During my fantastic two-day visit to Chase Lane Primary School in Chingford last week, no one asked every author’s least favourite question. The children – all seven hundred of them – were far too bright and curious for anything so dull.
Instead, I was asked about my use of describing words by a girl in Year Two, and whether I used blurb, and how long penguins live for, and whether penguins in space are real, and if I had books in Chinese, and what book I would recommend for a girl not interested in girly stuff. ‘That penguin in space. Was it dead?’ was dealt with to everyone’s satisfaction as I explained that the Hubble telescope’s picture of a space penguin was in fact a photograph of stars and nebulae and red bits for which I had no name. I was able to tell them that yes I had met most of the authors they mentioned, although caveats applied to David Walliams. I have yet to establish whether he heard me in the Bristol University Union circa 1989 in my band, the Smokin’ Bristols, but live in hope.
I learned about aunts called Lucy and sisters called Courtney. I was told about trips to the seaside, and sick brothers, and pets. I saw for myself the esteem in which the children held their books in every single classroom’s beautifully themed Book Corners, designed to celebrate Book Week – hot air balloons, jungles, castles, spaceships, bedrooms and caves and tents – and had the unenviable task of judging them.
Everywhere I went, I was followed by excitable whispering. That’s her! Hi Lucy! It’s Lucy Courtenay! I was a rock star. I was a TV celebrity.
I was an author.