Your message was successfully sent.
Most recent posts
Dull cold autumn day. A little rain spitting on the windscreen as I drive to Nottingham to sell my books at Bookworm Day.
Lunch break at Rutland Water. Almost empty car park. Wind troubles and eddies the grey water. Birds squabble away to my left. I walk over cold damp grass and through copses with traces of al fresco barbecues. The cackles grow louder as the path passes beyond a little island, and there they are – a few small teal with chestnut tops and lots of mallard with glossy green feathers on their heads. A couple of black coots swim past, bobbing jerkily as they go. Goodness knows why they’re all so noisy!
Next day is sunny, clear and cold. The popular Bookworm Day is held in Kimberley – a small town on the northwest edge of Nottingham. It’s mentioned in the Domesday Book and was a centre for coalmining and hosiery. But industry has fled and even the brewery (Kimberley Ales) was bought out and closed 6 years ago. Its current claims to fame are its gymnosperm fossils in the brewery grounds and a nearby Ikea.
And of course, Bookworm Day. Children from the local infant schools dress up as bookworms and parade from the Parish Hall to the Library, past Sainsbury’s, pubs, newsagents and the Farmers’ Market where Long Eaton Silver Band entertain shoppers.
Guarded and guided by police, parents and teachers the children chatter with excitement, while the girls bearing the heads stride proudly at the front of each long caterpillar. Hungry Caterpillar! Certainly they’ve all read one book at least!
In a large room next to a popular cafe some 15 authors set out their posters, stands and books. Some display a series of adventure stories, one has books and framed copies of First World War poems. A collection of paperbacks on local ghosts and life in Victorian Kimberley sell well. There’s a man wearing a red military style costume reminiscent of a Chelsea Pensioner. It hangs off his slight frame baggily. I can’t work out what it has to do with his books. My thriller is set in the Welsh mountains where I grew up, so I wear a huge dragon Tshirt in honour of the Principality. Lots of interest, lots of people to chat to. Coffee and nibbles from the cafe.
At the close I pack my posters and unsold copies into the car and return home via another sandwich lunch at Rutland Water, now basking in the sun and crowded with visitors.
Llandudno on a drizzly summer afternoon.
The Great Orme looms darkly over the seaside resort like a monstrous mammoth. Its bulk sticks far out into the sea and a few cars potter around it along the coast road, their passengers admiring sheer cliffs that are slapped by perpetual waves. The cable car which takes you swiftly and easily to the top of the mammoth’s back is the longest in Britain and promises superb views. But not today when the mountains over Conwy Castle are faint in the mist. You cannot even glimpse Talyfan, Drum, or the two Carneddau (Llewelyn and Dafydd, named for the last independent Prince of Wales and his brother). Anglesey lies flat and dim under cloud. Grey sea begins its twice daily return up the river estuary and the few mussel pickers will soon desert the open sands for the safety of the shore. Eastwards the Little Orme at the far end of Llandudno’s prom occasionally shows through the rain, while Colwyn Bay and the long coastline of North Wales are invisible.
And on fine days they say you can see as far as the Isle of Man and the Lake District!
So return to the town – and not even the prom is inviting. Yes, on a sunny day with the wind blowing off the Irish Sea, people parade along the broad walkway as they have done ever since it was built for Victorian holiday makers. But today even chip-snatching seagulls have deserted the gusty air and wander disconsolately along the sand, seeking tidbits among the shingle.
But the long main street is more cheerful. Brightly coloured umbrellas and raincoats jostle happily from shop to shop. Children in rainbow wellingtons drag parents into cafes for cokes and buns covered in sticky sickly icing. Tourist shops are crowded with damp shoppers looking for mementos – daffodil decorated mugs, pens with dragons curling long tails along the shaft, Welsh rugby shirts And those boxes of fudge advertising Llandudno prom – the same fudge that’s sold all over Britain with postcards stuck on their fronts - St Paul’s in London, Wastwater in the Lake District, Clovelly in Devon.
Finally to Waterstones bookshop. A very friendly experience. Staff have put up my posters round the shop and set up table and chair with a pile of books ready for signing. They bring me very welcome coffee from the coffee shop upstairs and ask how things are going? Customers are jolly and ready to chat. I’m greeted by an old school friend come specially to see me. The purchasers make light of the weather as they buy my book to remind them of their holiday.
And outside the sun shines at last, the umbrellas are folded away and the raincoats packed in rucksacks or stuffed under buggies. Down to the beach then, and grab an icecream – watch out, kids, for the returning gulls!
Is the time when you handled a paperback a distant memory? Do you remember your fear of discovery as you commuted to work trying to hide your racy book inside a false cover? Can you recall reading on a summer beach with the wind blowing the pages over and sand bunging up the spine?
The arrival of the ebook has changed all that.
But is it for the better? Letters in the press claim the popularity of the ebook will destroy our ability to read. It will condemn our children to an existence where they’re wedded to their ipad or Kindle or whatever. They tell us the older generation love the smell and feel of a solid book too much to convert to an electronic device.
True or false?
Recent American stats suggest half of all readers with ebook devices now read more books than they used to. Their purchase of ebooks is rising. And more than half the Kindle owners are over 35 years old.
Odd fact – teenage Americans show the most resistance to ebooks. Any ideas why? Possibly because it’s not a social technology?
So what’s your take on ebooks?
On Christmas cards, wrapping paper, paper table cloths and serviettes, decorating websites selling everything from Black Norfolk turkeys to Useless Gadgets for Kids.
They even consort with polar bears.
No. that’s impossible. The bears roam the Arctic at the top of our planet. Penguins, all seventeen species of them, build their stone and stick nests or burrows at the bottom. More than 9,000 miles lie between the Antarctic and Arctic. But not all penguins live on the snows and ice of the Antarctic continent. Some live on islands and mainlands further north. There’s the laughing jackass penguin on the southern tip of South Africa and another species lives just north of the equator on the Galapagos islands, but they’re nowhere near any polar bears. There have been claims in the past that penguins have been sighted in the Arctic but these were probably auks – birds that are tubby, upright and black and white. They waddle when they walk. The give away is that they can fly, albeit clumsily – true penguins can’t fly.
To see penguins, try to visit the Falkland Islands, if you can manage a winter get-away-from-it-all holiday.
Recently I saw 6 different species of penguin there. Rockhoppers are the funniest as they toddle seriously up and down rocky paths in long queues. There are many colonies on the Falklands.
Magellanic penguins were named after Ferdinand Magellan who sailed round South America in 1519. The early sailors thought the chicks were a different species and named them Furry Penguins. Magellanics are shy and live in burrows.
The Falklands are the main home of Gentoos with their white ‘bonnet’ and bright orange beaks.
And the second largest penguin, the King Penguin, also rears its young in these islands. It lives further north than the largest penguin, the Emperor, which is the one you see among Antarctic snows and gales.
The colonies stink. They’re noisy, large and leave a huge mess that takes several years to recover. The parents are for ever on the watch against marauding Brown Skuas who’ll snatch any unattended chick. On West Point Island rockhoppers live among the mud pyramid nests of Black Browed Albatross. The albatross fiercely attack any skuas, but don’t harm rockhopper chicks.