Autumn is often a time of new beginnings and a few days ago we moved our daughter Abigail into her new student room in her hall of residence at Gloucestershire University, Cheltenham. There she will be completing her studies in Media Production and we hope she will emerge as a great film-maker.
Saying goodbye to your young person as he or she goes to the university is often a time of many and mixed emotions for parents. If I’d used “emoticons” to demonstrate my emotions, there would have been a full range of contradictory faces!
There would have been faces which were sad, fearful, anxious, excited and hopeful among them. And upon returning home again, having said goodbye to her, feelings of being bereft, numb and even feelings of unreality.
And yet she is now making new friends, attending lots of events, discovering new things, entering a different world. It’s a time for rejoicing too.
For many it can be the best, most fun part of your life.
What can compare to those hilarious conversations and cooking disasters that take place in the student kitchens, or those late nights sitting on the bed in someone else’s room, doing crazy things? or those new discoveries as you go along to another quirky society you signed up for at the Freshers Fayre?
May it be so, as I think now of all the young people starting at their new universities and colleges right now.
This weekend I attended the book launch of a fellow author: Philip Davies who has published the first in a series of young adult fantasy books called “Destiny’s Rebel.”
Philip is a member of a writers group I attend, and we were all delighted when he was at last able to announce he’d signed a contract for the publication of his book, after many trials and tribulations with agents and publishers – the kind of thing all writers can relate to. Philip has read aloud to us extracts from his novel during the past few years and we’d all come to know and love his sassy heroine Kat.
Philip held his book launch in Blackwell’s at 48-51 Broad Street in Oxford – and what a wonderful bookshop it is.
The launch was held in the Norrington Room downstairs – one of the largest and most famous bookselling rooms in the world. Its a vast treasure cave of fascinating books on all possible subjects, on three levels. I was overwhelmed by the amazing abundance of books – it was like Hogwarts Library. And as Philip said in his speech, have we all considered what the world would be like if all the writers stopped writing? Well, there would be a good few books to keep us going for a while – judging by the contents of the Norrington Room – but what would happen if all the readers in the world stopped reading? For writers, readers are our lifeblood.
As you can see from the pictures, Philip’s book launch was a lovely occasion, with a much-admired cake which looked exactly like his book – except it was larger, and edible!
Do take a look at Philip’s book on his website and on Amazon – I’m looking forward to reading my signed copy very soon!
Over the past couple of months, at the suggestion of my publisher Matador,
I’ve visited a number of small independent bookshops throughout the Cotswolds (where my new novel A Passionate Spirit is set).
I’ve introduced myself and my novel, offered each bookshop manager a copy of my advance information sheet and asked if they would be willing to stock my book when it comes out in November.
Not only have I found the managers of the shops very friendly and encouraging, and have won several positive responses to the idea of stocking my book, but also I’ve had a wonderful journey of discovery among small independent bookshops.
For a small town to have its own independent bookshop is a great blessing. I’ve now visited bookshops in Stow-on-the Wold, Burford, Chipping Norton, Tetbury, and Woodstock.
Among the bookshops I found one that also sells hats; and another that sells tea, coffee and cakes at the front, in amongst the book displays. All of these shops have individual, fascinating and eclectic displays of books; none are the same, and none are dominated by the current blockbuster or most-hyped new publication. In several I found books that I wanted to buy, and I did make a number of purchases; among them, not a few Christmas presents!
I still plan to visit bookshops in Stroud, Abingdon, and Oxford.
In particular I loved this quote which I found in The Yellow Lighted Bookshop, Tetbury:
So often, a visit to a bookshop has reminded me that there are good things in the world. (Vincent Van Gogh)
Isn’t it lovely how many different moods and themes can be captured by garden designers and landscape architects?
A week ago I was speaking to the guide who led our tour around Highgrove Gardens about how HRH The Prince of Wales viewed Capability Brown. And the answer was that he realises in some contexts the ideas of that great eighteenth century garden designer might be appropriate, but personally it’s not his “sort of thing”. For when Capability Brown was brought in to transform the surroundings of a stately home, he would be thinking of sweeping lawns flowing seamlessly into the extensive parklands via the ha-ha, dotted with majestic parkland trees, and would of course throw in a cunningly-situated lake, which would create a perfect vista from the house. This is a profoundly different approach to that of the sequence of interconnected rooms full of quirky and unexpected things, which is itself a very popular style of garden design among the great gardeners (such as Vita Sackville West with Sissinghurst Castle Garden, of course).
However yesterday I was in one of my favourite Capability Brown landscapes at Compton Verney in Warwickshire
And again I thought how calming and uplifting it is to be in this spacious parkland, which wraps around the house perfectly, providing an ideal setting.
But there’s now a new feature in the landscape, of which HRH the Prince of Wales would wholeheartedly approve: a new wildflower meadow on the West Lawn, with mown paths running through it corresponding to a William Morris design, relating directly to the theme of the excellent Arts and Crafts exhibition currently showing inside the house.
As we visited it on the last day of August the wildflowers were long past their best; apart from a single patch which gave some idea of what the entire meadow will look like next May: