Personally, I love the snow, but I know not everyone feels like that. Something that can transform the world overnight into a fairyland (as long as you’re not in the middle of a city) is just simply magical. But I think part of it is a childhood memory of my first time ever trip abroad. It was with my father in 1964, when I was fifteen. We went for a month, over Christmas and New Year, and the Cold War was in full swing. I stared open-mouthed at soldiers with submachine guns, at bullet holes in windows, at streets filled with trams and lorries and horses and carts, and hardly a car in sight other than those driven by party officials. It was my father’s first visit back to the Poland he’d left during the war, and it was a dramatic experience. I was lucky in that my relatives lived in Krakow, a beautiful historic city – but better still, for me, was that it was within reach of Zakopane, in the Tatra mountains. We took the train, which zig-zagged uphill for four hours (it’s two hours
Dudley Castle, Wikimedia, Trevman99 "The Devil stood on Dudley's keep And far about Him gazed, And said, 'I never more shall feel At Hell's fierce flames amazed." If I look across the valley from my house, I can see Dudley Castle on the opposite hill. A former owner, John Dudley, was executed for trying to put Lady Jane Grey on the throne and as a child I used to be told that it was 'one of the ruins that Cromwell knocked about a bit.' Parliament's guns were set up where the present day Castlegate roundabout is, just by the 24-hour Tesco's. (It's a long way from the castle and gives you an idea of just how big a castle's outer baileys were.) But the rhyme above refers to the period when industry came to the Black Country, the period from, roughly, 1760 to 1860: the Industrial Revolution. My Scottish partner has just told me, flatly, that 'nobody knows where the "Black Country" is.' So I'
The only UK entry in the 2023 OCR It started just three weeks ago. I’d heard that Tracy Edwards’s iconic yacht Maiden was lying in St Katherine’s Dock in London and would be open to the public on Saturday afternoon. Then I heard that I could buy a ticket just a couple of days earlier and attend an evening event to meet the crew. This had the great merit of offering pleasure and research… would Tracy Edwards herself be there? ‘Marketing’ isn’t keen on Lionesses of the Sea as the title for my forthcoming book about c20th women sailors and I can’t be bothered to argue the point just now. But Tracy would make a great lioness. She was certainly there. She opened the gate to let us all troop in. An erect, petite figure in an anorak. Not playing the celebrity hostess; the gate needed opening. She opened it. Suddenly there, next to Maiden , able to touch her, potentially go on board, I felt overcome with emotion. This yacht, which had raced around the world with the first all-female cr
Last weekend I arrived bright and early at the Orwell Hotel, Felixstowe, Suffolk expecting to put a few handouts on seats, deliver an optimistic box of books for sale, shove a memory stick into a laptop and waltz away for coffee with a friend before returning to spend a happy hour talking about 'Boats and Books' whilst flicking contentedly through my Power Point presentation. It wasn't quite that simple. This was the first Book Festival event of the day in the wonderfully named 'His Lordship's Library,' and the sound engineers were hard at work. They were perfectionists; the rest of us were a trifle ad hoc and possibly de trop . The festival organiser had loaned us her laptop and it needed to be woken from deep slumber before it could be persuaded to link to the projector. There was a wireless mouse which would only squeak in one direction – either I could go forward through my presentation or I could go back. I couldn't pop bac
Someone once said to me, after a talk at a literary festival, ‘You’re so privileged to have a platform to reach people’. It took me by surprise because I hadn’t thought that being a writer would result in a moral responsibility to save the world! That being published was a privilege that might give rise to this kind of obligation hadn’t surfaced in my mind. I've thought about it quite a lot since then. As published authors, what we write is read by thousands of people whose lives we touch in unknown ways. That chance encounter with a reader made me aware not only that what I write can affect people’s lives, cheer them up, entertain, provide an escape route, but also that we do, as writers, have a unique opportunity to share experiences and ideas that might help and inspire people. I’ve recently paid another visit to the National Centre for Children’s Books - Seven Stories in Newcastle - where they currently have an exhibition of books designed to carry important messages to c