There are many things in life that are certain and then there are others that make you stop dead in your tracks, taking the wind out of your sails and making your heart explode in wonder. Today I met one of those things head on…and survived.
From that first sentence you would think that the sky had fallen in or Hibernian FC had in fact won the cup for a change but no. As a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators – British Isles, I had been advised that non-members could attend a Society of Author’s Event held at the fantastic Seven Stories Centre in Newcastle.
For all of those who haven’t been before, it is a must-see experience that you AND your children will never forget.
Santa had decided to answer my letter early and I found myself in my new sanctuary. Seven floors of books, creative corners, painting, crafts, story-telling, dressing up… it’s a never-ending literary wonderland. Everything you could possibly want for grown-ups and children alike.
The attic was my favourite place though – a wooden beamed cavern of books that hung from the ceiling like decorative mobiles, their pages flapping in the air-conditioning like leaves on the wind. Their angular spines spread out like hard-backed butterflies floating from one wooden flower to another. Beautiful to watch from below as I sat on the plump scatter cushions lying around donning a bright red wig and angel wings just to fit in with the under 5’s that surrounded me. Well, it would be rude not to.
I also had the great pleasure of meeting one of my literary idols, none other than the wonderful Vivian French, author of over 250 amazing books. I sat very quietly in awe of all the amazing authors and illustrators around me and listened to the ideas and wisdom that flowed over me.
After the forum, it occurred to me that writers are in fact ordinary people like you and me but with an extraordinary gift. The gift to amaze and capture little minds, sending them on a journey as they devour the words on the page like macaroni cheese on a Friday night (staple diet in our house on a Friday and well devoured in record time!).
I also experienced my very first ‘white glove’ event. We gathered in a small group and stood round a table of treasures – I couldn’t believe my eyes . On the table lay bashed and well-worn notebooks, typed notes, sketches, drawings and so much more. I had requested to see the early work of Judith Kerr – author of the Tiger Who Came To Tea and many other fantastic children’s stories. Time had stood still as I held one of her sketches in my hand, her notes claimed that she wasn’t sure to put the tiger on top of the fridge or sticking its head inside. Amazing! Having already been round the exhibition, held across one of the vast floors, I was already familiar with the hardship and sorrow this amazing author had endured over time. A very moving film played on a loop (so I watched it three times) depicting her family life, when she was forced to leave her home and not forgetting pink rabbit all the way to the present day where she met local school children.
Watching the children interact with her, I shed a tear when they presented her with a new pink rabbit. I know – you can’t take me anywhere.
Moving through to a life-size replica kitchen from the book, you can in fact have tea with a tiger! A six-foot, cuddly version sits proudly at the table where you can share a cuppa and pass the time of day. For those who want to get right into the spirit of things there are dressing up outfits for each member of the family portrayed in the books. Needless to say I was a little bit too big for them – think of the kids I kept saying to myself. Perhaps I am Peter Pan in disguise and I will never grow up. Being of a slightly vertically challenged demeanour that might be the case after all!
Another exhibition being held on another floor was Enid Blyton’s Life Story. A fantastic walk through life-maze of artefacts, letters and pictures all set out for the visitor to take in, as if time itself had stood still and you found yourself in her garden watching her type her latest masterpiece on the old typewriter that sat on her knee. How she managed that I don’t know. I have enough with the cats getting comfy and sporting dead legs when I try to stand up. Hats off to you Enid. Film reels from The Famous Five and The Secret Seven surrounded you as the theme tune from the TV series played on. She was very committed to her work and her family and it was great to get a little more background to how she came to write and the journey her books took her on over the years.
A wonderful day-away on the train to my new favourite place…I just wish it was nearer but it won’t stop me going back.