It all kicked off at the beginning of October with the arrival of Children's Book Week. We had two authors out and about during this week, Guy Bass and Harriet Goodwin, but more about them in a little while. I was actually in the office that week ensuring all the preparations were in place for the Dirty Bertie Tour. There are so many things to think about before embarking on a tour and as much as you try to ensure that all will run smoothly, you have to rely on a lot of other people (booksellers, teachers, librarians, parents) to get things right too. It can be hard to remember that they've got plenty of stuff going on too and whilst your priority is the tour, it's not necessarily theirs. So I basically spent that week doing as much as I could to be prepared for any eventuality but, at the end of it, all I could do was get on the train to Liverpool and cross my fingers!
My big coup prior to the commencement of the tour itself was getting David Roberts a slot on the Billy Butler show on BBC Radio Merseyside. David (who is originally from Liverpool) has been listening to Billy's show since he was a nipper. He seems to remember Billy doing a birthday shout out for him when he was about eight years old. When he was living in Hong Kong in his early twenties, David's parents used to send him tapes of Billy's shows and just hearing the familiar Liverpudlian accent would transport him home. I am reliably informed (by David's dad) that Billy's accent is a proper old school Liverpudlian accent, "more Beatles, than Brookie." We had a fantastic time in Liverpool as we got to spend some time with David's extended family, who are incredibly warm and welcoming. In fact I'm always impressed by the warmth of the people of Liverpool. Even in shops and hospitality you get a totally different experience to the coldness of much you encounter in London.
Reading from the Dirty Bertie picture book at Borders in Speke
From Liverpool, we headed to Leeds. I can't speak highly enough of the team at Leeds Libraries. It was a brilliantly well organised event and the kids were lovely. One school was so patient and well behaved (David signed autographs for every child, and there were about 200 of them!) that I was compelled to praise them to their teachers. It wasn't just that they were well behaved, they were just really nice kids. I was chatting to them while they were queueing and you could have a perfectly mature conversation with them. Lovely.
We then headed on to Preston, where once again we were terribly well looked after by the Children's Libraries team. David gave a presentation at the inaugural meeting of the Lancashire Children's Book Group. There was such a lot of passion and enthusiasm for kids' books there, I really hope the group will go from strength-to-strength.
Wednesday night we got to sleep in our own beds - bliss! But on Thursday morning it was back on the road. We had to nip over to Tiger Towers in Fulham to pick up the Bertiemobile and then whiz down the M4 to Bristol where we picked up a pair of lovely Bookseller's from Waterstone's in Cribbs Causeway and headed off to a local primary school where we participated in a fire drill, before getting down to the business of drawing Bertie. Then it was back on the M4 to SWANSEA!!!
I don't think David Roberts has too much to worry about . . .
Oh, it was good to be back on the right side of the Severn (I'm from Swansea, you see) and we had a lovely tea with my mum, brother and sister, who were all charmed by the lovely David Roberts. The following day we spent the morning at Swansea Central Library and the afternoon at my old school, Terrace Road Primary, awwww!
Swansea Central Library
Last, but my no means least, we headed up to Cheltenham for their tremendous literary festival. It was a full day and I had four consecutive events to juggle with David appearing twice, the lovely Caroline Juskus leading a puzzling workshop for Minnie Piper fans and Steve Smallman warming all our hearts with his lovely bear stories.
Caroline Juskus and a Pair of Puzzlers
By the end of the day I was starting to feel a bit peaky. Disaster! I still had to drive back to London and in a couple of days set out on the road once more with the irrepressible Guy Bass.
To be continued . . .