Sunday, 4 March 2012

This week's word is: VISITS

Hello, dragon fans.  We had a splendid time last week visiting schools in England as part of the World Book Day celebrations.  The author topped up the screenwash and aimed us north - for approximately three and a half miles! Yes, our first stop was local, at the lovely Galmpton Primary School in Devon, an old stone building just, well, a stone's throw from a National Trust property called Greenway, which used to be Agatha Christie's house (a famous English crime writer).  There he spoke to some lovely children and even showed me to one class! Would you believe he kept me in bubble wrap in a BOX and made me stay solid throughout the entire visit?  I wasn't even allowed to blow a smoke ring (fire regulations in schools, apparently). So we made a few new fans, including three teaching assistants from Germany who were all quite keen to have the author's autograph.  They were very pleased to know that the first three books are now out in paperback in Germany.  Hrrr.  Thank you Margaret and Stuart for inviting us in and Matthew at the Torbay Bookshop in Paignton for providing books. Just the first of many visits in the bay, we hope.

From Galmpton, we moved onto the historic town of Bath.  Bath has a thriving arts and literature scene and was once favoured by another hugely famous English author, Jane Austen.  Several times during the week the author told the story of how, at the age of 14, he was introduced to reading by a teacher who encouraged him to finish 'Pride & Prejudice', Ms Austen's best-known work.  From there our hero went onto 'The Hobbit' and 'The Lord of the Rings' and the mighty 'Gormenghast' trilogy by Mervyn Peake.  Ever wanted to read a gripping gothic fantasy? Try 'Titus Groan'.  We think it's amazing, scary and surreal, just like parts of DARK FIRE.  Also, on a point of interest, two of the characters, aunts called Cora and Clarice, were the inspiration behind Aunts Primrose and Petunia in FIRE WORLD...

In Bath, we visited the impressive King Edward's school where the author was asked to adjudicate a dragon competition.  The children were incredibly creative, as you can see... 

We're not quite sure what's going on with the sticks in the dragon above, but we liked her all the same!  King Edward's was a wonderful experience, and we'd like to thank, Liz, James, the children (of course) and the mums who helped to sell books. Hrrr! Not forgetting the delightful Anna Wilson, who helped to set it up in the first place. Mwah.

After a little sight-seeing in Bath, it was off up the motorway to the West Midlands and the Black Country town of Wolverhampton.  Here, on World Book Day itself, we stopped at Tettenhall College and met their lovely librarian Debbie and her help on the day, Trish.  Despite the author feeling a little unwell, we had another fantastic day. Here, the author was asked possibly the most bizarre question he's ever encountered: If you could have a pub, what would it be called? He replied cleverly, mentioning the fact that his father used to run a pub called The White Horse, then segued from there into the story of Lucy and Tam on Scuffenbury Hill, followed by a reading from DARK FIRE.  Gosh.  Even I have to admire him when he thinks as quickly as that. 

And finally our little jaunt came to a close in the district of West Bromwich, also in the Midlands.  The author visits many different types of school, from the very wealthy to the very poor.  George Salter Academy would be towards the latter end, a place where the children have very few privileges.  But, as the author was at pains to point out to his attentive audiences, he came from a lowly background yet rose to be a well-known writer (with an even better-known dragon companion, of course).  The lesson is: no matter your walk of life, it can be done, guys.  All you need is a passion for stories.  Thank you Janet and Vicky for looking after us.  Until next time.  Happy reading.  Hrrr!

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