Tuesday, March 31, 2015

old business 

That old business card I just mentioned (all details -especially the hairline - now very much out of date, obviously).

from the archives 

John Purcell Paper A5(ish) sketchbook number 3, begun 25th July 2001

Apologies, that blue I use sometimes doesn't agree with the scanner terribly well so some of these spreads are losing a bit of detail.

Evidence here of work toward a business card (in a Top Trumps format) and a Christmas story, I think, featuring the polar bear.

Click for bigger, if, you know, that's what you want.

Monday, March 23, 2015

waiting for a train (and then on it) 

World Book Day Week - if you see what I mean - day 5, Friday 6th March: Rickmansworth 

I've been hopeful about this one. The deputy head, who's been my contact while organising the visit, has been consistently on the ball: answering emails promptly, providing a timetable for the day, but also sending me email enquiries of her own checking what I need, including me in a school-wide survey of people's favourite books, and generally being engaged and aware. She has also taken firm orders (in substantial numbers) for copies of my books well in advance so that I've been able to order them in to be delivered direct from the warehouse to the school. So plenty of sales and no lugging a heavy suitcase on a succession of trains. This is very good.

My train journey is trouble free and I arrive in good time. It's a C of E school: there's a certain amount of god-related stuff knocking about in the reception area to tip off my finely honed detective skills, though arguably the 'St' at the start of the name might perhaps have given an inkling too. I give a 45 minute talk/assembly to pretty much the entire school. I think it's gone well. In the Q & A section the first boy I point to is in Year 1 and it turns out he doesn't have a question at all he just wants to say 'I really like your book'. Which is lovely. A little later I get my second favourite question I've ever been asked: 'How do you like being partially famous?' (I figure much later that my response should have been 'it's partially good').

Shortly after I run a (rather hurried) ghost story writing workshop. I'm relatively new to doing these but I've learned that the best approach seems to be talk very little, get the kids writing early on, don't interrupt them too much except to tell them how brilliant they are. The deputy head, another teacher (Miss E) and I roam from table to table offering encouragement then the resulting stories are read out at the end. The religious values of the school apparently have not curbed the pupils' enthusiasm for violence: there are a number of grisly deaths and one group has killed off Miss E to be the ghost in their story. But it all passes off well enough.

Before the children are dismissed to go to dinner they have to say their pre-dinner prayer. When I have one of the school dinners myself I realise this is merely a sensible precaution rather than any form of thanksgiving.

In the staff room later I overhear this exchange:

Male Colleague: So I hear some of your pupils killed you then, Miss E?
Miss E: Yes.
MC: Was that the group with [pupil's name] in?
Miss E: Yes.
MC: He really doesn't like you, does he?

from the archives 

John Purcell Paper A5(ish) sketchbook number 3, begun 25th July 2001

Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear. In so many ways.

Click for bigger, if, you know, that's what you want.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

from the archives 

John Purcell Paper A5(ish) sketchbook number 3, begun 25th July 2001

Oh dear. Nothing to see here. Move along quickly, please.

Click for bigger, if, you know, that's what you want.

Monday, March 16, 2015

World Book Day Week - if you see what I mean - day 4, Thursday 5th March: The Posh School, Cambridge 

I do not have to be on a train before 7 a.m. This is a good thing. The Posh School is perhaps five minutes' cycle ride from my home. This too is a good thing. Local bookstore Heffers (host to all of my book launch events thus far, bless them) are selling books at the school so I have no need to take copies in with me. This also is a good thing. It will be no trouble at all then to arrive on time and in a perky state having had a lovely easy morning of it. And I do, more or less, but it's a good job I allow myself a ridiculous amount of spare time to find the place.

I find the right road easily enough and cycle down it looking for the school. There are posh houses and some posh larger buildings that might be businesses or a school, but I don't see a nice clear sign anywhere with the Posh School's name on it. When I am definitely further down the road than I ought to be I consult Google Maps on my phone. It gets me to the general area but I know better from my experiences with the running app than to trust the accuracy of the GPS to provide absolutely specific location. This one building here looks fairly hopeful but lacks any definite signs of, well, children. And there's no sign at the gateway, nor one (so far as I can make out) by any of the doors of the building itself. I try the next gateway along. Here there is a closed metal gate with a number pad and intercom beside it. Inside I can see a bike rack with some children's bikes in it. So that looks hopeful (though still no signs anywhere).

I press the call button on the intercom.



I wander along to the next gateway (definitely just someone's house) then back to the intercom.

Press, wait, nothing.

A mother and child appear. Mum starts to punch the code into the keypad. I think maybe she'll take pity on me and let me in at the same time.

'Is this the [name of Posh School]?'

'Yes. But the reception's back there.' The mum points back to the first gateway. 'You probably need to go back there.' I go back there.

I wander in through the gateway. Still no sign. No sign that says 'Reception' either. I try the door that I think looks most reception-like. A man coming out of it explains that, no, this is catering, but he'll take me to reception. Perhaps I am projecting but I sense that possibly he has done this before. More than a few times.

At reception I am met and greeted and asked if I found the place all right. I explain about my slight delay.

'Oh, our head has a real thing about it. Refuses to have a sign. Drives delivery men mad,' says my host.

'I'm not bloody surprised,' I think.

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.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

World Book Day Week - if you see what I mean - day 2, Tuesday 3rd March: the day off 

On the one day of the week when I am not engaged to appear in a school and gibber at children I snatch a quick bacon sarnie at lunchtime at the van in the marketplace in the company of a fine cartoonist friend. Said friend has recently undergone scary-sounding surgery on both his eyes. This has been a worry as, being a cartoonist, he is even more than usually appreciative of, and invested in, his vision. Happily, all has gone well and the end result of the procedure is that my cartoonist friend now has Amazing Super-Vision, whereas before, even with his mightily lensed spectacles, everything beyond a certain distance was still a bit blurry. Thus his world has at once expanded (in what sounds like a rather disorienting fashion) while at the same time snapping into pin sharp focus. It all sounds amazing but slightly disquieting. He gives me the squirm-inducing details of the operations and we eat our sandwiches. I would tell you more of what he said (it was properly fascinating) but I suspect that at some point he will relate the tale himself, possibly in comic strip form, certainly better than I would manage here.

from the archives 

John Purcell Paper A5(ish) sketchbook number 3, begun 25th July 2001

Beardy fella in the middle at the bottom of the left hand page - quite like him.

Click for bigger, if, you know, that's what you want.

Tuesday, March 03, 2015

from the archives 

John Purcell Paper A5(ish) sketchbook number 3, begun 25th July 2001

Dullsville. Sorry.

Click for bigger, if, you know, that's what you want.

World Book Day Week - if you see what I mean - day 1, Monday 2nd March: Chingford 

It's been a while since my last author visit to a school and I'm doing three stints at this primary school. I've been up since 5.00. When I turned the radio on in the morning and it was a programme before Farming Today, that's when I knew it was properly early. Taxi and train journeys were fine - though blimey Abellio Greater Anglia, you don't half pass off some shabby old carriages on the early birds don't you? - and I got here in plenty of time. Colin the tech guy sorted the laptop and video projector for me after that minor panic caused by a lead not having been attached, and the Powerpoint on my USB drive is working fine. I think I'm doing okay as I blather on about comics in general and Good Dog, Bad Dog in particular but my first audience - Year 4 - are inscrutably quiet so it's hard to tell if they're rapt at my wit and wisdom or bored into a silent stupour.

I get to the Q&A section and lots of hands go up, which is a good sign at least, and we pass a happy 15 minutes with not too many of the 'oh no not again' questions cropping up, and a couple that I've never had before. By the end I'm reasonably sure I've gone okay, but ... any better than that? I'm still not sure. Not sure if I really connected.

They're standing and heading out to play in the sunshine now. One boy in the front row catches my eye, smiles, says in an excited voice: 'Sir! Sir!'

I go over expecting - as occasionally happens - that I'm about to be thanked, or told that I've inspired some great creative urge, or just entertained reasonably adeqately in comparison to doing maths.

'Sir! Sir!' He points down. 'You've got something on your shoe.'

I look down. I am wearing my good shoes (because I have made an effort) and one of them has a whitish smear of something dry that probably wasn't always dry.

'I think it's poo,' says the boy.

I think so too.

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