I'm home and with my boots planted firmly in Devon for the forseeable future, and with my head teeming with so much that I have seen in just those few days away.... aren't A Few Days Away such a good invention.
The Fiction Uncovered evening was predictably amazing. It was a treat to meet up with my fellow judges again, and also the Fiction Uncovered team who have worked really hard to make this initiative work, and we all have everything crossed for their next round of Arts Council funding, and so good to finally meet and talk with all the authors after months of getting to know their books. Chair of judges Louise Doughty gave a brilliant speech, introducing each author's book before presenting them with a beautiful hand-bound edition in a slip-case,along with a Kobo e reader and six months membership of the very atmospheric and exclusive club where the event was being held. So exclusive there is no sign on the door and the building so Ancient London you need crampons and ropes to cross the wonky floors and get up the stairs. We suggested, rather tongue in cheek, that this membership 'gift' be extended to the judges in future, so whilst we may not benefit those ahead of us just might... maybe. I was separated from my camera by about ten foot of floor and about a hundred people, so no pictures from me though there was an official photographer so I expect some will emerge, but it was good to chat to lots of people about books and reading and this.
I still genuinely nurse very modest notions of the impact or the reach of dovegreyreader as I sit writing it tucked away here in Devon, and for me that's best because I still find myself amazed and slightly over-awed when people spell it out to me... lots of lovely people said very nice things, and in turn I spent a lot of time saying how much it depended and thrived on all of you too, so please take a minute to pat yourselves on the back... just don't put your neck out doing it or anything.
I couldn't resist heading out round the corner to look at Foyle's window ...
... which will have a display of the books for the next two weeks, and how good they those books looked, what breadth and depth there is to our choices, and how proud I felt to have been part of it all. That hard reading work coming to fruition and carrying on with it through the worst winter I have had for plagues and shocks and life-changes since...since... oh probably since the last time.
And alright, so I did ask someone if they would mind leaning slightly further long the window so I could get this shot...
and then asking them to move back again so I could get this one...
Thank you whoever you were.
But en route to London I had spent a few days walking the South Downs with Fran H-B. We gave ourselves a Ravilious Day and a Bloomsbury Day and my sincere thanks to Fran, a Sussex native, for giving me such a wonderful taste of the joys that are to behold in this amazing landscape.
The weather didn't stop us checking out the Long Man of Wilmington...
before heading up and over the top of his head for the heart-soaring Ravilious views.
The Cuckmere Valley, Beachy Head, the Seven Sisters followed, and the next much sunnier day Berwick Church, Monk's House (home of Virginia Woolf) and Charleston. More soon when I have thought it all through and have the dovegreyreader perspective on it all.
Meanwhile, should I ever think about getting even a little bit above myself, there is no greater leveller than coming back to the realities of home.
There is no more cold and desolate place than Paddington Station at 10.15 pm.
The waiting rooms are closed except for the glowing warmth of the First Class lounge, forbidden territory for us mere mortals, and there is nowhere to sit on the platform bar the ledge on the war memorial while you wait for the train crew to let you board. Realising I hadn't really eaten all day I could wait no longer so perched and ate my M&S chicken salad in the hope it wasn't deemed too irreverent..
The Night Riviera Sleeper cradle-rocked me back to Devon in that sort of almost-sleep that isn't quite, and where Bookhound was miraculously waiting for me at 5.30am. I had two loads of washing done and out on the line by 8.00am.. so as we were etc but refreshed and with lots to tell you.