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…


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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Autumn rushes in…

It’s lovely looking out of my windows here as the weather goes from summer to autumn.  Leaves are all shades of gold and red – and some green too!  The garden looks full and slightly overblown – but the flashes of colour from the late roses are glorious.  This will soon all change as we get to the austerity of the winter – but with a new fence (long overdue) to come things will change and will inevitably give us the chance to change and replant some of the beds.

Seem to have been busy almost non stop since the term started again….  So here’s a few highlights, in no particular order!

DTs Cast for finale

DTs Cast for finale

The DTs staged a revue called ‘DT’s go Over The Top’ as a commemoration to WWI & WWII – a real mix of humour, pathos and reflection which went down well.  A singalong at the end proved fun too.

Then we had two celebrations of Awards at work.  The Information Book Award for 2014 proved popular and seems to be building a following and widening influence as we grow year on year. There was a super celebration of winners at the Bath Children’s Literature Festival.  Looking forward to next year now.

Then we quickly followed that with the School Libraries Celebration Day – for the SLA Inspiration Award and the SLA School Librarian of the Year Award.  Both were remarkably successful despite the awful traffic and train hold ups which meant that the staff, prizes and badges did not arrive until nearly lunch time!

Chris Riddell's illustration

Chris Riddell’s illustration

Our wonderful speaker Chris Riddell saved the day by creating ‘temporary certificates’ which I imagine may end up more prized than the official ones!  His speech on libraries and librarians he had known was fantastic – and fully illustrated with his signature drawings!

In between this we had a super party for my birthday – much belated, but a lovely buffet lunch we laid on at the pub, and had lots of our friends enjoying good food, good company and lots of nice wine in some lovely autumnal sunshine at the Cock Inn in Denford.  Now looking forward to a great theatre trip which they all clubbed together for to celebrate!  Lovely!

This week is an illustration of our busyness – but much of it is sheer joy!  Whilst working for most of the week we also had the fun of seeing ‘An Evening with Sir Roger Moore‘ at Royal and Derngate. Lovely to hear some of his reminiscences of his life and his films.  The following night I was with librarian friends, publishers and booksellers at the Ritz celebrating Jacqueline Wilson’s 100th book!  A delightful evening. Wednesday was time for revisiting our youth – a night at the Royal Albert Hall listening to the incomparable James Taylor with a fantastic band and that sound and voice that seems never to age and yet gets better and better.  A great mix of new and old songs.  And such a generous man – staying on stage throughout the interval talking to fans who could reach him and having innumerable photographs taken.  An unforgettable night.  Thursday was the the AGM of the Reelscape Community that is doing some fantastic work with young people and has had huge success in getting some substantial grants for the next phase of activity.  Small but very purposeful meeting.  Friday was Guilsborough enjoying the spoken word entertainment from the Babble of Naseby. A lovely selection of poems and extracts that had us laughing and reflective throughout the evening. Saturday was back to our youth again – enjoying Steeleye Span at Kettering Lighthouse, it was their 45th Anniversary tour!  Bought a Tshirt to celebrate.  They played lots of music from their Wintersmith album, inspired of course by Sir Terry Pratchett’s ‘Wintersmith’ novels – a favourite of mine.

Will is rounding off this week with a turn up and sing Faure Requiem at Peterborough Cathedral – I shall stay home and cook dinner, after ironing and generally doing some homely catching up.  May even time for some reading!  I don’t seem to do the number of eviews here that I used to but my Goodreads feed is usually fairly up to date so you can see the books I recommend (I rarely review books I have hated as personal choices can be so variable…)

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