Ross on Wye

I had a great day in Ross on Wye Library yesterday. I’ve been there a few times now and there were one or two old faces that I recognised and of course, I’m getting to know the Librarians quite well now! I was, again, exhausted by the end of the day. My wife, Penny, has suggested that I should get some stage or presentation training to help me. I’ve been looking at various sites on the Internet about public speaking and some pieces of advice crop up again and again.

Correct posture is number one. I’ve always held the book I’m reading up so that everyone can see the pictures. In reality I’m sure the back row can’t see, so all I’m doing is giving myself terrible shoulder ache by the end of the day. At the same time I’m hunching my shoulders and not allowing myself to expand my chest and breathe properly. Hydration is another big thing. I drank a lot of water at a school I visited recently, and stayed off the coffee and tea. Now I think about it, I wasn’t quite so tired that day.

I’m off to Sandwell tomorrow and will have over 200 children in West Bromwich Town Hall in the afternoon, so I’m going to try something different. (Better do a bit of preparation today!)

I’m not really sure what is expected from school and library visits. No one teaches you, there is no job description. Us authors do what we do in our different ways. It would be interesting to hear from anyone who has definite ideas of what they think an author visit should be like. In these days of measurable outcomes, I feel pressured to educate – to cram some measurable and testable information into children’s minds so that positive feedback can be entered onto appraisal forms. What I do best, is to entertain. I want children to go away thinking that books and stories can be fun – not just texts to be disassembled – and wondering who that strange man was!

Some authors have very set talks and like to be in control. I’m a bit of a seat of the pants kind of person. My best sessions are always the ones where nothing is expected and I go where the mood takes me. Of course I have a collection of tales and anecdotes that I know work well, that I can drop in and use to suit the moment, but the really good sessions fly off into flights of fantasy and fun. They are always the ones that get remembered and, in the end, produce the best, if unmeasurable, outcomes.

The really, really good sessions are when the teachers freely hand over their class to me and join in as part of the audience. Often I’ll end up with a class character wanting to get their two pennyworth in. This can be such fun – the equivalent of a comedian’s heckler. They can force me to do the unsafe thing – read a story I’ve never done before – have a discussion on deep and complicated subjects – talk about an idea I’ve just had and want to get an opinion on. Sadly, the sparky child is often told off or moved to sit next to the teacher. Please trust me to handle a crowd – I’ve not had a riot… yet!


Well, I’m in another hotel, Plymouth this time, for another couple of days of library visits. I feel I’ve done absolutely nothing in the last few days. Just worn out from my visits in North Wales last week.

I did make a decision though. I’ve got a new project to build myself a studio/office in the garden. We moved almost four years ago. The house suits everyone for various reasons close to town, room to have my Mother living with us but I’m not happy where I work. Maybe I’m too sensitive, but I hear and see the traffic in the street outside my office window all day long.

I’ve cleared and measured up the site. Made a huge setsquare to mark out where the footings will go for the base, so I suppose that’s a positive move. It’s frustrating not being at home, where I could be digging a bit each day.

I’ve got my eye on a door on eBay. It’s only 99p at the moment. I reclaimed a load of timber from an old carport, when we moved, so I’m hoping it’s not going to be too expensive

I think I will keep a record of the building for anyone who cares!


Oh dear! My gorgeous, handsome Marmaduke died this morning and I’m quite devastated. I’ve never felt like this about a pet before. I can only assume that he was hit by a car. We live on a 30 mile an hour road. Our neighbours borrowed a police radar once and clocked up drivers going at 65. I’ve seen bikes going faster.

I’ve buried a lot of pets in my time but today has been the worst. All the others have died of old age or sickness. You have time to come to terms with death like that, but this was so sudden.

My neighbours found him on their driveway and brought him round wrapped in a towel. I couldn’t quite take it in. I didn’t want to take it in.

Marmaduke was a one in a million. He wasn’t very bright but he was a wonderful companion. When he was young he curled up behind me as I worked, until he became too big to fit on the chair. He would on the bed in the mornings, watching, waiting for me to wake up, then he’d creep up close until we were touching noses.

He was so vocal, always miaoued to say hello and thanks. Yes, he would say thank you too! We could spend hours just staring at each other, just being in each other’s company.

Working from home, he was my daily companion for 10 years. Now I’ll have to trawl through this site and alter all the references to him. On Friday, I walked into a classroom and there was a picture of me and Marmaduke, from my website, projected on the smartboard. I don’t want to take the picture off, but I don’t know that I want that to happen again. Children who’ve been through my sitee always ask me about him.

I knew all his little places. I knew where to find him at different times of day.

I’ll miss him dreadfully.

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