Monday, 9 October 2017

The School Inspector on tour...

Recently, I went to our town hall to spend an evening with Gervase Phinn.

For those who don't know him, he's an author and educator who writes a lot about his days as a schools inspector in Yorkshire, and about the things children say.

I was interested to go because I think it's always good to hear what other authors have to say, although I admit that my only Gervase Phinn book is 'A Wayne in a Manger' - a collection of very funny moments relating to school Nativity plays and Christmas events.

Mr Phinn himself is a larger than life, colourful character who certainly knows how to engage with an audience; said audience was very much older in the main, and appreciated the double entendres and innuendo a lot more than me and Mr Squidge perhaps did at times!

At times though, we were in stitches.

Like when Gervase told us about the little girl who was going to sing a song for him, called 'Damp Settee'. He then proceeded to sing it... 'Dance then, wherever you may be...I am the Lord of the damp settee...!'

And when he explained how he'd tried to show another little girl how to make sandcastles by adding water from the water tray into the dry sand tray, using his fingers to mix them together.... She still could not be persuaded though, and when Gervase asked why not, she told him that a classmate had just wee'd into the water tray...

You get the gist.

But what also came across is that Gervase is passionate about education, particularly getting children reading, and building society through literacy. He recounted some of his own school experiences, as well as family anecdotes that helped to shape him into the writer he is today.

So we chuckled and chortled, and afterwards, I went to buy a book from his signing table.

I have to say - the children I meet in schools know how to behave better than some of the adults in that signing queue. Not only had the adults uncovered the book table and started helping themselves to copies before Gervase had even appeared, they just sort of crowded round the table and pushed and shoved. There was no queue. And when Gervase finally sat down (having changed from his multicoloured jacket into a Penguin (as in the publisher) T-shirt) a queue did form. At the opposite end to where I'd been waiting patiently since I was the fourth person out.

Miffed, I stepped out of the scrum and stood back until the end, chose a book and waited for a signature. One minute, Gervase was writing in my book and talking to me, the next minute he spots someone else. Introductions were made, plans discussed...and I'm still standing there like a lemon. In the end, he handed me the book I'd bought, (while still talking to the other person) and I was left to sort of slink away...a bit disappointed, if I'm honest.

It made me determined to be more like Chris Riddell, at my own signings... He took time to talk to every single person who wanted a book signing. Admittedly, the event I attended with Chris was an afternoon, not an evening after several other evenings - Gervase was obviously tired by the time he got to me after an hour and three quarters of entertaining, followed by a half hour of signings. So I can sort of make allowances, but it did take a bit of the shine off the evening for me.

I am now looking forward to reading 'Mangled English', which describes all sorts of ways that our rich language is used and abused in comedic ways. And to some more chuckles...

But speaking of author talks and the like - I shall be doing several talks to social groups over the next couple of months, as well as spending a day with Year 3, 4 and 5 children at Outwoods Edge School as part of this year's Loogabarooga Festival. Check out the programme - there are some amazing authors and illustrators coming! Including the current Children's Laureate, Lauren Child!

I shall expect any signing queues to be well behaved... *winks*

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