirement party’ in was closed – due to a major gas leak beneath Longacre and St Martin’s Lane!  Several anguished phone calls to the organizer at the venue followed – and I tried to contact as many people as I could with the news – we had no idea if the venue would be open in time, or at all that day!  If nothing else I have now learned never to leave home without all the documentation about any event!  I didn’t have everyone’s contact details on my phone, or even in the email account I could access from my phone!  (I always take ‘work’ event details, but as this was personal I hadn’t!)

We knew there would be people who would turn up not having been contacted so we set off to get as near to the venue as we could – to discover that, although it was within the police cordon, it was so close to the edge that it was allowed to open, but entry was via the back door!  We went in rather intrepidly to find out what, if anything, they could do for us to rescue the situation.  They came up trumps!  Rather than our private room (which hadn’t been prepared as they hadn’t been able to get in the building) we had a semi-private area of the bar, most of the canapes ordered were quickly prepared (and were delicious) plus we had a bar assistant spending the whole time with us topping up our prosecco glasses!  Well done to Brown’s Covent Garden for rescuing the situation so very well!

So, as the event was somewhat reduced it means we can have another – to celebrate again – and make announcements about the future – all very exciting!

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Summer is a coming

To misquote an old song…  But the weather is at last turning and so many things seem to be happening in June (only a few days away!)

Looking forward to – our wedding anniversary, though I’ll be up in Hull  most of the day finding out who the new Children’s Laureate will be – think a nice takeaway and bottle of wine will be great in the evening though!  Then my birthday – in Manchester this year seeing Canter Semper at what sounds like a lovely gig. Then the following 10 days or so will be mad – Carnegie and Greenaway Ceremonies, announcing winners for the 80th and 60th prizes respectively.  That reminds me I must get my speech drafted…

lightbulb-moments-logo-web

Then a day at home to pack and off to the joint Youth Libraries Group and School Library Association celebratory conference  in Harrogate (the SLA is 80 too!).  The programme is fantastic, the venue promises to be great and the whole event is sold out so should be a goody!  I shall take a couple of days out to chill after that I think.

July should be calmer – just the usual hurly burly of work and social life – plus we’re planning some building work, so perhaps I’ll be glad to be a bit quieter and catch up on my reading!

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Who knows where the time goes…

BooksA quote from one of my favourite songs from the ever popular Fairport Convention (written by Sandy Denny)- I’m already really looking forward to the August weekend we’ll spend at Cropredy this year.  There’s a great line up, and we know we won’t have to put up with too much rain and wind as we’re opting for a hotel stay locally rather than camping – think our camping days are over…

This last year has felt like a whirlwind, with lots of change, lots of events and not enough time to just relax and enjoy things…  Is that a sign of age? Or do I just try and fit in too many things around my already busy job? Can’t imagine I’m going to change too much at this stage.

A few high (and low) lights –

Totally thrilled to be asked to be Chair of Youth Libraries Group in 2017 – the year the Carnegie Medal is 80, the Kate Greenaway Medal is 60 and the SLA is also 80.  We’re going to have some fun with all the celebrations…

Lovely family wedding in Northumberland – my second cousin (I think) got married in the teeth of a gale last December – wonderful wedding!  And one of the few times I get to see my tiny extended family.

Disturbing times that we live in – the Brexit vote has shaken me (and many others) and I struggle to envisage a future with the UK being alone.

Some of the concerts Sarah and Canter Semper have performed at – uplifting and thoroughly enjoyable.

92 year old father-in-law dying – though his funeral will be a celebration of a life well lived.

The great work Screen Northants is doing with young people and with the community around inspiration, literacy and engagement – well done to Becky and her partners

Reading some fantastic books ready for judging the Carnegie and Greenaway Medals – trying to see what might get nominated in October!

The fight to save libraries and school libraries continue – particularly worrying as this is often the only access to culture for a large number of people.

Wonder what next will throw my way?

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March 2016

Well, I’ve failed again in my attempts to keep up to date!  I do try but life just seems to get in the way, but a little reflection now and again is all to the good.

The end of last year was spent in catching up with some old friends – you know, those friends who you don’t see for years and years, then you meet and it’s as if there has been no time in between meetings!  In both cases it was as delight and we reveled in enjoying each others company again – and vowed not to let it go so long again…

DSC00321The winter has been exceedingly mild – lots of rain and lots of standing water round us – but by no means as bad as many parts of the country.  The one day of snow came and went in a flash.

The family all seem settled in there various locations, and it is great that we get together for usually very brief but highly enjoyable meals, BBQs and the odd overnight stop!

My reading in the last six months of 2015 was mainly dedicated to catching up with possible Carnegie and Greenaway Medal nominations – and then the actual readings of the 91 and 73 (respectively) nominated titles.  Jut about to hear the shortlists – so watch the website for the announcements.  I was amazingly honoured to be asked to be Chair of Youth Libraries Group for 2017 (making me VC now) and thus VC of Judges this year.  I’ve already started reading titles that are likely to be on the nominations for the 2017 medal – catch my Goodreads feed for the best of them that I add to my reviews.

Beyond that work at the School Library Association is amazingly busy – but I’m sure I’ll get some catch up time in the Easter holidays – I hope!

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Spring is sprung.

That was an old family used phrase – it is taken from an old rhyme – by anonymous that famous writer!!

The spring is sprung, the grass is riz.

I wonder where the boidie is.

They say the boidie’s on the wing.

But that’s absoid. The wing is on the bird.

Orchid-webThe weather, by and large, has been kind.  The snowdrops made a wonderful show in the garden and the daffodils look very regal now.  Everything is bursting forth – and the new roses seem to have taken very well, so I’m looking forward to a summer of colour.  Even my orchid in the conservatory is bursting forth in a third round of flowering – unheard of for house plants in this house!

Beyond that – I have had a pretty foul spring in many ways – certainly frustrating…  On 11th February, after delivering a speech at a fairly important conference in Whitehall, London – I managed to fall off the stage – not unlikely given that it was a small stage occupied by 6 people, chairs, table, lectern and had no back rail or even safety marking on the edge of it.   Having been bundled into a taxi and sent to St Thomas’s my shoulder was x-rayed and found unbroken.  Since then my left shoulder and knee have made little progress, been very slow to mend, and painful.  So, I have been seeing my osteopath as usual – and getting some relief that way, but was urged to see my Doctor, as there was a problem with the healing process.  The first visit to the Doctor was interesting – basically the comment was – you’re walking on it so it’s OK, nothing further needed. I was so stunned I just left…

One letter from my osteopath later and I was referred for an X-ray, and scans – so that should at least show what might be causing some of these problems.  But, the Dr being ultra-helpful decided to give me painkillers and anti inflammatory pills, even after my cautions about my known reactions to lots of drugs etc – so hey-ho – this last week has been a real bad week.  I tried the pills as directed – and yes, they were a huge help with the pain – they certainly do what they say on the packet – but I was a walking zombie with stomach complications thrown in!  So, a long phone conversation with another doctor and we decided I’d go back to me managing as before and returning said pills to the pharmacy. So, x-ray tomorrow on left knee – I almost hope it does show a problem, so at least we have something to deal with…

I know this is little enough in the great scheme of things – but it is so affecting my ability to work (thank goodness for my home office and modern technology) and even to keeping going at the very low level of fitness I claim. I really do need something to give me a boost and get me going again… Roll on summer.

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2015 arrives – cold and crisp

Sean, Q and DB5

Bond’s DB5

So, we’ve had a very little snow, and it barely stayed for half a day. Other than that it is cold, mainly clear and rather bracing when we carefully venture out for short periods of time.  The bird feeders in the garden seem to be constantly needing filling – and the cheeky squirrel trying to pretend he’s a blue tit when he’s hanging off the perch on the seed feeder just makes me smile.  Happily he (she?) and the birds seem to get along – and when the birds think (s)he’s had enough they let him/her know.

DTs moves into a bit higher gear now as we enter intensive preparations for Sleeping Beauty in March.  All coming along well so far – just need to produce the tickets so the Box Office can open!  This weekend’s job I think.

Goldfinger 2

Goldfinger’s Rolls

Having started 25 hrs work a week from December I am really enjoying (and benefiting from) my shorter hours.  I don’t feel exhausted all the time, and I’ve had the time to do lots of those little things that get overlooked when working flat out full-time – like cleaning, ironing…. No, but also some of the fun things too.  Will and I spent a couple of lovely days in London last month – seeing Bond in Motion (an exhibition of James Bond’s vehicles), followed by dinner at Brasserie Zedel (great premises and excellent food) and Shakespeare in Love – great show, see it if you get chance. We also had a mooch around one of my favourite markets at Spitalfields – an antique market mostly the day we were there – and a very eclectic collection it was too!

Also had the time to join Becky and her colleagues at Reelscape Communities – doing great workshops and motivating kids through practical work with film industry professionals.  Keep an eye on their blog for fascinating developments and great pictures of the kids engaged in what they are doing.  Loved seeing the excitement when a big camera was brought in for them to operate!

Read some good books too – watch out on my Goodreads (on left) feed for all the ratings and reviews.  NB this isn’t everything I read – just what I think deserves a wider audience.  Latest rave is Sally Gardner’s The Door that Led Where – once you pick it up you just have to finish it!

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