Monday, December 08, 2008

Be the change you want to see

These arrived last week. Aren't they great? When we were doing the research into our plastic bags, we decided to go ahead and have some cotton reusable bags produced as well. After looking at various options, we went with a company (B Smith Packaging) that has strong ties with other traders in Abingdon, and also has strong links with a number of companies in India which produce organic cotton bags. These bags are the result: Not only are they made of organic cotton, they are (ultimately) made by a family-run company in India that is a member of Ethical Junction - a ten-year old network of businesses run along ethical principles globally. They were shipped by boat. The artwork was created for us exclusively by local children's author and illustrator David Melling. The bags are £4.95 - or free if you purchase over £50 of anything in the shop. Doing this sort of thing is what we went into business for. It's very easy in the current frenzied climate of economic disaster headlines, to feel like sticking your head in the sand, or heading for the hills. Instead, it's time to start thinking about the true meaning of the phrase "think global, act local". As individuals, consumers, businesses we have an incredible opportunity to make a disproportionately huge impact on our local environment; not just 'nature', but our workplaces, communities, schools and neighbourhoods. I've blogged before about choosing to spend money with businesses who nourish supply chains, but on Friday we got involved in the launch of a new FSB campaign called "Keep Trade Local".

I'm not a big lover of campaigns it must be said, and I don't buy into the 'use us or lose us' arguments of some businesses. We as local traders have to offer something special with our shops to meet consumers halfway, and - in my experience - they will pay a premium in return. But the FSB campaign has some startling statistics - the main one being that 5% of turnover for a supermarket makes its way into the local community, but this rises to 50% when spent with small, local businesses. I suspect that online shopping falls to a fraction of 1% - and of course profits are repatriated far away - often overseas. I'm not suggesting that everyone stops buying from supermarkets and online, but what it does mean - I think - is that if someone - faced with apparent powerlessness in the face of global economic and environmental problems, injustice in many parts of the world - wants to get active and make a difference, you can start engaging with local businesses - and know that you are helping strengthen the local economy. My intuition is that this brings multiple rewards, financial, mental, spiritual. Malcolm Gladwell thinks to. And it may be the catalyst to start the creation of a new type of high street rising from the ashes of the current one. So this week, why not consider a purchase you *would* have made online or in the supermarket, or at a hellish, crowded, pre-Christmas, out-of-town development. Now choose to pay an ethical premium, and give yourself your own feelgood factor by making a difference to a local business. Don't choose one at random, but ask around and choose one that is adding value, and has word-of-mouth recommendations. You want to be getting something special in return for your purchase - and you'll know that their business is making a big difference to the local economy. As the man said, "Be The Change You Want To See".

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Festive fun

This evening Abingdon switched on its Christmas lights, with some fantastic new eco-friendly lights in the market square taking centre stage. The Abingdon Blogger has already got his early report up. As it was a Victorian Evening theme, he makes the comment that "Dick Van Dyke could walk around unnoticed" and I can only say...guilty m'lud. It's amazing what a bit of boot polish and a flat cap can do... Anyway, outside the shop the parade came past, including stilt-walkers... ...and of course Father Christmas himself: Inside the shop it was bustling - due in part (no doubt) to our free hot punch and Christmas biscuits, which went down a storm on what was a particular chilly evening. The Mayor and his entourage took advantage when they popped in:
Alex and Timothy enjoyed their first Abingdon Extravaganza - and the whole evening seemed to go extremely well. Now I just need to go and wipe that polish off my face...

Sunday, November 16, 2008

The Amazing Monsieur Blanc

Last Summer, we had the great good fortune (although at the time it didn't feel like it) to agree to be the bookseller at the UK's First Children's Food Festival, a monumental undertaking that saw us haul a transit van full of cookbooks, two marquees and assorted furniture/ tarpaulins, etc. to the middle of a muddy field near Abingdon over two days. The experience was incredible, but at the time it nearly killed us. Two very good things came out of that experience. One: we learned an awful lot about planning future book events, and two: we met the amazing Raymond Blanc. Raymond was the undoubted star of the event. His ability to inspire and communicate passion about food to both young and old was a joy to observe. At the time, he mentioned his planned autobiography for the following year, so we asked him if he would come and do a signing in the shop when it was published. He agreed, and sixteen months later - true to his word - he made the journey to Abingdon. We anticipated a lot of interest. In this part of Oxfordshire - 12 miles or so from Le Manoir - everyone is tremendously proud and possessive of Raymond Blanc, looking upon him very much as a local hero/favoured son. However, one last marketing push couldn't do any harm. So, given the success of the chalkboard eight day's earlier, I stuck to the kind of no-nonsense marketing messages that had performed so well for Martin Clunes:
This time I'm not sure we needed it. By 1.30pm we had too many people in the shop, and I had to request the start of an orderly queue outside the shop:
Nicki and I have watched both series of The Restaurant religiously. Several of the wannabe restaurateurs have been married couples, so there are some great insights and lessons to be grabbed (even if it sometimes makes for uncomfortable viewing). One of Raymond's key messages is attention to detail - and Nicki had spotted the obvious mistake in our window display earlier in the week, replacing the bottle of Chilean Merlot for French Shiraz:
By 2pm, the queue was halfway up Stert Street and the traffic was slowing down:
I started chatting to the front of the queue. One couple had travelled up from Dorset. I started to panic that we wouldn't have enough books. I had arranged to meet Raymond in the car park and escort him to the shop. En route we were accosted by a lady who shrieked when she realised who the famous chef next to me was. Having missed the final episode of The Restaurant, she asked him who had won - clearly overwhelmed at getting the result from the great man himself. We hurried round the corner into Stert Street.
Obviously I'm biased, and I'm a big fan. But really, the guy is incredible. He sat for over three hours, talking, signing, having his picture taken with everyone who asked - and always being nothing but sincere, genuine and passionate. He took time to give advice to budding chefs. These guys (Tom and Matthew) were seriously buzzing when they left the shop:
Adam is another budding chef - I have a suspicion he received an invite to come and look around the kitchens at Le Manoir.
As at the Food Festival, he really connected with the kids: Here are the Webbs from Dorset: Having arrived at 2pm, we didn't expect him to still be around at 5pm. He didn't bat an eyelid when we asked him to sign pre-orders with personalised dedications.
He even tried some cake. Obviously we'd never reveal what he thought, but if you've never been in for one of Alison's chocolate brownies you might now want to give them a go: It was a really incredible day. A big thank you must go to Leanda and Tracey at Le Manoir for setting everything up. And of course to Alison and Cailin who worked almost as hard as Raymond all day in the shop. But mostly we owe a big thank you to Monsieur Blanc for going above and beyond the call of duty for a book signing. He could have showed up, signed a few books, and that would have been great. Instead he turned it into one of the most special events we've ever had in the shop - and an unforgettable day for the people who came to meet him.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Martin Clunes - woof woof!

We do a lot of sophisticated marketing for our events. We've built up relationships with local journalists, businesses, schools and reading groups. We do targeted PR, we have our own newsletter and mailing list, and we do a whole lot of other promotional activities, and co-ordinated stock display in the shop and the window. But sometimes, on the day of a big event, you just have to get out the big box of coloured chalk and go for something straight out of the John Wanamaker school-of-advertising-handbook:
I knew locating the shop on a busy main road would pay dividends eventually. And today was that day. People were pulling into the loading bay opposite all morning, rushing in and asking "Can it be true? Is Martin Clunes really here today at 4pm?". Several people asked "how long have you been here?". At least two people declared excitedly "this kind of thing never happens in Abingdon!" Oh yes it does. It was a really great event. Martin was hot-footing it from an event in Oxford at lunchtime to an event at Windsor in the evening, and I'm sure Martin's publishers were a little nervous about a big name like him coming to our little shop. But it coped admirably, and he stayed for nearly an hour and a half. In the build up to Friday, several people had reserved books saying they 'hoped he'd be really nice' (seeing as that was how he came across on the telly), but I was very confident he would be, having read his book "A Dog's Life". Martin really is potty about dogs, and whenever people write about their passion - and share it with others - you can't help but get swept up in the enthusiasm of it all. I spent most of Friday in a bit of a nervous state. Luckily we have a) a brilliant team at Mostly Books now, and b) they all know what I get like when I have too much caffeine before a big event, and that my frantic pacing around the shop is easily dissipated by getting me to do various menial tasks such as sweeping, updating the posters in the window, dusting, making tea - and in this case making sure the shop was dog-friendly (we had asked people to bring their dogs):
Martin arrived 10 minutes early - so we plonked him down at his table, rustled up a strong cup of tea, and he started to chat to the already substantial queue of people and signed books and was utterly charming - and very generous with his time. Anyone who bought their dog though did get special treatment:
And one local dog who has his own blog got some quality time with Martin - and has blogged about it here. Not a great deal more to say about the event really. A lot of fun, nerves vanished, obligatory shots with chuffed bookseller:
And plenty of happy fans by the end of the day: Hope Martin made it safely to Windsor on a rainy Friday evening. What a gent. We will quickly get over our celebrity moment, and do the whole thing again this Saturday (November 15th) when Raymond Blanc will be here at 2pm. I feel more incisive chalkboard advertising antics may be in order...

Peter Pan in Scarlet

On Saturday 1st November, we were delighted to welcome children's author Geraldine McCaughrean to a very special afternoon storytime at Mostly Books. Geraldine is the author of Peter Pan in Scarlet, the authorised follow-up to Peter Pan. The book launched to much critical acclaim back in 2006, but in October the publisher OUP launched an illustrated version of the book for younger children: (If you don't know the story of Peter Pan, Great Ormond Street Hospital, and how Geraldine was chosen to write the official sequel, it's well worth finding out here) This is a very shrewd move. The original Peter Pan was never intended for very young children, but - thanks to Walt Disney - many 5 and 6 year olds know all about Peter, Wendy and the Lost Boys way before they might ordinarily have read the book. Geraldine took on the task of rewriting the book for younger readers, and David Wyatt (who did the cover illustration for her original book) has produced beautiful artwork for the illustrated edition. The book is utterly gorgeous (we're biased of course, but it is), and we were really thrilled to have Geraldine in the shop so soon after the book's launch. We were dealing with Peter Pan of course, so there needed to be a bit of magic. The shop was transformed into Neverland for the afternoon, the staff wore Scarlet, Geraldine herself was resplendent in a remarkable scarlet coat, and we encouraged all the children to come dressed as characters from Peter Pan. We had plenty of pirates and tinkerbells (and one Wendy):
Geraldine read several extracts from Peter Pan in Scarlet, as well as from several of her other books. Prizes were given for the best fancy dress, and all the children had treats to take home.
It was a really fun afternoon, and Geraldine was a complete superstar, posing for the oligatory 'picture with grinning bookshop owner' at the end. Geraldine is a storyteller of rare skill - in both writing and telling - and you really do need to take a look at this book, it really is magical...

Saturday, October 11, 2008

A Man Like Any Other

Mary Cavanagh is an author who we've got to know and love since opening at the shop. But just in case you think we boost her books because she's a mate - you should go check out reviews from as far afield as The Big Green Bookshop, dovegreyreader and Ex Libris in the US. Last year we did an evening event with Mary and discussed her book The Crowded Bed in the shop - and we've watched with excitement and trepidation as Mary's new book - A Man Like Any Other - approached launch date. We were therefore delighted to welcome her back last week and have the chance to hear something about the book - and Mary's development as a writer.

Great first novels from writers with bags of potential are one thing - but the 'tricky second album' syndrome often means the next book is disappointing; it's as if the author got everything they wanted to say out into the open in the first book - and now they are simply going through the motions. What you want to see - as a fan - is the writer developing, keeping a firm hold on the style and themes that you liked in previous books, whilst showing ambition in terms of moving in new directions. A Man Like Any Other (or AMLAO as I'm already referring to it as) delivers on this last score. We think the book is fantastic - but, as I say, you might think we're biased so go read the cracking review that Miranda Stock has written on Oxford's Daily Info - the book is garnering plenty of rave reviews elsewhere. I was trying to think of exactly why I like Mary's writing. I think - and I can only speak personally - it comes down to how I got to where I am as a reader, and my shameful past of reading vast quantities of 'success literature'. Like any genre, there are the one or two great books, a few other good ones - and the rest also-rans which are usually fairly derivative. I think the good ones tell you something about the tools you need to achieve your goals, whereas the great ones tell you about the goals themselves. That covers the journey and the destination, but most success books tend to fall-down on the embarkation point, knowing who you are and where you are starting from. This is where great fiction steps in. Forget work-through exercises trying to identify your personality type, instead map yourself onto different characters in challenging situations and ask yourself questions: Would I have done that? Why does this feel wrong? Mary gets under the skin of her characters (particularly the men) in a way which is often discomforting - which usually indicates that there are truths lurking around nearby. Whilst the situations and plot twists may not always be strictly realistic, this is storytelling after all - and bold storytelling at that. Keeping the reader turning the page and teaching them a thing or two about life is not to be sniffed at; you often get one without the other. On Wednesday night Mary read from the book, and gave us some fascinating insights into the development of the main character. When Mary contributed a short story to the book The Sixpenny Debt, she imagined how the little boy in that story would have grown up, and the ain character in AMLOA is the result: Father McEwan. She also shared her journey in terms of getting the book published (which I won't go into here, but is at times as dramatic as her writing). Suffice to say it was an illuminating evening. A Man Like Any Other is published by Troubador - and it goes without saying that we have plenty of signed copies in the shop.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Deadly Samurai in Abingdon

On September 25th, we did a splendid event with hot new children's author Chris Bradford at Larkmead School. Chris is a samurai swordsman who has written a book based on research he did in Japan (and his own experiences) set in the 17th century. Young Samurai: Way of the Warrior is a cracking - if somewhat grisly - read (two particularly nasty deaths in the first 8 pages) which tells the story of young Jack Fletcher, a Westerner who trains in the way of the samurai. Chris fought off deadly Ninja assassins to get to Abingdon (they were disguised as First Great Western train officials, but Chris recognised them for the saboteurs they were) to beat train delays and give an enthralling demonstration and reading to Year 7. Chris commanded undivided attention, partly because of interest in the book, mostly because of his Samurai demonstrations with a real sword inches from the front row. Any author looking to spice up an upcoming reading of their book at a bookshop might take a leaf out of Chris' book:

Despite sparing no details in his descriptions of 'ham-sandwiching' opponents, Chris's message about the way of the samurai was one of discipline and respect. He answered questions about samurai, showed clips from real samurai training schools in Japan - and gave probably too much information about a Japanese energy drink called "Sweat". Chris signed copies for the pupils, then leapt off for a date with destiny (actually a demonstration at the School of Martial Arts in Oxford). It was a great event - the school was buzzing - you can read more here.

Eliza Graham

The longer I do this job, the more I sneakily suspect that lots of booksellers have a secret hankering to be authors. Which probably won't ever happen - so the next best thing is to feel that you have discovered a famous author - who then goes on to be extremely successful. Now, I can't claim that we discovered Eliza Graham - Macmillan New Writing did that - but I'm dead chuffed that we got to know Eliza earlier this year, picked Playing With The Moon for the front table when it first came out, did it for our bookgroup, then watched delighted (and slightly smugly) as it was picked for the Books to Talk about shortlist. We then ran a wonderful event during the Arts Festival just before the shortlist was announced. Anyway, when Eliza asked if she could launch her new book Restitution at Mostly Books, we were delighted. Eliza herself has already blogged about the event - so my apologies for the tardiness in getting our report online (particularly remiss given it was such a wonderful event). Restitution is a very powerful novel, dealing with themes familiar to fans of PWTM - seismic events in war-time that still resonate years late, buried secrets and their slow uncovering as the novel progresses. Stylistically the book is also similar, splitting as it does between a number of time periods both before and after the war. But the similarities end there. Restitution - I feel - shows the author more confidently tackling bigger and more challenging themes (something you want to see in a favourite writer) even if - as here - the themes of hatred, retribution, the terrible cost particularly on women at the end of the Second World War - do not make easy reading. Here, Eliza talks about some of the motivations she had for writing the novel:
What I particularly liked about the launch was the mix of people who attended - family and friends of Eliza, and fans of Eliza who have discovered the book through us. It was a lovely atmosphere, and we really appreciated the opportunity to host this very special evening in the shop.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Paddy Monaghan - street-fighting man

I think it's fair to say that I wasn't sure what to expect from our signing with Paddy Monaghan on Wednesday. When Paddy's PR guy first got in touch earlier in the Summer, my first instinct was "this really isn't our type of event". We don't stock many boxing books (Mailer's "The Fight" being one notable exception) or indeed any of the 'hard-bastard'-type autobiographies whose readers I felt this book initially might appeal to. But Paddy's entourage are nothing if not persistant, so - learning that Paddy was going to be in Abingdon on the 24th, and with our community head firmly screwed on - we suggested a book signing session linked to an ongoing fund-raising campaign by Abingdon Boxing Club.
I'm very glad that in this instance my instincts turned out to be dead wrong. Paddy Monaghan is an remarkable individual, and someone it was a privilege to welcome to the shop. Born in Co. Fermanagh in 1944, his family moved to Abingdon at a time when many Irish families travelled to England in search of work and better prospects for their family. They ended up in a tiny one-bedroomed flat in Abingdon. Paddy left school with no qualifications, unable to read or write. With few opportunities, a growing family to support, but someone who was handy with his fists, he became a legend in the sometimes brutal world of bare-knuckle (BKB) boxing. Paddy went on to be undefeated in 114 bouts - all the more remarkable for a man just over 11 stone.
(On Wednesday Paddy brought his middleweight BKB championship belt to the shop - priceless to him, it is officially worth somewhere in the region of $250,000 - and usually sits in a safe.) But it is his lifelong friendship with Muhammed Ali which is perhaps the most remarkable part of Paddy's story - that, and the fact that he taught himself to read and write. It's difficult to imagine, with Ali now one of the most revered sporting legends on the planet, that back in the late 60s he was reviled and worshipped in equal measure for his religion and avoidance of the draft (not to mention his less-than-humble attitude to his boxing prowess!). Paddy's one-man campaign in this country not only was appreciated by the great man, it is credited for coining the phrase "Ali - the people's champion", and Ali and Paddy - these two very different men - became, and still are, very close friends. When Ali used to turn up in his limo to see Paddy - in his council house in Saxton Road in the early 70s - the streets became thronged with kids, and photos surviving from that period (of Ali sparring and standing in Paddy's doorway) are amongst some of the most iconic taken of the heavyweight legend in this country. There are wonderful pictures from some of these visits in the book - and I think publisher John Blake deserve a lot of credit for the way Paddy's story has been put together. It goes without saying that I am personally very grateful for Paddy for coming along on Wednesday, being so generous with his time, and introducing me to this deep bond that Abingdon has - through Paddy - to one of the world's sporting icons. If you live in Abingdon, even if you wouldn't ordinarily read a book like this, I recommend popping into the shop and taking a look. Compelling, satisfying - and ultimately inspirational.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Utter madness

No, not the nationalisation of the US banking system, but rather the ever-so slightly ridiculous number of events that we've got coming up in the next two weeks. Having had a packed schedule over the Summer, we haven't done ourselves any favours by organising a load of events coming up in the next few weeks. But it's what we like to do - so we can hardly complain when they stack up like Heathrow on a Friday evening. Anyhoo, we've got some corking events coming up in the next few months (take a look at our events page for more details) but the next couple of weeks will be full, culminating in six events in two days next Wednesday/Thursday (which even by our standards is possibly overdoing it). Here goes. Everything kicks off tomorrow evening as Alison, Nicki and I put on our best bib and tucker and bowl up to the Natural History Museum for the Bookseller Retail Awards. We have been shortlisted for Children's Bookshop of the Year, and - like the British Book Industry Awards back in May - this is the first time we've ever been to these awards. Expect a full report after the event... It's the Gardners Trade Show this weekend in Warwick - and once we make it back from there next week begins in earnest. On Wednesday 24th September, we have our Wednesday morning bookgroup meeting at 10.30. Good luck to Ali who is taking over the group from Anu (who, I am delighted to report, had a bouncing baby girl - Marissa Joy - on 6th September - Mum and baby doing very well). From 3pm-5pm, there will be a signing by bare-knuckle boxing legend Paddy Monaghan. And if you are wondering why we have a bare-knuckle boxer signing copies of his memoirs in the shop (after all, it doesn't sound like one of our events), it might help to know that Paddy grew up in Abingdon, and famously used to host visits by his friend Muhammed Ali who visited his council house in Saxton Road in the 70s and 80s. To know how he got to know Ali, and why Ali visited so often - come meet the man and read his book... Wednesday evening we are hosting the book launch of Eliza Graham's novel Restitution, the follow-up to her successful debut novel Playing With The Moon. Like her first novel, Restitution is being published by Macmillan New Writing, and they have done a cracking job with the book design - I'm desperately carving out time to read it ahead of next Wednesday. I'm looking forward to meeting MNW's commissioning editor Will Atkins who will be there - and if anyone would like to come along to the launch, please get in touch quickly and let me know. That's Wednesday. On Thursday, samurai sword-wielding children's author Chris Bradford will be doing his martial art stuff at Larkmead School in front of the whole of year 7. Then at 4pm, we celebrate the launch of our after-school reading club when David Melling reads from his new book The Star-faced Crocodile. It's then our bookgroup in the evening. Throw in the odd storytime, a committee meeting and one Harvest Festival to attend at Alex's new school (just to get the old work-life balance sorted) and you can see it's a busy old time. But fun as always. (On another note, I've just returned from a fantastic evening spent with the WI up at Wootton, where they kindly let me waffle on about the bookshop for half an hour. As part of the evening, the ladies brought in old books to look at, with me awarding a prize for the most interesting. I awarded it for the original - get this - 1780 edition of Paradise Lost. Incredible to hold a book like that in your hands...without white gloves).

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Cherry Cake and Ginger Beer

I must confess to feeling a bit out of my depth when I learned Jane Brocket had agreed to do an event with us last Saturday in Abingdon. After all, it's probably safe to say that I was probably not the first person she would automatically think of when conjuring up a typical example of her target market for her first book - The Gentle Art of Domesticity. And her Yarnstorm blog focuses on knitting. Now I can *sew* a bit (thanks to my boarding school upbringing) but knitting - no. Anyway, I am ashamed to say that I had Jane rather stereotyped in my mind as a crafts/domestic/well, yes, 'girlie' author. But when she turned up clutching this my interest was seriously piqued: After all, I have power tools in similar-looking cases. Inside was a serious piece of kit for sugarcraft, making icing - and of course icing cakes. What followed - on a bustling bank holiday Saturday at Abingdon's Broad Face - was a highly entertaining, cake-filled, nostalgia-fuelled celebration of recipes from classic children's literature. Jane is an excellent speaker, and her passion for - and excellent research into - the subject is extremely contagious. And that was before the rock cakes started to be passed around... Jane started off by laying a few myths to rest. Although in her research she had come across plenty of ginger beer, and there were often 'lashings' of specific foods (bacon, for instance), it seems we probably have The Comic Strip to thank for the phrase "lashing of ginger beer". Jane read from some classics of the literature - Enid Blyton, Milly-Molly-Mandy. She made the point that, for the children in these books - who were continuously active, and burned calories like navvies - concepts such as obesity were irrelevant, and in fact often children ate in response to 'their tummies rumbling'. These children were always thinking of where their next meal was coming from. Jane made the point that - when you read through the classics - good children's authors scatter their writing with food, because children do spend a lot of time thinking about the subject. In the course of her research she had made plenty of the recipes herself - some had failed spectacularly, many were a joy to cook (although she had drawn at attempting Polyanna's Calf's Foot Jelly). She also name-checked a few other classic recipe books that hailed from that era (notable Florence White's Good Food in England). Her comments on social changes with food were enlightening - the fact that what would have been a treat in Enid Blyton's day (a picnic away from adults) might now be (in a Jaqueline Wilson novel) a bar of chocolate, or a Chinese takeaway, reflecting changes in eating habits within families. Then it was on to the important part of the afternoon. Mellie and her excellent staff had already ensured the tables had plenty of ginger beer and sandwiches, now it was time for tea as Jane passed around the cake. The rock buns (to be pronounced 'boons' in a broad northern accent) were heavenly (the trick here apparently is to use soft brown sugar, and not skimp on it). There was then an enthusiastic and energetic demonstration of making icing (another tip - dip a cocktail stick into the colouring, to get the perfect amount, then dip this into the icing to avoid a colouring/icing 'arms race' in which you end up with enough icing to cover several hundred fairy buns). Here's the finished article: Jane's daughter Phoebe performed brilliantly, beavering away in the background to ensure everyone had enough cake to eat. Thanks also to Ali for making sure I got one at the back. Jane stayed behind to talk to everyone who had questions, signed books, packed up the power tools - and showed great stoicism in posing for various photos. There are a whole heap of thank yous due to everyone who helped make this event possible. Firstly to Jane herself, for putting so much heart and passion into the event - and Pheobe for giving up her Saturday to help Mum. Mellie and everyone at the Broad Face who looked after us extremely well. Ali for doing the lion's share of the organising and not hassling me to get the blog entry written up (see, if Ali had blogged this, it would have been posted last Saturday evening with much better pictures - but she gamely left this one to me). All that remains is for me to point out the obvious fact that the only thing better than copies of Jane's books as gifts, are signed copies of Jane's books as gifts. And you know where to come for these...