Wednesday, March 11, 2015

World Book Day Week - if you see what I mean - day 3, Wednesday 4th March: Walsall 

I am merely up very early today (rather than very very early), and so I am well timed to catch Farming Today on Radio 4 from which I learn about the development of TB resistant GM cattle, and that the most talented of chicken sexers can sex 1000 chicks per hour with 98% accuracy. You miss out on this kind of stuff if you get up after 6.30.

I travel by train, via the ever unlovely Birmingham New St, to Wolverhampton. The journey, including taxis at either end, is mercifully uncomplicated. I am lugging with me a wheeled suitcase full of books to offer for sale to the students at the school I am visiting. It is quite heavy, so delays leading to running to make a connection would be especially unwelcome. But all goes smoothly and I arrive in good time (note to the ever unlovely Birmingham New St station though: if you wish to have signs stating very clearly that luggage should not be taken on the escalators and that one should use the lifts instead, then perhaps some equally clear notices pointing out where the bloody lifts are might be quite welcome. Just a thought).

At the school I am welcomed and provided with an egg and bacon roll and tea. This is a good start. I also sell a copy of Thirteen Chairs to a teacher (or possibly it was the head) before I even start, so that's good. Then I do two talks in quick succession. The first starts a little tardily due to late arrivals, plus I've been asked to include the reading of some alternative endings that students have written for one of the stories from Thirteen Chairs so it kind of feels like I don't actually do all that much in the hour, but it all goes well enough, I think. Plenty of questions at the end and a bit of chat, though I only sell two more copies of the book. The second talk I time a bit better than the first and it feels like I engage my audience more fully. They enjoy the readings of the students' endings and I get a small round of applause for my story The Howling Dog. I feel like I won them round.

Then the bell goes for lunchtime and they all instantly bugger off.

I repack my (still heavy) suitcase with all the books I haven't sold and get a taxi back to Wolverhampton Station. I am reminded that the last time I got a taxi to Wolverhampton Station it was in pouring rain in a car which had, initially, a malfunctioning driver's side windscreen wiper and then, later, after an attempted repair, no driver's side windscreen wiper at all. It was enough to drive my normally unflappable companion, PR woman Liz Scott, to very nearly display annoyance. This time, happily, it is a sunny day and the efficacy (or lack thereof) of the windscreen wipers is never tested.

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