Mavis's Shoe

Author of two novels and a creative memoir.

Wednesday, 25 April 2012

Things to do with Mavis's Shoe once you've read it

This is a picture of one of the many things you can do with your copy of Mavis's Shoe once you've finished reading it. This was made by my beautiful daughter (biased mum, I admit it) out of hers. Some may feel this has all the sacrilege of smashing pianos at the shows, a practice now all but extinct, but this right to destruction has been earned. Firstly this copy has been read by her from cover to cover. Secondly this daughter read Mavis's Shoe in one of its earliest drafts and gave me some very helpful advice, but perhaps more importantly, encouragement. Thirdly, it's hers to do with what she will. Fourthly, I have a few more copies in a box under my desk. Fifthly, it's very beautiful, like her.

The lovely thing about this is that when I light the fire which is directly underneath it, I know the little hearts will dance.

This is something else, rather similar, you can do with the pages of Mavis's Shoe, although do make sure you read the whole book first otherwise you may miss out on various important events therein. These are not Mavis's Shoe pages but print-outs of various bits of writing by me, poems, short-stories and other general nonsense which were then folded origami-style into swans by my other beautiful daughter. (Lucky me, I have two.) They were hung from threads in large numbers from the lights at a certain important birthday a couple of years ago and completely took my breath away. They moved to a fireplace without a fire (as in this picture) and then back home over the little stove in the room where I work. Being hung on thread they eventually succumbed to human clumsiness and now live in a box. This is why I know the love-hearts will dance; because the swans already flew.

I'm told they're quite simple to make and were certainly a good alternative for some of those pieces to never being published.

This is what Alicia Martin might have done with Mavis's Shoe if she had enough copies. This is one of her book sculptures in Madrid. 5000 books were used for 3 sculptures. This seems a tiny bit excessive and very like burning money. Can she honestly say 'no books were harmed in the making of this work'? But it is also books in an irresistible form somehow. I have no idea what point she's making. Perhaps her aim is simply to make us stand and gape at the size and madness of the thing. Apparently the pages are loose and whisper in the wind, perhaps reciting their contents.

Here's a Utube video of something else you could do if you had lots of books and lots of time. This one will re-acquaint you with all those books you search the shelves for but somehow just can't find. I do sometimes think it might be fun to colour code my books, a red shelf, a purple one, blue etc rainbow style and then I think it might be more useful to have them in alphabetic order, but probably those two options would ruin the prevailing library technique I already operate, namely books arrive here and find a semi-logical place and it becomes theirs. I usually know roughly where they are.

Monday, 23 April 2012

Edinburgh Book Festival for Schools

It's here at last: The Edinburgh International Book Festival's schools programme. You can download it here. You'll find a mugshot of me and Mavis's Shoe on page 9. The event is on Monday the 20th August at 12.30pm and I'm very excited about it already, as I'm sure you can imagine. Make sure you book soon or alert any teachers you might know. It's a one-off never to be repeated event.

It's great to know so many young people are reading Mavis's Shoe as well as older people who experienced the Clydebank Blitz or whose parents and grandparents did. I'm too young to have lived through it myself but my parents both talked about the war a lot when I was growing up, as did my grandparents. But no-one talked about being bombed, because no-one in my family was. But that doesn't mean they weren't hugely affected by six years of being separated from parents for lengthy periods, travelling alone on trains across country at an early age, hunger, insecurity, fear and all the other privations of wartime.

These things and worse happened here in Britain and across Europe and, sad to say, all these worse things are still happening around the world. That's why I'm so pleased so many young people are reading Mavis's Shoe and learning what war is really like for ordinary people on the ground. No-one's going to try and stop it if they don't know how bad it gets. Did I mention I'm pleased about young people reading Mavis's Shoe?

Tuesday, 3 April 2012

Avast, Me Hearties

After the delights of Chagall last week, my brain still being weary due to the bug and not capable of words in the way I’d want it to be, I moved on to various other visual delights to occupy my time and prevent the rising boredom of the sick bed. The first was the 1971 film Fiddler on the Roof the reason being the recently acquired knowledge that said fiddler is based on Chagall’s many fiddlers on roofs, in the sky, on donkey back and hidden in vases of flowers etc. This was a very nice circle to round, linking ten year old me to my somewhat older self now. Ten year old me adored it and played the record over and over.(Sorry Mum.) But this is hardly surprising as the music is spectacular and the story moving and epic. Certain songs have been playing on a loop in my head all week and occasionally I break into song.

Next I found two photo books on my shelves, the first being Century, by Phaidon, and is a series of important photos of the last century. The main disadvantage of this book is that it is necessarily heavy to hold for a poor sickie like myself, the other being it makes rather depressing viewing.

This was followed by the smaller and much more exciting ‘The Photo Book’ also by Phaidon and is a collection of fantastic images by some of the most important photographers of recent years. Many of these photos are very strange indeed and therefore appeal to my internal storyteller.

After struggling to find anything interesting at all on the TV I joined Love Film and watched Source Code which I can recommend highly for its constant twists and surprises, most especially the very smily last ‘8 minute journey’. Watch it and you’ll know what I mean. Clever plot.

Then my dearly beloved, going a little stir crazy himself, took me on a couple of drives out to favourite places, like a proper old invalid, the last one finishing in Waterstones where I purchased a journal for recording the strange events of my life (still untouched - journalling just doesn’t come naturally to me) and a copy of Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island complete with a very pretty parrot on the front. (A few years ago I inherited the family library. Sadly it had been badly plundered before its arrival and most of the best had been taken, including Treasure Island.) To my shame, I don’t think I ever read Treasure Island as a child, being pointed by well-meaning parents in the direction of What Katy did, What Katy Did Next and Anne of Green Gables. Better late than never however and, like Source Code, it is a tale of endless twists and excitement and, as it turns out, the perfect anecdote to gastro-enteritis. Don’t tell me the end! It’s all I can do to get back to work and not finish reading it this morning.

However, in a fit of pirate allegiance, in fact a long and heart-felt loyalty, beloved and I went to the flicks last night and watched, in the company of only five other viewers, two ice creams and a packet of mint aero musket balls, The Pirates! – In An Adventure With Scientists. This has to be the least promising of titles to have been around in a while, and it must be said we were disappointed on the pirate front, there being very little real pirating going on, not much swashbuckling, no blood, no full-on genuine nastiness, but in its place lots of wit and fun and a great deal of rather sweet gentleness. This too was healing. Aaah. And plenty of fun to be had in the detail.

But Avast, me hearties, I have chapters to read, or is it write?