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 I have been intending to get my hair cut for a while, and finally got around to it last weekend. 

In fact, I'd left it so long that the hairdressers sent me a "We missed you. Come and get your hair cut and we'll give you money off" text message, so that was handy!

Although since it meant I had to go into Bath, I also (naturally) ended up going into the lovely Mr B's Emporium, and, (equally naturally) having gone in for one book, came out with 5! 

Also did a bit of clothes shopping - my favourite jeans have died, and happily I found a pair which fit (although they were only available in dark blue, which is a pity. I'd have preferred grey or pale blue, not least because pulled threads from cat-claws don't show as badly on light coloured jeans as dark ones! 

And also found a shirt I like, and bought gifts for my sisters, both of whom have their birthdays this month. So I felt that the morning was well-spent. And given that I don't like shopping* and don't enjoy getting my hair cut, it was also fairly stress free.

* Except for book-shopping, obviously. That I like.

And then obviously I spent most of the afternoon reading, because you need to relax after that of day.

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It's the Bath Festival of Literature again, and so far, the events I've been to have been excellent.

The first was a talk by Dr Alice Roberts, about the Celts.  I had watched the programme which she and Neil Oliver made for the BBC, which was shown last November - its a fascinating subject; so much is known, but also there are so many things which are not known, and cannot be known.

Prof. Alice Roberts

Dr Roberts is an excellent speaker, and her enthusiasm is infectious. She is not, herself an archaeologist; she is an anatomist, and is currently Professor of Public Engagement in Science, at Birmingham University.

She explained the uncertainties about the origins of the Celts (hint: not where you thought) , and the fact that certain things we think we know (such as druids and human sacrifice, and Celtic warriors taking heads) seem to come from just one (Roman) source, with no confirmation..

She talked about some recent discoveries in Germany, and the quality of the work being done there, and waxed enthusiastic about proofs of decapitation.!

It was very interesting, and although I didn't buy a copy of her current book then and there,(It's a big glossy, *heavy* bardback.) I may yet succumb!

After this event, my friend T and I indulged in tea and cakes, and a visit to Mr B's Emporium of reading Delights, where I was very restrained about the number of books I bought, then, after a little more shopping, I headed to the Masonic Hall, to hear Neil Jordan interviewed about his most recent novel, The Drowned Detective.

Neil Jordan.

I have to admit that I have not read any of his books, I was aware of him as the director of films such as The Crying Game, Michael Collins, and Interview with the Vampire. However, I enjoyed hearing him talk about the new book, which is a detective story about relationships, and memories, and a touch of the supernatural, set in an unidentified eastern European country.. it sounds intriguing.

He also spoke about the respect writers have in Ireland, about how he 'drifted' into becoming a director, a little about Interview with the Vampire. I'd have loved the chance to sit down with him for a chat - he's the sort of person who it would be interesting to get to know him better. And I have bought one of the earlier books to get started!

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The Bath Festival of Literature started yesterday evening, and I went to the first of the events I have booked, today. They were very different - one an interview with Mark Bostridge, who is the biographer of Vera Britton, was an advisor on the film 'Testament of Youth' and who has just written a new book, Vera Britton and the First World War. The second event was Austentatious, an improvised Jane Austen play...

I enjoyed both events.

Mark Bostridge was interviewed by Elizabeth Day, who is herself a novelist and a journalist for the Observer. Bostridge explained that he felt Britton's story was a compelling one, particularly in being one of the first to address and explore the grief of the war, rather than its heroism, but also to show how it was possible to move on.

He spoke about the difficulty of writing a biography of someone with a living family; the family will say they want truth, but may not want it when they hear it.. he gave a couple of examples.

One was a letter which Britton wrote to her friend after her marriage, saying extremely uncomplimentary things about her husband on their wedding night, and the other, later, about an unpublished memoir written by her brother Edward's Commanding Officer, in which he disclosed that Edward had been warned by his CO that his letters to another officer were being read. Bostridge linked this to an incident in Britton's novel 'Honourable Estate' in which a character caught having sex with another man deliberately got himself killed by going over the top. Bostridge explained the social and legal consequences of homosexual behaviour, at the time.

He did explain that of course it is impossible know with any certainty whether Edward was gay(although he did attend Uppingham school, which was apparently exposed as being notorious for bullying and "filthy behaviour" . .

He also spoke about the importance of realizing that Testament of Youth was written some 15 years after the event, and that having also read Britton's letters and diary, it was fascinating to see the change to her attitude. For instance, her diaries show a very patriotic, almost Jingoistic enthusiasm at the start of the war, and was enthusiastic about her brother joining up, which is not reflected in the finished work.

Bostridge said that he was, on the whole, happy with the film - other than the scene where Britton learns about Leighton's death. He also pointed out that the film is somewhat misleading in how Britton's parents treated her wish to attend University - he sad that Britton's mother was very enthusiastic and supportive, and that Britton herself had reservations, fearing that going to Oxford would make it harder for her to marry well!

All in all, very interesting. I haven't yet seen the Testament of Youth film but do want to do so.

I then headed over to the Forum, for Austentatious.

Which was a complete change of pace, and a whole lot of fun.

It is an improvised performance of a 'lost' Austen(esque) novel based on a title suggested by the audience - in this case,'Who cares what colour *that* dress is', beating 'Maids in Waiting' (Described by the cast as 'the Made in Essex of its day) and described as one of Austen's 700+ lost novels..

The play was performed by a cast of 5, masquerading as a cast of thousands (well, 10s, anyway) and included a ball, an elopement, some jam, many references to what happened 'last time', and a happy ending for at least one couple!

Photo from @Viv Groskop's twitter feed and (C) Viv Groskop

It was a whole lot of fun. Austentatious are currently touring - well worth seeing if you can (dates on their website, here)

I am looking forward to several ore Bath Lit Fest events next weekend including seeing Kazuo Ishiguro, and Celia Imrie.

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This is a somewhat late blog - I am not on holiday  any more, but my laptop has been playing up so I haven't been able to blog for a bit, but it has randomly restarted, so I'm making the most of it!

I decided to go to Amsterdam for a few days, and went via London. I wanted to see the exhibition 'Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red'',  the installation by Paul Cummins, at the Tower of London, commemorating WWI.

There will eventually be 888,246 poppies, one for each British fatality during WWI.

It is pretty sobering to see the vast numbers of poppies and to realise that the installation isn't complete yet.

You don't have to go into the tower to see the poppies, but once I got there, I decided to go in and have a look around.

I have been to the tower before, but I was about 8 at the time, so I don't recall it in huge detail.

I was there on a Wednesday, so it wasn't too crowded, and I was able to wander around.

It is impressive - the Tower itself was built by William the Conqueror in around 1078, although  there are Roman ruins on the site -  and it still holds the crown jewels (I went to see them. They are proof that the Royal family has never allowed good taste to

stand in the way of Really Glittery Stuff)

There is also an exhibition of armour and wooden horses and stuff. It had my favourite ever caption for an exhibition - after boating that the exhibition has, in one form or another been at the Tower since 1652, it adds proudly "the exhibition was changed several times over the next 300 years" which you have to admit, is nice, as even the best exhibition can get a bit dull after the first hundred years or so!

There is a dragon on the top floor.

After spending several hours wandering around, I decided to go and hunt book-benches - the National Literacy Trust had arranged for lots of benches, decorated by various artists and celebrating specific books to be placed around London.

I didn't get to see all the Books about Town, but did find all of the 'Riverside Trail', from Tower Bridge down to the Globe.

My favourites were The Librarian, Paddington Bear, and Shakespeare.

And then there were trains and a boat, to get to the Netherlands. It was an interesting day.

More pictures on Flickr for those who may be interested

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It's been a fairly quiet week.

On Tuesday, my brother, his girlfriend, and another couple they are friends with, came to say over night in order to be able to get up early with a view to getting a reasonable pitch at the Glastonbury Festival.

It was lovely to see them, and we had a nice, relaxed evening and were even able to sit outside on the patio to enjoy the last of the sunshine, before going to bed.

They got up very early, and very quietly, and presumably did less queuing, and got a better pitch for their tents,   than they would have done if they had started from Manchester that morning! I have been feeling for them, today and yesterday, as I watch the torrential rain showers, and the thunderstorms, from my warm, dry house :).

Today I have been catching up with various errands and things - I got my hair cut, which I found less stressful than usual, as I remembered, for one, to wear my contacts, so I could actually see what was happening.

I called in at the Theatre Royal, to book some tickets for the new season.

Then I visited Toppings bookshop, to pick up my ticket for their event with Sandi Toksvig next month, and inevitably bought a couple of books.

I also called in at Mr B's to collect my pre-ordered copy of Shaman Rises, which is book 9  of C.E.Murphy's Walker Papers series. I have spent the past week re-reading the other 8 books so I am up to speed. I may have bought another book, too..

But then it is the first day of Independent Booksellers Week, so buying shiny new books from both my local independent bookshops is pretty much obligatory. And I only had 5 more books when I got home than I'd had when I left. Well, 10 if you count library books.

Sticking with the bookish theme, I then went on to complete my registration at my local library (the house move means I now live in a different county, so I couldn't just transfer my membership across.

Now, I just need to do the housework parts of the 'to-do' list . . .

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I have blogged before about Mr B's Emporium of Reading Delights, one of Bath's 2 lovely independent bookshops. They have lovely events, with writers and conversation and food, and on Wednesday, the writer in question was Nick Harkaway, author of 'The Gone-Away World', 'Angelmaker' and, now 'Tigerman'.

The evening didn't start too well for me, as I had forgotten that They were closing the road in Dunkerton, so I had to go the long way round, and then I got held up because there had been an accident (not, I think, too serious - the police were there, and a 1st response car, but all the people seemed to be standing around and talking to each other).

All of which meant that I got to Bath late, and had to scratch plaintively at the door of the shop like a delayed cat, to be let in. And then try to sneak in to a gathering where the only available seat was in the 2nd row which you absolutely can't do without people looking at you.

Anyway, once the embarrassment factor of causing a disturbance had settled I was able to start listening to Nick, who was reading an extract (about the English, and T.S.Eliot, among other things) from 'Tigerman'.  Which was very, very funny.

And then there was conversation. The evening was nominally themed around Father's Day, but as often happens at Mr B's, due to the conversational nature of the evening,discussions around the theme were only a minor part of the evening!

Nick talked about various things which led into the book, including his own experience of a close encounter with the Esso tiger, and of learning to shoot while in Thailand.

There was also some discussion about his experience of fatherhood, and in particular the protectiveness which comes with that, and about other notable fathers in literature.

As always with a Mr Bs event, there was a break in the proceedings for food and mingling - on this occasion, the food part of that included a lemon drizzle cake with blueberries in, which was such stuff as gastronomic dreams are made on...

And there were some interesting (mostly travel related) conversations over food, too.

Finally, Nick signed copies of his books for us. It was a thoroughly enjoyable night, and I am looking forward to reading Tigerman, now I have my very own shiny copy!
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I have finally picked up my new (to me) car, and returned the hire car, which is a relief. The hire car was very nearly new (it had less than 3,000 miles on the clock when I picked it up) and I was terrified the whole time that I would bend or break it!

My  new one is a VW Polo, 6 years old, and currently pretty shiny! (which , to be honest, is unlikely to continue for long, as I subscribe that life is too short to spend washing cars!) IMG_0332

It's quite a change from the Smart - but I think that having space for passengers may come in handy from time to time.

I picked it up on Thursday evening, and it promptly got rained on (fortunately the windscreen wipers were easy to find!).

That was Thursday, and on Friday (after what felt like a *very* long week) I headed into Bath for some fun.

I've blogged before about the wonderful Mr B's Emporium of Reading Delights, one of our two lovely independent bookshops in Bath, and how good their event are, and Friday night was no exception.

They were hosting 'Norse Night' with Joanne (M) Harris talking about her new book, 'The Gospel of Loki'.

We started with music from The Bookshop Band (Who played their Loki-inspired song, 'Rooting for Loki', which is excellent!)

Then, we got to meet Joanne Harris herself. She talked to us about her childhood, and finding the Norse myths in Barnsley library, guarded by a fearsome librarian who, fortunately, viewed mythology as 'educational', and therefore suitable, (and who was, presumably, unaware of the dearth, destruction, incest and bestiality involved...)

She talked about her view that she was not changing genres by writing a fantasy novel; firstly, as she's written fantasy from day one, and secondly as her novels are all (including Loki) about outsiders in small patriarchal societies . . . starting while she wrote her first novel while working as a teacher at Leeds (Boys) Grammar school.. the only difference is the amount of magic involved.

She also told a wonderful anecdote about making a papier mache chicken out of her rejection letters and setting fire to it, as a cathartic way of dealing with the rejection (and about a certain American agent who rejected 'Chocolat' (on the basis it had too many old people, not enough young and beautiful people having sex, too many old people, and was set in a European village) and then, a couple of years later, after the success of the 'Chocolat' film, wrote to her agent offering his services to promote her work in the USA. (His offer was rejected!)

She is a highly entertaining and interesting speaker, and listening to her made me feel, too, that she was someone I would like to get to know better, and who would be fun to go out for a drink or meal with.

Harris was sccathing about publishers determination to divide books into different age groups and genres, and the patronising attitude which assumes that readers of fantasy are 'immature' readers, and very funny about her first meeting with Johnny Depp.

It was a lovely evening.(And did I mention that we were served with chocolate by way of homage to the novel?)

And I am now about a quarter of the way through 'The Gospel of Loki'. I'm enjoying it a lot. And I hope that Joanne Harris comes back to Bath next time she has a book out, because I want to hear her speak again.
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We're still having horrendous weather - yesterday we went from sunshine and rainbows, to hail, snow, rain, and sleet.Which was not a lot of fun, particularly the drive home through the sleet.

However, the evening was a lot of fun. I went into Bath, to Toppings Book Shop, for an evening with M.R. Carey (Mike Carey) who was there to promote and read from his new novel 'The Girl With All The Gifts'

I've enjoyed all of Mike's previous work which I've read: The Lucifer and The Unwritten series' of graphic Novels, the Felix Castor novels, The City of Silk and Steel novel written with his wife and daughter, so it was pretty much a given that I would be buying this book.. I bought my copy when I picked up my tickets for the event, so I'd read about a third of it before this event.
Mike started by reading from the beginning of the book, introducing us to Melanie, a very unusual little girl, living in a very unusual situation.

After the reading Mike did a Q and A session, explaining, among other things, that the novel has its roots in a short story called 'Iphigenia in Aulis' which was written for an anthology (An Apple for the Creature) - but no two people agree on how to pronounce 'Iphigenia', and anyway the story turned out to be more about Pandora than Iphigenia.

Also there will be a 6th Felix Castor novel, but this needed to be written first.

We finished off with a shorter,  second reading, then Mike signed books and chatted to us, which was fun.

Since Thursday I have finished reading the book. Its very, very good. I don't want to give any spoilers, so won't provide a detailed review -but will say that it far from being your average horror novel - it is as much about the relationship between the 5 major characters, and their individual characters and histories as it is about the apocalyptic world in which it is set.  If you like your horror thoughtful and thought-provoking, and if you enjoyed 'Let the Right One In', then I think you will enjoy this one.

As an added bonus, I was able to meet up with @TazorTam at the event, and we moved on from toppings to The Raven for a drink and a catch up, after the event, which rounded off a very enjoyable evening beautifully.
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It's been a busy weekend.

It started on Thursday evening, when my friend Cheryl came round for supper, and arrived bearing Croatian wine and chocolate.She's blogged about it here - The wine and chocolate were both delicious, and the evening made a lovely start to a weekend of fun things!

On Friday I got the train to London, to go to a 'Literary Lunch' with Neil Gaiman, at Kaspars at the Savoy. I had dithered a bit before booking it, as I've been fortunate enough to go to several of Neil's events already this year, and it did seem rather extravagant,  but I decided that I wanted to go despite the extravagance, and that the fact I am about to have a birthday with 0 on the end of it was as good an excuse as any...

I have never been to the Savoy before. It's dead posh. And Kaspars is a rather lovely Art Deco styled restaurant. Beautiful tiles and chandeliers.  I was a bit worried that they might throw me out for not being posh enough, but either they're too polite,or the fact that I wore a dress was enough to put them off the scent!

Neil with Nick Vince

The restaurant has a central shellfish bar and I was seated there, and quickly got into a conversation with the gentleman seated next to me,who turned out to be a writer and actor (he played the Chatterer in 'Hellraiser') and was an excellent dining companion. I was expecting good company - after all, everyone at the lunch was a fan of Neil's, but it is always nice to have one's expectations met or exceeded, isn't it?

Once we were all seated, Neil explained the format - introduction, starters, reading, main course, Q and A, pudding.. And explained that in the Q and A, we had to do the Q's and he would do the A's.It occurs to me that this has been the format of all of Neil's events which I've been to. I wanted to suggest we try it the other way round, just for variety. We could provide answers and let Neil guess the questions, perhaps..


Oh, the food. It was delicious. And so pretty. The starter was a selection of smoked and cured fish - I know there was smoked salmon, and beetroot cured halibut, and gravlax, and some smoked eel. I'm not sure what the other bits were but it was all delicious.

Then Neil read to us from 'Fortunately the Milk'. I think it is just as well that this was while we were between courses, as I expect that snorting with laughter into your meal would be frowned upon at the Savoy. Or possibly a special snorting-with-laughter waiter would appear bearing handkerchiefs and smelling salts to help you calm down.

Neil read from the start of the book, as far as the Walking the Plank. I have been very restrained and not read on, as I am going to the full reading on Tuesday. But it has been a struggle. And I already feel the urge to find suitable children to give copies of the book to!

Then came the main course (which I was too busy eating, to photograph) before Neil's Q and A.

In response to questions he discussed his alternative career choice (Bespoke religions designed - "How do you feel about guilt? Would you like a large pantheon?), His attitude to magic ("As a kid, I was disappointed by the failure of most wardrobes to contain Narnia. But I didn't stop looking") Which raises the question - if it's only most wardrobes that don't contain Narnia, does that mean Neil found one which did? It could explain a lot. That Lamp Post in his garden, for a start...

There was also the question about whether he is nervous, writing new Sandman stories  - Yes, there are millions of people standing, metaphorically  looking over his shoulder as he writes,  The possibility of a sequel to 'Good Omens' - He and PTerry had an idea for a sequal, to be called '668, The Neighbour of the Beast', but  they are both too busy to write it.

Apple Crème Brûlée
Neil also talked about 'Fortunately The Milk' being an pro-Dad book, having inadvertently written a Dad-ist book in 'The Day I Swapped My Dad for Two Goldfish'.

The we got dessert - oh, that Apple Crème Brûlée. The Savoy doesn't have Neil Gaiman on the menu every day (at last, I don't think so. Unless they have cloning vats in the basement) but I am fairly sure that the apple crème brûlée is available any day.

The lunch ended slightly abruptly, as the hotel needed to start setting the room up for a later event, but Neil still made an effort to sign things for everyone who wanted things signing, we all drank our tea or coffee and  ate our delicious salted caramel lollipops (and, of course paid our bills) and luncheon came to an end.

Savoy foyer
I'd been in a rush when I arrived at the Savoy, and hadn't had much time to look around. On the way out, I paused to admire the foyer, which has lots of Wedgewood-style friezes, and and photographs and portraits and Chaises Long.

I wandered off into the rain (via the little bit of road outside the Savoy, which,  is, I understand,  the only place in the country where you have to drive on the right. there was a big limo outside, driving (very slowly) on the right, so it must be true!.

Which still left the rest of the afternoon for other adventures...
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I've posted before about how lucky we are to have two wonderful independent bookshops in Bath, both of which hold regular author events.

This week I went to another event at Toppings - it was just a smidgen smaller that the last one - I would guess that there were between 40 and 50 people there.

The author in question was Melvyn Bragg (Lord Bragg) - I think he is probably best known as a broadcaster, but he's also written both fiction and non-fiction. I enjoyed his The Adventure of English, which was both a TV series and a book, and I've read some of his other work, and enjoyed other documentaries he's been involved in, so I was interested to see he was coming to Bath.

He was here to promote his new novel, Grace and Mary, which is  based on a re-imagining of the lives of two women who are based on his own mother (who died recently, after suffering dementia) and her mother.

He spoke at some length about his mother and grandmother - he only met his grandmother a few times in his life, and only learned she was his grandmother when he was leaving home, as his mother was illegitimate, and was either adopted or fostered.

He spoke eloquently about the relationship he had with his mother, particularly in her final years, when she had memories of the past, but not of the present.

He made clear that although the key characters in the book are based on his family, it is not a memoir. He commented "a [person writing]a memoir has a responsibility for accuracy. Fiction has a responsibility for truth" and also "I prefer mis-remembering to remembering. It's more interesting"

Bragg also talked about writing, and his writing in particular. "I would never describe writing as hard work because I was brought up with people who really did work hard!" and that he had not, in the past, found writing autobiographical fiction cathartic - indeed, he said, it had left him unable to write fiction at all for some years, but this story he felt needed to be written.  It was a very personal talk - and this is obviously a very personal novel.

The short readings he gave made the book sound interesting, so I bought a copy, although I hadn't originally planned to. I shall see how it goes.

An interesting evening.
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A couple of weeks ago, I saw Nick Harkaway (@Harkaway) tweet about a project which both he, and Neil Gaiman have contributed to, together with Tom Abba and Artists' Collective, 'Circumstance'.

(Picture (c) the project)
The project, 'These Pages Fall Like Ash' is an interactive story, part book, part city exploration with downloaded content, part personal imagination.

I booked a ticket (or bought a book, depending how you chose to look at it) and on Saturday travelled to Bristol to take part.  I picked up my book (beatifully packaged) from the Watershed, and got started.

The book is a beautiful little thing, made from wood and paper, and it tells two stories, or two halves of one story, one set in the Bristol we know, the other half set in a parallel city, with characters who may, or may not, know and remember one another.

The book also contains clues to locations within Bristol, at which you can download further parts of the story, using a smartphone or tablet. You have to find the right place; the content is stored on hidden hard drives, so you have to be in the right part of the city.

I wasn't able to complete the whole story (?stories) - the project hasn't been finished yet, there is still some digital content which hasn't yet been uploaded, and I had trouble with a couple of the sites, but it is a very interesting concept, and it caused me to look at the city in a way I hadn't done before.

I must have passed the hairdressers in St Nicholas Street numerous times, but had not noticed the veiled bust, for instance.

I hope I shall have time to go back and revisit while the project is up and complete, to finish the stories, but if I don't , I think some of the digital content will be available as a pdf once the project is over.

And I believe that there are plans for other, similar projects in other cities.

It's definitely an interesting and innovative piece of art, and I'm glad I joined in.
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I've written before about Mr B's Emporium of Reading Delights, one of Bath's two splendid independent bookshops. They host wonderful author events (the last one I went to was with China Mieville, which I blogged here )

On Tuesday night, they were hosting the Patrick Ness, to celebrate the publication of his new novel, The Crane Wife. I missed Patrick when he visited for the publication of 'A Monster Calls', so I was particularly pleased to be able to get tickets this time!

And to meet some old friends and acquaintances - I knew that Cheryl was going to be there, what with our having bought the tickets together, and it was nice also to see Tamzin, (although my terrible face recognition skills meant I was confused for a moment, there)

As usual, the evening began with music from The Bookshop Band - with two new (and only just completed) songs inspired by the book. They were wonderful.
Patrick Ness

We then had the interview with Patrick, who apparently wrote the book at the same time as writing a new teen novel, (and has vowed never to do that again). The novel is inspired by a Japanese folk tale of the same name, which Patrick learned while a child in Hawaii. It's not one I am familiar with, but he made the point that, unlike most fairy tales / folk tales, it begins with an act of kindness, not an act of cruelty, so he was interested to explore the ideas of how a kind man would react to / deal with his  desires.

The interview also covered other points - the fact that people are complicated ("People are Legion") and don't conform to simple stereotypes; one of the reasons why Patrick rarely writes out-and-out villains, the need to write from the heart - drawing on real emotions.

He read us a bit of the new book (with a few interpolated comments - "I said 'penis' to a room full of people') then there were some questions, followed by delicious food from Made by Ben, and mingling, then further questions, and book recommendations, from Patrick, and the bookshop staff, and guests. Recommendations included Cat Valente's books,(the 'Fairyland ones, pluis Six-Gun Snow WhiteWildwood, The Armed Garden, Shadows on the Moon ,and the Cannongate Myths series.

Then the evening ended with Patrick signing copies of the Crane Wife and others of his books, with, inevitably, more conversation. A thoroughly fun evening.
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After Friday night's soiree with J.K. Rowling, last night's treat was an event with Hilary Mantel, author of 'Wolf Hall' and 'Bring up the Bodies' and twice winner of the booker Prize.


I have to confess that I have only read a couple of her books, but they (particularly the historical ones) are high on my reading list, and I was also interested to hear her speak, based on her reputation.

Read more... )

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As you'll have seen from my last post, I wasn't very efficient in booking tickets for this years Bath Festival of Literature, and ended up missing some events I'd like to have seen. One I didn't miss, however, was last night's interview with J.K. Rowling.

Rowling was being interviewed by James Runcie, who, as well as being a novelist in his own right, is Artistic Director of the Bath Literature Festival and also a long-standing friend of Rowling's, which came through in the interview, as they laughed and joked together.

The event was held in the Forum, which seats around 1,600 people, and which was pretty full - I think the event was sold out, or pretty close. Having booked late, I was seated in the very back row of the circle. This may have been a good thing. There were some pretty intense fans nearer the front, from what I can gather!

The event was primarily an opportunity to talk about Rowling's recent adult novel, The Casual Vacancy but also covered aspects of the writers life and, inevitably, Harry Potter.

'The Casual Vacancy' has some very troubled teenage characters, and Rowling was asked about her own teenage years, and specifically, her first French kiss (She was 12. He tasted of cheese and onion crisps). She counter attacked, asking Runcie about his, and he revealed he was 17, pointing out that as a ginger with glasses he was at a disadvantage!

She explained her wish to write realistic teenagers, and that she felt that all of the characters in the novel were real, in that they are not exaggerated - she had known people like that, when growing up, and while working as a teacher (but also stressed that she does not put actual people into the books), and that without seeking to claim to be a 'modern Trollope or Gaskell' that she did the novel as being in a similar tradition of parochial,  fiction, looking at a small and limited group of people. She also mentioned that she drew on aspects of herself in writing Hermione, and was very clear that she wanted Hermione to be, not 'the pretty girl' or 'the tomboy' but a clever girl, and for that to be OK, and to be someone whom she would have identified with as a child.

Rowling described how liberating she had found it, after finishing the Harry Potter series, to be writing without a deadline, and knowing that nothing would ever be the same as Potter - she described having been on a train at Kings Cross organised by her publishers in around 2000, thinking "you will never top this" and feeling, now, that she could either dwell on knowing she'll never top Potter, or that she can see how lucky she is to be free to write whatever she, knowing she can pay the bills even if only 5 people like the new book!

JK Rowling 08.03.13

Those hoping for the possibility of new stories set in the Potterverse were doomed to disappointment - while she admitted one can never say never, she has no plans for any new books; she commented that prequels are, in her view, rarely successful, and that in adding the Epilogue to Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows she had made it very clear how things turned out, and that there was a happy ending. "A lot of people didn't like it, but. . .My Characters, My Rules"

However, she did disclose that is she is currently writing a new children's book, but nothing further - the conversation was;
-"Would you like to tell us anything about it?"

- "No."

During the QandA session at the end of the interview there were more questions about Harry Potter. Asked whether she felt that Grindelwald loved Dumbledore back, she said no, that she'd always felt he manipulated Albus, and that he was never able to fully trust or love another after that. She went on to say that one of her proudest moments had been when, after her disclosure that Dumbledore was gay, a young man at the signing told her had just come out, as a direct result!

In response to a question about Harry Potter gaming she said her first experience of them was seeing one of her children playing the Harry Potter Lego game, and repeatedly running Ron over...!

Rowling was very articulate about her love of books and reading, and reported that she'd been asked by one of the children whether she would chose them or books, if she had to chose. Her reply? "You. But I'd be really grumpy"

It was an interesting evening. I came away liking the lady, as well as her books.
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Yesterday was icy cold - it kept trying to snow; there would be a few flakes of snow, then it would give up again.

I went into Bath to pick up some books and tickets from the wonderful Mr B's, and to run a few other errands - including popping into the Post Office to buy some of the new Jane Austen stamps, celebrating the 200th anniversary of the publication of Pride and Prejudice. There's something rather nice about being able to send a stamp featuring 'Persuasion', from Bath. Although I am not sure whether there'll be a legible postmark.

I love this building. Even though it's not a Library any more.

Today I woke to find we had had a tiny bit of snow overnight. Just a light dusting, visible of the roofs of the cars, and on windowsills, and gone within an hour of sunrise. However, the cold makes me think I must have a touch of squirrel, or bear, in my ancestry, as I just was to curl up and hibernate, emerging occasionally for honey and nuts.

I learned yesterday evening that my application to be a giver for World Book Night again this year has been successful, so I shall be handing out copies of Patrick Ness's 'The Knife of Never Letting Go' on or around 23rd April, which makes me happy. It's great sharing books, and I loved watching twitter last night and  seeing lots of other people getting equally excited about joining in, too.

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I've met Paul Cornell  several times, at BristolCon, and EasterCon, and Melksham, and he's alkways lived up to his reputation as one of the nicest men in SciFi.  He also wrote one of my favourite Doctor Who episodes (Family of Blood), and is a good friend of my friend Cheryl.

He's now written a novel, 'London Falling' and he was in Bath at Topping and Co to read from it.

It was a bitterly cold night, but despite that there was a reasonable turnout, and it was a fun evening.

 Paul  talked about the book (it's all about the occult history of West Ham football club, apparently), read several extracts from the novel, and answered questions.

And, of course, afterwards, he signed copies of the book for those of us who wanted them, plus extras, so if you are in Bath and want a copy, Topping & Co should be able to meet your needs!

Several of the others who came to the event know Paul from Cons. and Paul had some time before his train home, so after the official event, a group of us popped into the pub down the road, where conversation covered issues as divergent as Fringe, the Church of England, Arrow, Wicca, Marriage Equality, and Babies.

And Paul showed us a picture of baby Tom, who looks adorable.

It was a good evening. I'm looking forward to reading the novel.
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I've written before about the nice people at Topping and Co Bookshop, and the events they organise - there was another one today - they had invited Rupert Everett along (to publicise the new volume of his autobiography, Vanished Years)

I've enjoyed seeing his work on screen, and I had, several months ago, booked to see him in 'The Judas Kiss', at the Theatre Royal, so the opportunity to meet him and hear about the book was too good to pass up!

When I bought my ticket, the event was going to be 'coffee and cake' at the bookshop, but it was obviously more popular than originally expected, as it was moved to the Forum's 'ballroom', which sadly also meant no coffee or cake (never mind. I still have lots of lovely, rich chocolate brownies made for me by my equally lovely (if less chocolatey) brother).

Everett was interviewed by (presumably)someone from the shop, and talked about Noel Coward, playing female roles while at his (all boys) school, and deciding he wanted to grown up to be an actress, and his unnerving experience appearing on the celebrity version of 'The Apprentice' - apparently he'd never seen the programme so didn't know what to expect, and started out deeply confused, having mistaken Alan Sugar for Sid James (which is impressive, as Sid James is dead) and then the horror began, as he found himself on a team with Alistair Campbell, Ross Kemp and Piers Morgan "I felt as if I'd fallen into Hell".

On a more serious note, he spoke about his father's death, the excellent care he had received, and his own assumption that he would die alone and uncared for, on account of not having a wife(!)

He was very complimentary about the Theatre Royal in Bath, and its acoustics, and very rude about journalists (with particular reference to a journalist who quoted him out of context, following Michael Jackson's death, resulting in his receiving death threats.)

In answer to questions from the floor, he said that his ambition is to be able to get the rights to,and produce a TV series of, Greene's 'Travels with my Aunt' ,that he always uses stunt doubles where appropriate, and that he is still insecure about finding work.

Rupert Everett, Bath
He was very entertaining, witty and self-deprecating, and was then chatty and friendly as he signed books for people after the interview.

I had fun. Even without the coffee or cakes.


Sep. 15th, 2012 05:15 pm
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I've been feeling grumpy. I've not been well this week, and  I'm bored with it.

If it's been a cold, it's a really vicious bugger. If its flu, it's a really mild dose. Plus, as long as I do absolutely nothing (and keep a supply of lemsip and a bunch of tissues handy) I mostly feel OK, so I also feel like a bit of a malingerer for not being able to do anything more.

But it's meant I couldn't go to Rye last week to see the Dave McKean exhibition, I had to miss 3.5 days of work this week, and today I managed to get to the library but was then too exhausted to do anything else, so I didn't go to see Joe Abercrombie or Moira Young, both of whom were here signing today. Although the new library is nice. I'm not entirely sure why they were large numbers of people wearing khaki shorts and false moustaches wandering around the library but there were also a LOT of children (and I'm pretty sure that the Gruffulo was actually there, and not an hallucination caused by my low grade fever) which is all good. Kids having fun in libraries is a good thing.
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On Saturday morning, while checking Twitter, I saw Garth Nix tweet that he would be in Bath that evening, which sounded as though it might be interesting, so I went along.

I have enjoyed his books for several years now, particularly the 'Old Kingdom' ones, and I enjoyed his talk, too.

He started by talking about his name (not a pseudonym, despite what people may suspect) and about telling stories, and where he gets ideas from (unlike Neil Gaiman and others, not from a little shop in southern England, it would seem) and the process of making stories.

He also read us a little of the most recent books he has out; 'A Confusion of  Princes' and 'Trouble Twisters' and also a short excerpt from what will, probably, be the prologue to a new 'Old Kingdom' book - 'Claribel: The Lost Abhorsen', which sounds as though it's going to be a book I want to read. 

He then answered questions before signing books and chatting, which was fun.

I was slightly distracted during the talk by the fact that there was some decorative bunting up, which had clearly been made out of books.. This bothered me a little. I couldn't help but notice that the bunting was made from actual pages, not anything printed as bunting.

(It's OK. I went and asked one of the staff members after the reading; they explained it was made from a damaged proof copy of a book, so it wasn't destroyed specially)

I'm currently about 1/3 of the way through 'A Confusion of Princes' which I'm enjoying.

There are going to be more authors, soon. It's the Bath Kids Lit Fest next month, which should also be fun, and I have a theatre trip or two lined up. 

And on an unrelated note, I went to donate blood today. Turns out it was my 50th donation, which means they give me a shiny brooch and a nice pen, and I was surprised at how chuffed I was about it!

marjorie73: (Default)
It was back in December, I think, that I saw that World Book Night was inviting people to sign up as 'givers', to distribute free books on World Book Night - 23rd April - chosen as it is UNESCO's 'International Day of the Book', Shakespeare's birthday, and death-day, and the day Cervantes died (although I learned today that Cervantes and Shakespeare in fact died on the same date, in the same year, but on different days, as Spain had adopted the Gregorian Calendar and England hadn't)

Anyway, I liked the idea of joining in, to share my love of books and reading, and to get the chance to give away books to people who might not otherwise be reading, so I sent in my application, and forwarded the links to friends I thought might be interested in doing the same, and then I waited. And in February, I got an e-mail to say my application had been accepted, and I would get to play.

I'd had a hard time picking which of the books to ask for, but decided upon 'Good Omens', partly because it's a great book, one which I go back and re-read on a regular basis, and partly because I felt it was more approachable than some of the other books on the list, and that a book which makes people laugh might encourage them to read more in the future.

This is, after all, supposed to be something you do for pleasure! (Don't get me wrong, I love Pride and Prejudice, for instance, which is another of the books on this year's list, but for people who have been put off reading at school, I suspect Austen may just feel like more of the same...)

Last week I got an e-mail to say I could pick my books up, and so on Friday night I went to the Library to collect them - 24 beautiful new books!

Opening up the box and unwrapping the books, I felt like a child on Christmas morning. And, since I had to take the books out of the box anyway, in order to write their unique ID numbers in the front, it seemed only right to play with them a little, and make an interesting heap out of them...

Then, today, it was time to start giving the books out. When I applied, I explained that I would aim to give some of the books out via work - in particular to clients involved with Social Services. I hoped to give some to neighbours, too, as it's long been clear to me that books and reading are not a big part of the lives of most of my neighbours.
It turned out that I had to be in court today, so I packed half the books into a bag and took them with me. The court was less busy than I'd expected, but I was able to give a copy to one of the security officers at the door, one to a server at the coffee shop outside, and one to lady waiting for hearing.
Later on, after getting home, I was able to give one to a neighbour (she told me she wasn't really much of a reader, I explained that meant she was exactly who the book was supposed to be for, and she smiled, and accepted it) and then walked down to my local chip-shop and gave several more to people waiting for their food. My favourite was the young man in a hoodie, slouched in the corner of the shop. He watched as I gave a book to the woman ahead of him in the queue, and then when I offered him one, he replied "really? No-one ever gave me a book before!" he seemed so surprised, not only to be given a book, but also, I think, that he was offered one, just the same as the other people waiting. I do hope he reads it. I do hope he enjoys it.
I still have quite a few copies, and I shall be trying to give away more tomorrow, when I shall be at my local Social Services offices. And then to the supported house for teenage mums, and the half-way house for those overcoming addiction. I'm sorry I couldn't make it to both of those this evening, but I believe that giving the books away 'on or near' World Book Night counts, and this way I should have time to explain a little why there is a strange woman showing up on the doorstep and pressing books on the residents!
Happy World Book Night, everyone!


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