Saturday, 17 December 2011

Peterculter, Airyhall and glasses

On 8 December we headed north to Aberdeen. It was the day of the Scottish storm and it seemed a better place to be than the Central Belt, which was in line for 80mph gales.

Lovely librarian Jacqueline Adam collected us from the station. The journey had been fine, with little noticeable wind. Once in the car we set off for Cults Primary School in Peterculter. Now here's an odd thing (well it probably doesn't seem odd if you live in Peterculter, but it does if you don't): Cults is pronounced as you might expect, as in religious cults; however, Peterculter is pronounced as if there's no 'l' and with the the 'u' pronounced 'oo'. Just thought I'd mention it.

Great session in the school, thoroughly enjoyable. Outside the sun was being replaced by storm clouds, which were then replaced by sun a minute later. The weather was going crazy.

We left the building, rounded the corner and were almost blown off our feet by a huge gust. The sleet was also kicking in. Not pleasant. So we made for the car as quickly as possible, shook ourselves down and off we set, Jacqueline driving again. It was only when we'd travelled a mile that Keith realised something was missing. 'Eh...I don't seem to have my glasses,' he observed.

Where had they gone? It seems they'd been blown off his head by that huge gust. They're frameless and his eyes aren't so bad...but even so, you'd think he'd have noticed! And when we retraced our steps they were nowhere to be found.

Which meant Keith had to present to 200 pupils in Airyhall without being able to see them all. He began by apologising to any long-haired P7s at the read of the case he accidentally called them girls because he couldn't see their faces. However, all was well. He could hear the laughter, even if he couldn't see it in all the faces. It certainly didn't spoil the fun.

Some of the trains were off heading south again, so it was 2215 before we made it home. No, not the year 2215, the time....It didn't take that long to reach home!

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

Red Rose Primary School...and Red Rose Speedway

It started with a coincidence: Keith was listening to a very old Paul McCartney LP (yes, one of those vinyl things from the last century) entitled Red Rose Speedway when he received an email from the head teacher at Red Rose Primary School in Chester-le-Street. Someone was trying to tell us something!

That 'someone' wasn't Paul McCartney, but Mrs Bainbridge. And, when we met her a week later, the sun was shining brightly in Chester-le-Street, so we were relieved. It had been chucking it down and blowing a gale when we'd left Scotland. The sun was shining almost as brightly as Mrs Bainbridge. What a lovely, friendly woman.

It was Day 1 of Book Week and we were helping to kick it off. Keith had already scoffed an All Day Breakfast sandwich on the way there, but I forgave him - he'd been up since 0530, so 1030 was...lunchtime. Ish.

250 pupils were packed into the dining hall and they'd brought their laughing heads. Brilliant. It's what I love and Keith loves. Loads of laughter. And yes, regular viewers, they chose the funny and disgusting bit when given the choice. Well, don't all pupils (and most teachers)?

Then they saved Keith's life.


What? Saved his life? Really?

Kind of. There Keith was, talking, talk, talk, talk, talk...when a gust of wind blew over his pull-up poster. (Just to be clear, that's a poster than you pull up...not a poster of pull-up pants, the sort you wear when you're learning to use toilets instead of nappies. It's an important difference.) Keith was in front of it so he had no idea it was happening until 'WATCH OUT' was yelled in perfect Geordie by 250 pupils. Keith turned. The pull-up poster (which still wasn't a poster of pull-up pants) hurtle towards him and...

...missed. Shame. It was only light and it really would have been funny if it had caught him on the noggin.

When that session was over we headed over to the Year 6 outbuildings. That makes them sound like converted stables, where year 6 lounge about in sofas. And they do.


No, they work hard. And in this case they worked hard inventing a story plot in 5 minutes, displaying tremendous imagination. For once it wasn't a story about the end of the world or zombies.  It involved 2 youngsters racing up a tree. The loser (Oscar) wasn't happy, so he called his dad, who worked for secret services. He set trip wires so that his son would win the re-run race, however his dasterdly plan backfired.

By the time the school bell went (it sounds like an least in year 6's room) it was 1515 and we set off home. We'd had a wondeful time with brilliant pupils and equally brilliant teachers.

We took a different route home and ended up in Consett. It's on the top of a hill. Which is fine, expect that it's not where you want to be in a strong wind. And it was VERY strong. Shoppers exiting a supermarket had to hold on to the contents of their trollies for fear of their pizzas flying off like doughy frisbies.

On the way back along the A69 we were hit by rain so heavy that even with the windscreen wipers on superfast Keith was forced to drive in 2nd gear. That's heavy. You could tell we were nearing Scotland again...!

Friday, 1 April 2011

Sunnybank, Aberdeen

This was the first of 4 visits Keith and I made as part of the 2011 Aberdeen Arts Across Learning Festival. And, as if to celebrate that it was the first session, someone in the audience at Sunnybank Primary School – our first stop - made a momentous discovery as a result of our visit! What did they discover? Read on…

Sunnybank is a big primary school in Aberdeen. Keith said it reminded him a little of the primary school he attended: a big, solid building with high ceilings and corridors that echo like caves. We were in the GP (General Purpose) Room, which I suspect doubles up as the Music Room. With us were some lovely smiley teachers and some equally lovely smiley pupils.

So there Keith was, talking about how your appendix can explode (fear not, it doesn’t happen to most people, but it does happen to Lee in Lee and the Consul Mutants) and he mentioned situs inversus.

Now you may not be an expert on Latin medical terms, so let me explain what that means. In a way it’s obvious (once you know the answer). Situs = situation; inversus = the inversus. So what is situs inversus? Simple: it’s when all your internal organs are the opposite way around to everyone else’s.

At this point you may be thinking Yikes! I hope that’s an incredibly rare condition…that only one in a zillion trillion gazillion people have it. Indeed, that people don’t have it at all, only visitors from the Andromeda galaxy do…and they’re aliens, so probably everything about them is the wrong way around.


One in ten thousand people have it…which means that unless you live on the Moon you’re probably not too far from someone with situs inversus. Indeed you may have it yourself.
And someone in the GP Room did. They realised because their appendix wasn’t where they expected it to be. (Indeed this person’s appendix wasn’t there at all. It used to be, but not any more. (And can I make clear that it didn’t go missing during the session. Some things do change during our sessions – pupils and teachers become inspired and pupils realise their teachers enjoy the disgusting parts of books just as much as they do – but I’m not aware of any incidences of people’s body parts disappearing purely as a result of being in one of Keith’s sessions.)

Who was it? Can’t say. That’s between the person and their missing body part.

So that certainly made our day. As to whether it made that person’s day…you’ll need to ask them.

More on our Aberdeen adventures soon!


Wednesday, 30 March 2011


Our first time in Fraserburgh, so we had a nosy around before heading to Fraserburgh Academy. The town is well known as a centre of the fishing industry, so the obvious place to head was the harbour. It was interesting to see that there weren’t any traditional fishing boats, the small ones that are tossed  around on the wild seas. The boats we saw were all large and modern, the sort that could go out to sea for several days at a time.
The lighthouse museum is another pointer to Fraserburgh’s sea ties. It left me wondering: are there also darkhouses & heavyhouses?
On to Fraserburgh Academy, where I was met by the lovely librarians Mrs Smith and Mrs Robertson, two ladies who work really hard to make reading as enjoyable as possible for pupils. Mrs Smith is really arty and had created this for our visit, which was fab.

The S1s were up first. We had a couple of short sessions lined up and the first clearly went well because most of the pupils were supposed to go off and do something else at the end of it…but didn’t, they stayed for more. That was either a sign that they were enjoying themselves or that they were meant to be doing a calculus exam!

After stuffing ourselves with sandwiches (you know what Keith’s like) we welcomed 3 of the local primary schools to the Academy. This meant the library was packed to bursting, which is just the way the author bloke likes it. So, we talked about exploding appendix and missions to the Moon and generally had a great time. Excellent questions, which was good because it kept Keith on his toes.

Here are some photos of the fun so that you can play Spot The Grinning Idiot in the Checked Shirt, a game that really ought to be made widely available on mobile phones.

And then we were heading south again, to a great guest house in Turriff, Aberdeenshire, one that has the comfiest beds on the planet, ready for a trip to Aberdeen the next morning.

Wednesday, 23 March 2011

Itchingfield is up to scratch (yes, you may groan now)

Village schools are quaint. They just are. And Itchingfield Primary School is particularly so, nestled at a bend in the road, overlooking fields a few miles outside Horsham, not too far from Gatwick.

They don’t use a piercing alarm to start school they use an old school hand bell. It’s fabulous. What a way to start the day when the sun is beating down outside so that you can wear short sleeves in mid March. Of course Keith is from Scotland, so I had to explain to him what sun is as he had never seen it before, only read about it in books.

The pupils gathered in the hall, one of the smallest we’ve presented in and all the more fun for it. And off we went.

Great session, fantastic pupils and really friendly, helpful staff. And yet again a teacher won one of the books! That’s now 7 times in the last 14 school visits. Yes, we’re still keeping count.

Afterwards loads of people wanted books but of course we’d sold all that we could carry back in Crewe, so a lovely member of staff made a list of who wanted what and Keith will be popping a big box of them in the post to the school on Saturday morning. Most ordered books at this school were Lee and the Consul Mutants and Lee’s Holiday Showdown. It’s strange how favourites vary from school to school.

En route to Horsham rail station we dropped into Waterstone’s. There’s a great children’s bookseller there (Katie), wonderfully friendly and keen to hear about new titles, so we had a great chat. She ordered copies of DarkIsle, the Royal Mail Awards winner, and if anyone is interested in grabbing one of those I can highly recommend it.

She also ordered copies of one of the author bloke’s favourite books, Firebrand by Gillian Philip, which Amanda Craig in The Times described as ‘the fantasy novel of 2010’. They’ve sold copies of this one before and no wonder, it’s an amazing read, though for teens and adults rather than for those of primary school age.

Onto the train for the trek north to where the forecast suggests masses of snow will await us. Sledge time. Excellent!

Big news in Biggleswade

The author bloke says he read every Biggles book ever written (by Captain W E Johns) as a child…Biggleswade has absolutely nothing to do with those books.

I like when a teacher starts a session by saying, ‘Those are my Mortimer’s Moans’ after she’s mentioned a couple of behavioural items. It gets the point over without making it too heavy. The Ogre could learn a thing or two from Mrs Mortimer.

This was Edward Peake CofE Middle School. Most parts of the country don’t have middle schools, so it had been a while since we’d been to one. On the evidence of this visit we’d like to go to more of them. They were a tremendous bunch.

We’d been robbed the day before. I say robbed…I mean the children in Crewe had bought all of the books Keith was able to carry…and ordered even more. Fortunately Keith had avoided selling the books he was meant to read from, but he’d also borrowed a couple from his sister-in-law’s bookshelf so he would have the full set. That turned out to be an excellent move because the first thing that happened at the Biggleswade school was that Keith had to pose for photographs taken by Tracy from the Biggleswade Echo and for that he needed a full set of all 4 Lee books.

Having stared down the camera lens like the grinning fool that he is, Keith took to the floor and we had a great session with 200 or so pupils. The pupils knew a lot about the Moon, but they didn’t know that there aren’t any trees there now because someone chopped them all down.

Heaps of orders at the end, so that will keep Keith busy signing during Match of the Day on Saturday night. I know that women reading this will be amazed: a man who can multi-task? Yes, surprising but true.

Off to Itchingfield next. What a great name for a village. What was in the field that make people itch? I’ll report back if I can find out.

Chuckling in Crewe

Wednesday 9 March. The author bloke opens the curtains and it’s SNOWING! What?!!!! I wasn’t expecting that. Luckily he’s a hardened Scot, so we were soon marching to the station, heading for a part of Crewe called Rope…which does seem like an odd name for a place, but let’s not get tied up in that. (Sorry!)

Mrs Slater had organised for me to visit. However, it wasn’t fair on her because she teaches Year 2 and didn’t get to sit through our session as it was for Years 3-6. We’ll need to return for another session one day and make sure she’s part of it.

I loved that the teachers at this school – The Berkeley Primary School – laughed throughout the session, vying with the pupils to see who could get the jokes first…or at all…they were Keith’s jokes after all…

But what’s this? Teachers…laughing…? That’s terrible brilliant. Yes, it’s how the world should be. It means everyone can go back to the classroom and share the experience they’ve had.

The author bloke jokes that he should be a schools inspector in his spare time given how many we visit (about 700 in the last 5 years). He is only joking – he doesn’t want to be that unpopular – but it does mean he is used to very quickly getting a feel for a school. This was one of those he had a great feeling about. It seemed as if the staff were all pulling in the same direction and getting the most out of the pupils as a result.

Talking of the pupils, hello to Adam and Siobhan (hope that’s the correct spelling) who made a point of introducing themselves before we started; to Rebecca who has the same name as my toe rag of a little sister; and to Charlotte who has my first name as her surname – Lee!

When we were finished loads of people wanted to buy books – so many that we ran out of books (don’t worry, Keith will be sending signed copies to the school as soon as he gets home) and time. Mrs Slater (a.k.a. Superwoman) saved the day, very kindly running us to Crewe station, where the train to London pulled in as we descended the stairs to platform 6. A perfect end to a thoroughly enjoyable visit.

Dragon Territory

Monday 7 March. Irvine. Home of the dragon.

No, no, I’m not being rude about Sharon the librarian at Irvine Library. No, no. She’s great. And an AC/DC fan. No, I mean the dragon in Irvine Beach Park. It's huge and was the inspiration for DarkIsle, the brilliantly exciting novel that won the 2008 Royal Mail Awards for Children’s Books. Keith was at the award ceremony to see the author – Dawn Nelson – collect her prize. In the story this dragon is brought back to life to save a special world, one we can’t see. There’s also a great sequel – DarkIsle: Resurrection. Exciting and funny both at the same time.

Luckily the pupils we were meeting weren’t breathing fire when they arrived. Neither were their teachers, unlike mine, the notorious Mrs Ogilvy…or The Ogre as we all call her. (We once went to a school in Bishopbriggs, on the outskirts of Glasgow, where the teacher there was also called Mrs Ogilvy and the wonderful woman wore a T-shirt for my visit, across the front of which it said THE OGRE in big letters. Heh heh. Ah, what it is to have a sense of humour? (We passed the same school on the train the other day. It’s been demolished. Hopefully that didn’t have anything to do with our visit!)

Irvine Library must surely win the prize for Longest Library in the UK’. It’s not very wide, but it goes on and on and on. If you enter by the front door on Monday you don’t reach the back door until Thursday! Okay, slight exaggeration, but does seem to go on for ever…a bit like the author bloke sometimes.

Happy Hutchie

Hutchie sounds like the name of a hamster. It’s not. It’s short for Hutchesons’ Grammar Primary School, and is what everyone Keith knows calls the school that was our next stop. It’s on the south side of Glasgow and, as it happens, is just up the road from where the author bloke used to live until a couple of years ago. (The sleuths amongst you will have deduced from the placing of the apostrophe that there must have been more than one Hutcheson.)

The lovely Maureen had arranged this visit. Maureen is so well organised that she had booked us not long after 2010’s World Book Day. Well, as the saying goes, if you’re not fast you’re last. And Maureen wasn’t last…she was first. Good on her.

Maureen is in charge of a fantastic library/education resource space that is perfect for authors because it is lovely and cool, meaning that people like Keith don’t get all sweaty in front of pupils. That’s to everyone’s benefit, believe me.

We had some fantastic questions at this school, ones that really made Keith think. (Keith think? Who said, ‘That makes a change’? Not me!) We also had a lot of volunteers to go to the Moon. Or we did until they realised it was Friday, that it takes 3 days to reach the Moon (it being 250,000 miles away), and that they would therefore miss the weekend.

Afterwards, the author bloke signed loads of books, suspecting that some would already be finished by Monday morning, if not sooner. He’s going to have to get on with writing my next book. Pronto. With me having already been a World Saving Superhero (Lee and the Consul Mutants), a brilliant businessman (Lee Goes For Gold), an amazing detective and entertainer (Lee’s Holiday Showdown) and a intrepid astronaut….what next? I can’t wait to find out.

Keith in Beith!

We’d been to Beith Library before and couldn’t wait to be back. We always enjoy ourselves there. Jean the librarian was there to greet us. Lovely woman.

It was Friday and Keith had done a lot of talking already during the week, so having a small room crammed with pupils from Beith Primary School was perfect, not too tough on his voice. (The bin men did their best to make a racket outside but were soon on their way.)

We love it when pupils are crammed in – you can see sparks of laughter jump from one person to the next. Like fleas. Well, ok, not actual fleas. You know what I mean.

Lots of signing for Keith to do afterwards, so it wasn’t easy for the teachers to get the pupils back out into the traditional glorious March sunshine of Scotland. (Okay, that was an advertisement on behalf of the Scottish Tourist Board – it was actually miserable outside…but did we care? No, we didn’t, we’d had such a good time.)

Welsh Wales for World Book Day

3 March – freezing! The author bloke scraped the windscreen and we headed along the coast to Rhyl. The sun was out, what a glorious day, then halfway through Rhyl someone turned out the lights. The sea fog descended like a curtain.

We were looking for Ysgol y Castell in Rhuddlan but were surprised when we found it. It had no roof…the walls were crumbling…and it looked as if it had been built five hundred years ago. I know some school buildings need a bit of attention, but…oh, oops, we’d found Rhuddlan Castle itself, not the school. I did wonder. You don’t get many open air schools in the UK!

It may have been dark outside but we were determined to keep it bright inside. So everyone at Ysgol y Castell gathered in the hall and we kicked off World Book Day. Brilliant. What an audience. Loved them. They really knew how to laugh.

And laughter brings out the sun. Or so it seems, because it was blazing in the sky by the time lunchtime came around.

So we set off for Ysgol Bryn Hedydd, where the teacher for the session was Mrs Lees. Yes, she nearly had the same name as me!

Julie – the lovely lady in the office – must have wondered what was going on, because every so often the roof was blown off. No, it wasn’t another open air school, it was blasts of hilarity that were raising the roof, because these pupils were so much fun.

And then home. 5 hours of driving back to Scotland, although the author bloke did insist on stopping for a tiffin cake. Yum.

Tuesday, 22 March 2011

Horsforth…and Idleness?

It was a nippy morning, temperature of 2.5C, as we pulled up outside Horsforth St Mary’s PS on the outskirts of Leeds. Brrr. But inside all was bright and beautiful – the author bloke and I were greeted with singing. Okay, admittedly it wasn’t our praises the pupils were singing, for the songs were hymns. Still, I was impressed by such clear voices first thing in the morning. Keith does his warming up in the car where no-one can hear him (fortunately), whereas I suspect these voices had been warmed up in the playground.

Someone from Year 4 wanted to find out if the Moon was made of Moon Cheese, so we climbed aboard the good ship Cardboard Cut-out and blasted off. However, before we were able to discover the answer we were being chased across the Moon by…oh, yeah, I’m not supposed to say in case it spoils the book for those who haven’t read it yet.

No teachers won prizes here, but 4 happy pupils did. If you’re one of them, I hope you are enjoying/ do enjoy/ will enjoy (delete as appropriate) your book. I’m sure you will. And henceforth you’ll be able to read nothing but Lee novels…or you will if I hurry up and write the next one.

Onwards to…idle for the afternoon.

No, not sticking our feet up and lounging around. When have we ever done that? Our Lady and St
Brendan’s PS is in part of Bradford called Idle. The school is on a hill. A steep hill. We felt sorry for the lady pushing a pram up it, as if we should have offered her a tow. I’ll bet the pupils there are really fit from all that upping and downing.

Lots of those probably-very-fit pupils crammed into Ms Cartwright’s room. We knew it was her room because she had her name emblazoned across the door in carved letters. Quite large letters. If her name was any longer she’d need a wider door.

The author bloke tends to speak to lots of pupils at once, so I like it when once in a while we get to
cram in to a room. It turns classrooms into little comedy clubs, which is the best possible use for a classroom.

The result was that we had a great laugh, after which Keith signed lots of books. And then we headed
west. A long way west…to Conwy in North Wales. It was dark and freezing by the time we arrived but we were already looking forward to the next day: World Book Day, 3 March.

Thursday, 10 March 2011

Cheltenham part 2...and a cold field near Birmingham

Cheltenham part 2

The pupils at Warden Hill Primary School in Cheltenham are a sharp bunch, even first thing in the morning. They made a perfect audience for us given that the author bloke’s voice was ropey from the 420 pupils the afternoon before – perfect because all 220 of them laughed in all the right places and then were quiet in between. It didn’t take long for Keith’s voice to return to something approaching normal.

They must have enjoyed themselves because they bought lots of books afterwards, with Lee’s Holiday Showdown being the day’s favourite purchase. That would suggest they’re a canny lot as it’s the one that gives most words for your money. As a Scotsman, the author bloke obviously loves canniness.

The lovely Mrs Newman organised for me to be at Warden Hill. She’s a writer too – I heard her telling Keith that she’s written a script. I’ll bet it’s a cracker. And a particularly big thank you to the staff in the office who collated orders for all those who weren’t able to grab books immediately after our visit. It’s one of the things I like about my visits with the author bloke – nobody realises how much of a great time they’re going to have until they’re sitting in one of the sessions.

A cold field near Birmingham

No sooner had we thrust everything into the car in Cheltenham than we were making fast tracks to Sutton Coldfield.

Now, why is Sutton Coldfield called that. Was it built on the site of field someone thought was colder than any other field? If so, was it colder? And if it was, why? And if it was nothing to do with a cold field, is there another explanation? I’m curious. And is Sutton the name of the person who owned the field? Does anyone know?

We were at Holy Cross Primary School, right on the edge of Sutton Coldfield next to other fields that may have been hot, cold or luke warm…I didn’t have a chance to check because we were soon in the hall with all of years 3-6. They were another great bunch of pupils and teachers. There were a couple of times when the laughter was so explosive that I thought it was going to blow the roof off the school hall. That’s my kind of afternoon!

And when the laughter was over it was time to hit the road again. Onwards to Leeds and Bradford!

Wednesday, 2 March 2011

28 Feb - Cilâ & Swindon Village

Half-term break is over. Welcome to laughter, Cilâ.

Monday 28 February. Mission: to make pupils in Cilâ, South Wales laugh even though the school holidays are over. Rating: very difficult. Who wants to laugh when the holidays are over, especially when it has turned gloriously sunny to coincide with the first day back?

(Cilâ is pronounced Kilahhh – a long ‘ah’ sounds at the end, the sort a tired teacher might make as they rest their classroom-weary feet and raise a cup of tea to their mouth.)

However, I knew there was a good chance of success when the pupils at the ultra-friendly Cilâ PS voted for Keith to read the ‘funny but very slightly disgusting’ part from Lee and the Consul Mutants. This wasn’t going to feel like work to them, more like a continuation of the holidays! It would just happen to be in the school hall.

And so it turned out. The sun shone in the windows and it was just as bright inside the hall, where we laughed our heads off and then put them back on again…because we didn’t want to frighten the other villagers.

Now, I expected Keith would be the only Scotsman in the village of Cilâ during our visit. Wrong! The head teacher was originally from Thurso, which is almost as far north as you can go in mainland Scotland. One of the other teachers (hello Mrs Taylor) is married to a man with Scottish roots…Don’t tell anyone, but it’s all part of a secret plot by the Scots re-establish the Celtic connection by invading Wales!

To Swindon...but not that Swindon

Before we knew it we were leaving Cilâ and  dashing off to Cheltenham. But not before the author bloke had scoffed a Welsh cake. That cake was to prove important.

We dashed up the M4 & M5 because we were presenting in Swindon Village that afternoon. Swindon Village is of course in…well no, it’s not in Swindon, it’s in Cheltenham! Weird. If anyone knows it’s called that then do email to let me and the author bloke know.

Anyway, back to Welsh cakes. Traffic on the M4 was not good as we made our dash. It was…bad (as you probably guessed). It was sssslllloooowwww. And so Keith had to skip lunch. And he hadn’t had any breakfast either. Now, if you’ve read other entries on this blog you’ll know how much Keith LOVES his food. So you can imagine how distraught he was by this lack of nosh. It would have been a disaster – his rumbling stomach would have drowned out pupils’ questions at Swindon Village PS - had it not been for that Welsh cake saving the day. See, I told you that cake was important. Cake is always important.

Waiting for us at Swindon Village were 420 pupils at the start of their Reading Week. They laughed as if there were three times that number. It was brilliant! They broke Keith’s laughometer. There were great questions too. Such a vibrant school.

As always, we ended with a competition, with 2 books as prizes. Now, with 420 pupils versus about 20 pupils the odds of a teacher winning a prize were not good. The odds of them winning both books were even slimmer, especially as the way of choosing the winners is entirely random. But you guessed it: teachers won both of the prizes! The author bloke thinks the odds of that happening were 40:1 against, or 2.5%, however some bright spark maths genius may want to tell him he’s calculated that incorrectly.

Thursday, 24 February 2011

Thirsty Thursday

'Water! Water!' It's what people are supposed to cry when they've spent days crossing the desert without coming across a mountain stream because they don't have those in deserts. They don't even have Tesco Expresses. They really should get that sorted out. However, on this occasion it was the author bloke, Keith, who was calling for it. His throat was still a bit ropey. He didn't even sing along to some of his terrible music - old stuff, from way back at the tail end of the last century - so I new things must be bad. Not that I was complaning. If you've ever heard him sing then you'll no why I appreciated the silent journey as we headed to St Barbara's PS in Muirhead.

The head teacher there has one of those lovely sing-songy Irish accents. The author bloke says Irish people must have been at the front of the queue when accents were being handed out. (Mind you, he has to say that - his wife is from Ireland.) She'd invited Keith back after a previous visit in February 2009 when everyone had really enjoyed the show.

I was impressed that some of the pupils knew how the Moon had been formed (something coliding into Earth, sending chunks of rock into Earth's orbit, which were then pulled together by gravity, the resulting collisions releasing energy that turned the Moon into a big ball of molten rock). And a lot were surprised to hear how many stars are in our galaxy, the Milky Way. There are a lot - about 100 BILLION of them. Isn't that incredible? It would take quite a while to visit them all in one of these.
And I don't mean the plant! How could you fly to the Moon on a plant?

When it came to prizes, one of the teachers nearly won a book but was pipped at the post by Lauren and Scott. (Just to be clear, it wasn't 'Scott with two Ts' who appears in Lee and the Consul Mutants. This Scott's haircut was much better than his fictional namesake's.)

Keith's voice held out, aided by lots of water, and so we boarded our rocket again and headed along the M8 and through some countryside to here:

It's the Fauldhouse Partnership in...Fauldhouse, of course. Okay, so some of you may not know where that is. M8...Harthill...head south for a few miles and you're there. And look, the SUN was shining. Yes, in Scotland, in February. The photo isn't Photoshopped!

So what happened here? Well, all of this did:

In the last photo, Keith is pointing at a 100-day-old biscuit crumb covered in fluff and saying, 'That looks a lot more appetising than the totally tastless cheese-and-tomato-on-white-bread sandwich I had on the way here.' And having seen the sandwich, I think the crumb probably was tastier.

And we had a special guest with us - author Matt Cartney, whose brilliant new adventure novel is launched in April. Here's the cover for it. Cool, yeah? If you like Alex Rider or Young Bond or Jimmy Coates, this will be right up your street. Or in this case, over your sand dunes.

This time a TEACHER from St John's PS won a book! Teachers have been doing well on that front recently. However, she insisted on her book being signed to the whole class. What a lovely lady.

And so it was off home, but not before thanking John Chambers from West Lothian and the lovely Ann (or is it Anne...I didn't find out) from Fauldhouse Partnership Centre. They kindly bought us a cup of tea in the centre's cafe. I think the heat of the drink finally melted the stodge of that sandwich the author bloke tried to eat during the journey.

Croak croak croak

Well, the author bloke, Keith, looks more like a frog than a prince, so no surprise that this week he's also been sounding like one with his croaky throat. And so, when we turned up at St Eunan's Primary in Clydebank I thought we were in for a lot of hacking and coughing.

He'd coughed most of the way to the event, so it wasn't looking good. In filed nearly 200 pupils and staff, up stepped Keith and...and it was fine. A bit hoarser and rougher than usual, but no worse than a football manager by the end of a game. Phew. It helped that the acoustics were excellent in the nice-and-shiny new hall.

The event was organised by Sophie Hawkey-Edwards and Anne Louise Anglim from West Dunbartonshire Libraries. Anne Louise had bumped into Dawn Nelson (the D A Nelson of DarkIsle and DarkIsle:Resurrection fame) a couple of days earlier, which was a coincidence because the author bloke and I had spent most of Sunday with her, dashing around bookshops in Glasgow, Edinburgh and East Kilbride. Small world.

Talking of West Dunbartonshire Libraries, they've got copies of the Lee books, so if you're from St Eunan's and reading this you can have a look here West Dunbartonshire Libraries Kids' Zone, where you can discover which of your local libraries have which Lee books and also find the addresses and telephone numbers of the libraries.

At St Eunan's we talked about the Moon - where I go in Lee on the Dark Side of the Moon...I don't think I'm giving away much there! Quite a few pupils were keen to climb aboard my cardboard cut-out rocket and head straight there, but then they realised that they'd miss out on morning interval and decided to stay on Earth instead. A wise move, I'd say, because they would also have missed lunch. Now that really would be a disaster!

Lots of people bought books, but lots more wanted them, so the author bloke and I will be back at St Eunan's on Friday to sort that out and sign more books.

Thursday, 17 February 2011

The Taming of the Shrew(sbury)

After our first hot meal in a couple of days, the author bloke took me to Shrewsbury Cathedral Primary School today. Shock horror (but no surprise), the pupils voted for the ‘funny but very slightly disgusting’ part from Lee and the Consul Mutants ahead of the ‘funny and exciting’ part. Mind you, it’s what I would have voted for!

I think it’s fair to say that a good time was had by all. I certainly enjoyed it. And two teachers were young enough to remember who Del Amitri was. Actually, Keith has corrected me, Del Amitri wasn’t a person, it was the name of a band from the late 1900s. That was the last century and therefore very very very old. Keith claims cars had been invented by that time. Were they? I'm not sure I believe him.

After the event, so many people wanted to buy LEE books (yes, the ones about me) that by the time Keith had finished we had to sprint up the road towards the station. Unfortunately the author bloke is not as fast as he once was, especially when carrying a rucksack, a heavy laptop back and a pull-up poster. And I wasn’t a lot of help. So despite his best efforts and a fair bit of sweat (yuck) we heard the train pulling away as we charged across the bridge to the platform.

Of course, the author bloke is used to sorting out travel arrangements and soon had an alternative plan in place (he’s good that way). Needless to say that plan involved using the 50 minutes before the next train as eating time. There’s a great Tea Shop on the high street near the castle in Shrewsbury. There Keith selflessly scoffed down a couple of scones (1 x fruit + 1 x cherry if you want the details) to spare others from having to eat them. What a hero! Well, in fairness it was lunchtime.

To everyone who is either on their half-term break, or who is about to start theirs, have fun. May the sun shine and the snow be no more than a metre deep! And for those at the Shrewsbury school, your signed books will be waiting for you on your first day back at school. Something to look forward to. And thanks for making me and the author bloke so welcome.

Wednesday, 16 February 2011

Abram Bryn Gates

I found out what it means! Abram Bryn was not, as I suspected, a Welshman. He wasn't even a person! No, Abram is one village/estate and Bryn is another and the 'Gates' refer to the old gates to the Bryn estate. There you go, mystery solved by the husband of the deputy head teacher who was also the photographer when I visited Abram Bryn Gates Primary School today.

The school has a pets corner, complete with birds, a rabbit and several other furry animals. The author bloke, Keith, was telling me that his class at school had a hamster and that his classmates used to take it home for the weekend. Only when it came to his turn the hamster escaped from its cage, perhaps after finally realising its wheel wasn't taking it anywhere. It was never seen again. Oops!

I'm hoping to be able to post a few photos of my visit in the coming days - watch this space. Thanks to Mr Sheekey for organising for me to attend. He's the head teacher, but he's also a DJ on the weekends. Now that's a cool Head! He might like the bit about the hospital DJ in Lee and the Consul Mutants...a book that Keith launched in a children's hospital (Yorkhill in Glasgow). What a strange but great place for a book launch! I suppose you could say that was the birthplace of my fame. Anyway, the DJ part is near the beginning of chapter 8 if Mr Sheekey wants to compare himself with the hospital DJ. I think he'll find he compares rather well...

Tomorrow, Shrewsbury. Watch out Shrewsburarians...or whatever you're called.

Bath time

No, not bathtime. Me, have a bath? You are kidding aren't you!

What I mean is that author bloke Keith Charters took me to Timsbury today and it's near Bath but out in the country. We were at St Mary's CofE Primary School and it was a brilliant. The pupils were doubled up with laughter half the time, which was great to see.

And then the most amazing thing happened after we left the school. Actaully quite a long time after we left it because we had to take 5 trains (yes, FIVE) to get to a place called Earlestown, which is near Wigan. After we got off the train we stood at a bus stop for a couple of minutes. (We often take the bus if it's too far to walk, it's better for the environment.) Keith wanted to check that we were waiting on the right road, so he asked a lady who was walking by. And what did she do? She asked where we were headed and when we told her Haydock she said, 'Come on, I'll give you a lift there.' So she took us to her car a few metres down the road and drove us all the way to the hotel! What a lovely woman and what a kind thing to do. Her name was Christine and she was the great aunt of someone called Jack. Keith gave her a signed copy of my first adventure, Lee and the Consul Mutants, to say thank you.

Isn't it fantastic that there are people like Christine in the world? Maybe we could clone her, although it would be confusing if nearly everyone was called Christine and you wouldn't be able to tell them apart. However, it would be very easy to get a lift to wherever you wanted to go because there would always be a Christine near by.

We're going to a place called Abram Bryn Gates tomorrow and the author bloke has given me a task. He wans me to find out why it's called Abram Bryn Gates. Was Abram Bryn a person? Was he Welsh? (His name sounds Welsh.) If so, why is a place near Wigan named after him? I'll try to remember to tell you the answers here soon if my mission is successful.

Friday, 11 February 2011

The hike to Hawick

I was nearly sick yesterday. And it was all the fault of that author bloke, Keith Charters. Okay, so I blame him for most things, but this time it was definitely his fault.
He took me to Hawick, a town in the Scottish Borders. We were there as part of the Heart of Hawick Book Festival. The festival was great fun, with 400+ young people like me having a laugh at the 'funny but very slightly disgusting part' they voted for Keith to read out. There were some great questions too. They're an intelligent bunch in Hawick. And then there was the lunch afterwards...

Wow! The food was amazing. Keith made me test all of it, including the chocolate brownie and carrot cake with lots of cream on it. I said, 'No, Keith, you know I don't like cake, it's the last thing I would choose to eat. I'd rather eat my shoes than eat cake.' However, when I looked at my feet I saw I had on my good shoes, the ones with the hard soles. Eating those wouldn't have been good for my teeth. So I ate the cake instead. But only, I remind you, because Keith made me.

Anwyay, it wasn't the cake that Keith made me eat that made me sick. Not at all. It was getting there and back (to Hawick, I mean, not getting to the food and back...that didn't take me long!) Keith didn't go the way with the straight roads, he took the most twisty road on planet Earth. It was more twisty than twisting speghetti worms around a twisted fork whilst sitting on a Twister funfair ride. I could feel all that cake he'd made me eat sliding around in my stomach and thought I was going to give it the big heave-ho. But then, just as I thought I was going to see the cake Keith made me eat all over again, we rounded yet another corner and saw this:

What an incredible place! It's called St Mary's Loch and sits between Hawick and Moffat. Now, I'm not much of a scenery lover - after all, scenery was invented for adults who are rubbish at playing computer games - but I had to admit to Keith that this view was stunning.

'Stop the rocket,' I said, because we weren't driving we were flying (which you'd think would make it less twisty, but for some reason it didn't work that way). What, you don't believe that I was fying in my Lee on the Dark Side of the Moon rocket? I didn't think you would, so I took this photo to prove it:


And the good news is that the scenery was so amazing that I completely forgot about being sick because of all the cake Keith made me eat. Indeed it was so brilliant that I've persuaded Keith (who made me eat all those cakes...have I mentioned that before?) to go back sometime soon, perhaps with his family. (Okay, it's partly because there's a cafe at the spot where we landed the rocket...and they probably sell cake.) I can't wait.


Monday, 7 February 2011

Pics of me, Lee

Some of you have asked to see photos of me. Man, you're making me blush. I'm really shy and modest, so all I can offer are these amazing pictures of me that you can find in bookshops throughout the UK, Ireland, Australia and New Zealand. How cool do I look in these?

Even The Ogre (that's my teacher, Mrs Ogilvy) must think I look good in these, though she won't admit it. Mind you, I don't want her to. It would mean her opening her mouth, and when she does that things melt with the power of her breath. It even burns that hard outer coating off Minstrels...even when they're still in the packet.

Oh oh. I've just heard that I've been rumbled. The author bloke who created me has found out I'm blogging and warned people. Still, he doesn't know my password, so he can't change what I'm writing! So here's the result of tonight's match:

Me 1: That Keith Charters Bloke 0


Saturday, 5 February 2011

It's me, Lee

Eh, hello. It's me, Lee. From the Lee books. You know, the funny ones written by that author bloke, Keith Charters. Actually, it's his fault that I'm writing this. He said if I didn't he wouldn't write any more hilarious books about my hilarious adventures. So really, I'm doing this for you - so you don't miss out.

I suppose I could start by telling you a bit about myself.

I'm Lee. Well, if you haven't worked that out yet you must be daft, because I used my name twice in the first line. I have a little sister, Rebecca, she's 4 years old and a bit of a pain. I used to have a lot (well, okay, some) friends who'd come round to my house, but then she attacked them all, and even though they're all nearly 3 times her age they're scared to come round now. They don't know what to do about her. They can't fight back because she's young and small. Only Will comes round now. Rebecca likes Will, but then he sometimes brings her sweets as a peace offering. I don't blame him.

I live in a house. You probably guessed that because it's where most people live. Mine is ordinary, with all the usual rooms: toilets, bedrooms, a kitchen, a know the sort of place. What's less ordinary are the people in it. Except me, of course, I'm normal. Unlike my Dad, who still wishes he could have been a rock star (he's actually an internal auditor...whatever that is) and my Mum, who works in an office doing...things. I'm not sure what. Organising things. Whatever people do in offices. She's not there all the time, she's at home sometimes being 'stressed out' by Rebecca. Well, mostly by Rebecca. I'm really good...sort of. Maybe I cause a little bit of stress, but not much. I'm sure it's the same with you: it's whoever else is in your house who is causing any trouble, not you. You see, we're alike you and me.

Right, I'd better not write too much or there won't be anything left for me to say next time. Keith's not paying me to write this, I'm doing it out of the goodness of my heart, to help him. I'll probably end up giving him more ideas and where will that land me? (In trouble, probably.)

In future blogs I'll tell you about the books I'm in. Also, I might tell you about my author at some stage, but don't mention that to him. It can be a surprise, heh heh. Oh no, I've turned into Creepy Kev from Lee's Holiday Showdown!

Bye for now.