steepholm (steepholm) wrote,

Stern Judge, Laureate Fanchild, Dangerous Extruder... these are the many faces of Steepholm.

Today I went to London for the announcement of the new Children’s Laureate, which took place on the 31st floor of the Centrepoint building. It’s a swish place, and you normally need an electronic pass from reception to get in (of which more later), though for this event they waved me through to a man with a clipboard who ticked my name off a list and pointed me at a lift – which seems much more children’s lit, somehow. Anyway, from the 31st floor you get some great views!

Here’s the London Eye:


And the BT tower:


And, especially for lady_schrapnell, this gives an idea of how high up we were:


Amongst the people there, I was particularly pleased to see Julia MacRae, for the first time in a dozen years. It was Julia who gave me my leg up into the glitzy world of children’s books, after she tutored me at an Arvon course in Devon back in 1995 and agreed to become my publisher. (It didn’t quite happen the way we planned, but that’s another story.) Ah, we were all so young then... She’s long since retired, and has just retired her eponymous imprint too - apparently Hamish Hamilton got rather sad at seeing books he didn’t like appearing under his name, and she didn’t want to have the same experience - but still looks exactly the same as when I knew her.

I’d been on the selection committee for the Laureate, so was in the swanky position of knowing what name was about to be announced., and feeling rather smug – a sense of specialness that of course popped like a balloon the minute Andrew Motion announced that it was Anthony Browne - now it can be told! In advance of the event they’d asked us judges to think of a question to ask the new laureate, but sitting in a giggly huddle with my fellow selector Nikki Heath (School Librarian of the Year) we realized that we’d both totally forgotten the questions we’d prepared. In the end I decided to go with “Where do you get your ideas from?” while Nikki planned to skewer him with “What made you decide to be a writer?” Luckily, it never came up.

Anyway, as there were several laureates in the room, I decided to make a gallery of them. Unfortunately my photography skills let me down, but for what it’s worth here’s Andrew Motion, sorrily silhouetted with Julia Eccleshare:


Anthony Browne, doubtfully distant:


Michael Rosen, woefully wobbly:


And Jacqueline Wilson, practically perfect in every way!


All went well until I tried to leave the building, at about 12.25 (to catch a 1pm train from Paddington, so that I’d be in time to pick up my daughter from school). I travelled down in the lift with a couple of other people, including a woman who had to catch a train from Euston at the same time. But on the ground floor we were confronted with tube-style barriers, and told by a security guard on the far side of them that we couldn’t exit without a pass. “But we weren’t given a pass!” we wailed. “And we have trains to catch!” Nonetheless, he was insistent that we should go back up the 31 floors to find an event organizer to sort it out. At that point the glass of red wine I’d had must have gone to my head, for a with a bloodcurdling cry of “This is simply ridiculous!” I vaulted the barrier and marched past the guard, ignoring his spluttered “You can’t do that!” As I headed for the doors he demanded my name, and I blithely refused to give it him, and a moment later, as he was shouting “Bravo Tango!” into his radio (I guess he was a soft drinks fan), I was at large in the anonymous bustle of New Oxford Street, feeling like a cross between Mr Toad and the prisoners in Fidelio. Let history record that, not for the first time, I escaped London without being shot six times in the head at point blank range. (Is it any wonder I wear sunblock?)

And I caught my train – which was then delayed by over an hour somewhere between Swindon and Chippenham, because someone (it seems) decided to throw themselves off it between stations. Someone else had to pick up my daughter for me, but I got here in the end, and am glad to be back in Bristol.

Dulce domum.
Tags: books, real life
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