Category Archives: Diary

Honorary Life Member…

…that’s me – and the School Library Association surprised me with a generous Hon Life Membership which rather took the wind out of my sails when I recently attended the SLA Conference in Glasgow.  For a start it was quite odd being ‘just a delegate’ at the conference I had a hand in putting together (that was inevitable due to the time of year that I left SLA) but it was delightful too.  I got to see and chat with lots of friends, and didn’t have to dash off to be somewhere else!  I managed an off the cuff thank you speech – as well as (I hope) adding my voice to the call for the Great School Libraries Campaign.  Plus, the Ceilidh band that evening turned out to be a great success too – just right – with lots of help in the dances!

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Copyright Minh Nguyen

Seriously though, if you can do back the Great School Libraries Campaign – it is vitally important, especially in these times of closing or de-professionalised public library services, that children have access through their schools to a great library.  Their literacy, ambition, health and well-being will all suffer if they have no access to good quality reading and information resources when they need them.

Since then it has been a bit of a flurry of activity which has included writing an article, completing a series of reviews, attending our first Youth Libraries Group Virtual meeting plus a few days away.  Will was working taking taking photographs for his new book but I was really just enjoying the scenery, catching up with local friends and enjoying Stratford Upon Avon.  We were anxious our newly laid lawn and the patio plants would survive in the heat – but all was well.

This week has been a glorious mix of work and and publisher events – including a sneak preview of the work of Chris Riddell in illustrating The Tales of Beedle the Bard by J K Rowling.  We are in for a real treat there (publishing Bloomsbury, October 2018).  Then off to the Branford Boase event – a celebration of the best in new writing for children and young people, but that also recognises the important role of the editor in the process.  It was won this year by Mitch Johnson for Kick with his editors Rebecca Hill and Becky Walker – published by Usborne – their third important book award win this year!

Last night was a fascinating discussion event hosted by Alice Curry at Lantana Publishers called ‘Inspired by India’ an evening of picture books and conversation from Chitra Soundar, Poonam Mistry, Ranjit Singh and Mehrdokht Amini at the Nehru Centre.  I had never been to the Nehru Centre before but check it out as it has a programme of events and exhibitions that are varied and interesting. IMG_0237

After 3 late nights in London – and Saturday there for my first FCBG National Executive meeting I am having a quiet day at home – a little light housework, followed by some reading and then a welcome catch up with friends from the village in the pub tonight!

 

 

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Early Summer activity

FCBG 50th

Anne Wood, FCBG Founder, at the Golden Party by David Bartlett

What a lot has happened in what seems like a short space of time.  As I am now an Executive member for the Federation of Children’s Book Groups I was delighted to be involved with the latest of FCBGs celebrations.  The first was a celebration of 50 Golden Years with the founder Anne Wood in the space at Foyles Charing Cross Road – a lovely friendly meet with lots of support from publishers, authors, illustrators and members of the FCBG across the ages.

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Steve Cole, photo by TA

This was followed very quickly by the Children’s Book Award – celebrated in London with book group members from around the country.  It was fantastic to see so many book loving kids in one room – all chatting nineteen to the dozen with the authors sitting on their tables!  Results are here – with the overall winner  Katherine Rundell with The Explorer. A very popular win with everyone in the room.  Steve Cole served as master of ceremonies keeping everyone amused with his jokes and ukulele playing!

The panel discussion on Empathy Day, 12th June – featuring Lauren Child (UK Children’s Laureate), Benji Davies (illustrator) and Professor Robin Banerjee (Univ Sussex) made for fascinating listening – arranged and hosted by Empathy Lab. The whole event was an exploration of how books help children understand other people better – held at Waterstone’s flagship store in Piccadilly – there was an interesting mix of stakeholders and partners in the hall.  Discussion touched on how feeling, understanding and caring (all parts of empathy) are encouraged by reading and that the follow up to that – of book talking – promotes empathy too.

From other news!  It was an absolute delight to visit the Royal Albert Hall recently to see Art Garfunkel.  He sang a mix of old (lots) and new songs, as well as sharing some of his poetry with us.  Loved the evening!  Daughter Sarah has been busy too – she was all over the media as she conducts the Manchester Survivors Choir and they sang at the One Voice commemoration to mark one year on from the bombing – a very emotional experience for everyone.  Then she has a big gig coming up this weekend with her band Canter Semper – really looking forward to seeing them.  Will has been busy helping elder daughter Becky as an extra (with a couple of friends from DTs) in the final few scenes that needed filming for ScreenNorthants first feature film – Macbeth.  Watch out for the release at the end of the year.

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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…

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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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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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