Still the echoes of France resound in my memory, I always enjoy flying for a start. I don't fly enough to get bored or blase about it so I'm always delighted when somehow (even with little propellors) we get airborne and then just catching glimpses of the Devon coastline as we took off from Exeter from the air feels quite exhilarating. But even more exciting, the opportunity to meet and get to know a writer I have read and loved for more years than she or I would care to remember.
Penelope Lively is one of those writers who has been ever-present on my reading shelves and looking back I see that I read her Booker Prize winning novel Moon Tiger in 1988, the year I first decided to up my reading game from childbirth-induced brain mush to something substantial and challenging.That's the year I started keeping a reading journal too and interestingly either side of Moon Tiger I read two books by Mary Wesley, The Camomile Lawn and The Vacillations of Poppy Carew, then some Garrison Keillor and another favourite writer of the time Patrica Wendorf, lots of Alice Walker and plenty of Alice Thomas Ellis.
In 1989 I read Penelope's short story collection Pack of Cards and in 1990 Passing On. These were the years when I might have managed twenty books a year if I was lucky so each one would have been carefully chosen and read over several weeks.
I don't need to tell you in that case what an absolute pleasure it was to sit and listen to Penelope sharing her consummate writing skills with a group who were hanging on her every word, and then to be able to talk quietly on into the evening and hear about her life in writing.Times that will remain etched on my memory as very special indeed. I plan now of course to read some of her books that I've missed.
Penelope is a delightful person, dignified and gracious and a profoundly knowledgeable and intelligent writer on so many subjects, still writing and still loving what she does and my thanks to her for giving me a signed copy of Oleander, Jacaranda with a very special personal message inside, that will be treasured.
It will be my pleasure to meet up with Penelope Lively again soon, which we surely will.