|Don't my books look nice on the shelf?|
First it was down to the Big Green Bookshop in Wood Green, not a million miles from where I grew up. I've followed these guys since they first conceived the idea of opening a bookshop, so it was smashing to meet them in person and not just exchange words over the ether.
help the shop over a sticky patch. Wine, food, books, good company and a rather fine mobile bookseller - what's not to like?
Next morning I treated myself to a lovely ramble around where I spent my childhood. It's always a tiny bit worrying going back, but I needn't have worried. True, the primary school had been replaced by a much bigger building, and the large asphalt playground had been covered with play structures, divided play areas, and outdoor toys, but there were still happy kids all over the place and it was so colourful and joyous that it was impossible to look at it without smiling.
My road and those around it still seem to be the same safe streets they always were, even if two houses in three now have loft extensions and three out of four front lawns have been replaced by hard standing for cars.
The church where I spent so many freezing Sundays was the biggest surprise. I'd expected gentle decline - but it has expanded! The old pews have been replaced by stackable chairs to transform the nave into a vibrant, multi-use space. There are bright banners around, toys for children's sessions and a second hall and bigger kitchen built onto the side. The organ had wheezed its last, but in removing it they had discovered the most beautiful rose window. And the Lady Chapel is the same calm, traditional chapel that it always was. So lovely to find another instance of positive, thriving change. (Mind you, when they said they would contact me later as a source of archive memories, I felt just a tad ancient...)
But the very best part of the trip for me was walking through the small park where I spent so much of my time when younger. And I discovered that the muddy path where we had always been able to get down to the brook and fish for tiddlers was still there, the brook itself was still unfenced, the shallow, pebble-bottomed water was still a glorious magnet for today's kids. Colour me very happy.
And after all that, it was time finally to head for Reading to celebrate the launch of my lovely friend Julie Cohen's book Getting Away With It. Masses of people in Reading Central Library drinking fizz, eating ice cream (you have to read the book to understand why) and cheering her on. Hope it sells gazillions, Julie!