Monthly Archives: November 2012

Wolves and Angels


Fresh-faced from my first conference: The Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators at the University of Winchester. What a gas! Brilliant speakers in Celia Rees and Debi Gliori, more spent on books in 2 days than I normally manage in a month, good food and conversation, and a terrific workshop with experts Julia Bell and Julia Golding which revealed to me how LAZY I am about characterisation.

Questions to ask when you come up with a character.

1. Who is this person?
2. What is their mood colour?
3. What animal do they remind you of?
4. What do they smell of?
5. What was the last thing they ate?
6. What are they thinking, the first time you see them?

*cracks knuckles, settles down to task, tongue firmly clamped between teeth*

Right. Let’s take, say, a wolf. 1) He’s a wolf. 2) He’s wolf-coloured. 3) He reminds me of a wolf. (This gets better.) 4) He smells of wet dog. 5) The last thing he ate was me. 6) He was thinking, ‘I’ll eat that author right there because she’s rubbish at characters.’

Hey, this is fun! I’m good at this! Let’s try another one.  1) He’s an angel. 2) He’s bright orange. 3) He reminds me of a golden eagle. 4) He smells of fire. 5) The last thing he ate was completely irrelevant because he’s an ANGEL, haven’t you been listening? 6) He was thinking something much too profound to put into words.

Fine. One angel, one wolf. So far so good. OR SO I THOUGHT.

Now swap one of the wolf’s six elements with one of the angel’s. Suddenly your angel smells of wet dog, and your wolf is bright orange. Or your angel likes eating authors and you have a zen wolf with a PhD in Philosophy. Zing!

This is so totally cool that I’m just going to leave it there.






I just hugged a traffic warden. I KNOW! I hugged a box office manager too. I’m now far too overwhelmed to do the sensible stuff I had lined up for this morning: practising my new picture book text for a recording session over the phone (I KNOW x 2!) in anticipation of an important Acquisitions meeting tomorrow, and making lentil soup. Heck, no! I had to tell you all about Ticketgate instead. At once.

We’ve all done it. Reached the parking machine to find there’s no change in our purses. Rushed into the nearest shop / cafe / bus shelter and asked for cash-back / begged for 20p on bended knees from strangers. Glanced up amid all this desperate activity to see a neon-coloured traffic warden has materialised from nowhere and is writing your number plate down.

No! No, no, no! Handbag clanging at your side, hurdling talents heretofore undiscovered, you clear the railings in between the parking lanes and rush at the traffic warden wearing your most distraught face. Sorry, ma’am. Ticket’s written. Nothing you can do but appeal to the Parking Office.

“Please officer, there’s been a mistake…”

I’m legendary in Kensington for once bursting into tears on a Terminator-like warden in aviator specs. He tore my ticket up on the spot. This NEVER happens in Kensington. But today’s traffic warden, though perfectly kind and patient, was showing no signs of melting in the face of my tragic disarray.

Cue the orchestral swell. Like a vision burned upon the clouds, the aforementioned box office manager appears. He has a parking permit for me. He hands it over on the understanding that I make a donation to the arts centre next time I’m passing. By jingo, I will! In fact I will go nowhere else, ever, for any form of entertainment or general purchase, be it theatre, cinema, hand-knitted tea cosies, second hand books, Rock Choir auditions or speciality coffee. He has me for life.

In that moment, I actually loved the box office manager. Hence the hug. The traffic warden got the fallout from this upsurge of emotion. Not quite sure what he made of it, but there you go.

AND… relax. Oh, and wish me luck with my appeal.

It’s the small kindnesses that make all the difference to a person’s day. Remember this and pass it on, grasshoppers. Also buy ALL your Christmas presents from the Farnham Maltings this year. They have some sensational stuff.

Farnham Maltings:
my one-stop shop for ever more

Tutti Footie


“Pass the bally ball, Smithers!”

Ah, football. I’m one of those sport loons that discovers a passion for the required sport at the required time – Wimbledon, Olympics, World Cup etc – and then forgets all about it until the next time. Fickle, maybe. Enthusiastic, definitely. Wide-eyed with the theatre of it all: a hundred and ten percent, as the football managers say.

Saints v Spurs, Sunday 28 October. The anniversary of my first date with my first boyfriend, incidentally. I didn’t think of him once. There was far too much else going on at this, the first Premier League match of my life. Rude chants by large men with indeterminate tattoos. The life-affirming vigour of male heartbeats like a dash of Lynx-scented smelling salts. Red and white striped bobble hats, intricate rhythms drummed with passion on the great milky plastic windows that cinch the St Mary’s ground. My two boys accepting the gracious apologies of a Spurs fan, who stopped mid-song on realising the age of his knee-high neighbours. The only thing missing was Terry Venables saying something splendidly fatuous along the lines of:

Love despite triumph:
Gareth Bale salutes his former club

“I felt a lump in my throat as the ball went in.”

But we can’t have it all.

It wasn’t Saints’ day, and the beast of defeat trod on the swaying red-and-white doormat of home fans. They took it in good part. From what I can gather, they’ve had plenty of practice.