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Friday, 22 April 2016

larkin an barkin





I couldn't resist posting this drawing my daughter Chloe did (she'll tell you it's not finished)
of a wolf. I can feel another story coming ...............................





I have just returned from Hull where my book The Dog, Ray won the Hull Children's Literary award. I've never won an award and I was so shocked when they announced it that I couldn't think what to say. I had spent ages on my one hour "visit to schools talk" and my ten minute final "vote for this book" speech but not even contemplated an acceptance speech. All I could say was  it was like winning an Oscar!
Now I can understand why those people on X Factor burst into tears when they learn they've been chosen.
I think I won an ostrich egg for an art prize when I was about nine years. Fortunately it never hatched but I think it was a very old egg.

The first writing competition I ever entered was at about the same age and the prize was a pony!!! Yes - how irresponsible of the newspaper (I think it was the Daily Express) This is how ponies get to live in high rise flats. I'd always wanted a pony and thought this would be my chance. I didn't win. (I think to my parents relief)There must be a law against offering animals as prizes.

The Hull Children's book Award was an amazingly well run event and the best thing was that only children could vote. Yay! I think only children should vote for whether we stay or leave the E.U. I'm sure,given the facts, they'd have a clear and sensible view.
 Anyway I loved being in Hull and meeting the other authors shortlisted with me (we were five - and they are all fantastic writers which is why I hadn't prepared that speech.) They were David Solomons, Amanda Mitchison, Sally Nicholls and Joanna Nadin.

Hull is where the poet Philip Larkin lived for a long time, he was the librarian at Hull University and when you get off the train there is a statue of him. Hull is a city on the edge of things to quote some travel writer. The old part is so intriguing and atmospheric and I visited two museums one formally known as The Whaling Museum (here I'd like to add an RIP to The Artist formally known as Prince). The other on the slave trade. I feel a book coming .......
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The dog book of course was inspired by living with Beezle who unfortunately could not attend the awards though he told me he would be wearing his lucky socks. He was tired by all the excitement when I came home with my trophy and he reminded me that as he and Mark Twain would say "All you need in this life is ignorance and confidence, and then success is sure."


I came home to a clarion call from this thrush who was sitting in the porch. Now I know he didn't fly in through the cat flap ... hello Pocket? Nancy?  But fortunately he lived to tell the tale (though not to me) I feel another book coming ..........


Pocket (quarter Bengal) denied all knowledge of it.


In my absence the tulips are opening - here is Flaming Parrot - a gorgeous confection of frills and colour.
And I also couldn't resist putting this picture up as I'm working on my fox book. He does not belong to me but was rescued by one of the fox rescue people. He, like Beezle, is inspiring the writing.

Because Philip Larkin was a librarian -  here is my opportunity to thank the librarians in Hull who are doing such a fantastic job of keeping our libraries open.

This is my favourite Larkin poem (apart from they F you up your mum and Dad). I've posted it before but I doubt anyone would bother to trail back through all those blog posts.}

At Grass by Philip Larkin


The eye can hardly pick them out
From the cold shade they shelter in,
Till wind distresses tail and main;
Then one crops grass, and moves about
- The other seeming to look on -
And stands anonymous again

Yet fifteen years ago, perhaps
Two dozen distances surficed
To fable them: faint afternoons
Of Cups and Stakes and Handicaps,
Whereby their names were artificed
To inlay faded, classic Junes -

Silks at the start: against the sky
Numbers and parasols: outside,
Squadrons of empty cars, and heat,
And littered grass : then the long cry
Hanging unhushed till it subside
To stop-press columns on the street.

Do memories plague their ears like flies?
They shake their heads. Dusk brims the shadows.
Summer by summer all stole away,
The starting-gates, the crowd and cries -
All but the unmolesting meadows.
Almanacked, their names live; they

Have slipped their names, and stand at ease,
Or gallop for what must be joy,
And not a fieldglass sees them home,
Or curious stop-watch prophesies:
Only the grooms, and the grooms boy,
With bridles in the evening come.