June 9th, 2011

This IS me (by schwitters)Default

Been There, Verdun That 5: Tuesday

We woke to grey skies and rain, and congratulated ourselves on our luck with the weather on the previous three days.

John, Sandie and Roger departed around 9, heading 300 miles to their ferry. Howard and I had a mere 250 miles to the Eurotunnel to travel, also the consequences of missing the four-an-hour train are less dire than those of missing the four-a-day boat, so we made a more leisurely start and stayed mostly off the motorway.

It looked like being another lunchless day (cafés and supermarkets that close for lunch? What's the big idea, France?), but around half-past one I spotted both a bar and a chip van by the side of the road.

We bought coffee from the bar and chips with meat products from the van; the latter were delicious, but probably worse for me than everything else I ate over the weekend put together.

The bar turned out to be the home of the Moto Club du Parc, with bike memorabilia for sale and motorcycle magazines to read. The chip man also had bike posters in his van next to the illustrations of different sorts of sausage, and greeted us with "Salut les motards!". When we left I gave the barman one of my Modern Vespa forum stickers, which he proudly placed above the bar with his Valentino Rossi ones.

We missed our intended Chunnel crossing and had to hang around for the next one. For the record, there is nothing whatsoever at the Calais duty-free that I'd want to buy except unusually-flavoured Tictacs. Home around 7PM.

Verdun, and what happened there, are perhaps less well-known in the UK than other Great War sites because the British weren't involved. But it's a beautiful and fascinating area to visit.

This IS me (by schwitters)Default

Come Back, Muse, All Is Forgiven

Last night was the first instalment of a five-week Writing for Children course at Bromley Adult Education College (not to be confused with Bromley College of Further & Higher Education, where I studied Italian for Beginners).

I'd previously attended a one-day course on the same subject, with the same teacher, and I'm hoping this will be slightly more detailed and less hectic. I like the teacher and she knows her stuff, though early on she made the rookie mistake of confusing Mog, the stripey cat from Judith Kerr's books, with Mog, the stripey cat from the Meg and Mog series. Tut.

Everyone else on the course seems nice. There are ten of us, two of whom are men (this seems about average for writing groups). One chap is writing a book with dinosaurs in for his son and two women have self-published through Lulu.com (I was able to find one of them on Amazon).

The evening's topic was picture books - not an area I'm particularly interested in, and a difficult market to crack even if I was. The class is split fairly evenly between people interested in writing for younger and older children, so there should be something to please me soon. We'll also talk about self-publishing, which...yes, I am still doubtful about, but it's a thought.

I note that even when I'm studying a subject I enjoy, voluntarily and out of my own pocket, I still drift off while the teacher's talking, doodle dogs in the margins of my notes and do my homework at the last minute. It's a good thing I didn't extend my academic career beyond B.A. level. (I didn't realise there'd be homework. I have to make a picture book for next week. Help!)

I also have to restrain myself from constantly talking back to the teacher, though when she suggested a nuclear reactor as an unlikely subject for preschool children I did put my hand up and say that I had had a picture book about precisely that. (It had protons and electrons with little limbs and faces, and a scary boron rod gobbling them up.)

If I gain nothing else from the course, I'm hoping it will at least encourage me to do some writing. I've been suffering from a lack of arsedness these last few months.

While I was in Foyles earlier today, reading researching picture books, I couldn't help but overhear a woman reading aloud to a child from two of my own favourite childhood books: first The Owl who was Afraid of the Dark (which my poor mum found deeply dull) and then Dogger.

That's it, right there - that's the magic. That's what I want to make.