Saturday, 18 April 2015

Day 18: Back Rub in Barking


Barking Learning Centre
2.30 pm
14.3 km from Covent Garden

Everything is Awesome!
I arrived early at the Barking Learning Centre not just because it was situated in Barking and therefore awesome but also because I had been offered a free massage at The Bath House which is fricking inside the library.

I mean does your local library have a spa inside it complete with sauna? I didn't think so - I told you Barking was awesome.

And so was my audience and the librarians who plied me with a mound of biscuits and gave me a very sturdy lectern on which I leaned all the way through.

So remember if you want to broaden your mind and relax your back then the Barking Learning Centre is the place to go.

Nex: Hornsey - land of the dead (according to Will Self).

Friday, 17 April 2015

Day 17: The Place Beyond Gants Hill - Hornchurch


Hornchurch Library
6.30 pm
24.6 km from Covent Garden

There are some places in the world that we know only through legends - El Dorado, Camelot and Shangri-La. Of these places none was so frequently mentioned but never seen as the Gant's Hill Roundabout.

For all the early years of my life I knew it only from the early morning traffic reports. There in fabled Gant's Hill there would always be a tailback, or an accident or, at the very least, the sheer weight of traffic.

Last night I passed for the first time through the mystical portal that is Gant's Hill and found myself in Hornchurch, the fertile land that lies between Rivers Rom and Ingresbourne known to locals as the Country of the Lollipop.

Which explains the sign outside Hornchurch Library.

There I was greeted by the Librarians of Hornchurch who fed me the ceremonial coffee and cake (in fact walnut and coffee cake my favourite) before leading me out to bless the audience.

Another ridiculously friendly crowd.

So I bid a sad farewell to the land between two rivers heading home to sleep for on the morrow I would face my most savage challenge yet - the wilds of Barking and Dagenham!

Thursday, 16 April 2015

Day 16: Canary Wharf and Enfield Town


The Idea Store: Canada Square
1.00 pm
7.6 km from Covent Garden

I was tempted to walk in and ask to buy something for ACT III but that would have been facetious. After a brief interlude for a snack I was ushered in to meet my small but perfectly formed lunch time audience...

The interesting thing is how infrequently I get the same question - you'd think by now I would have stock answers to stock questions but no - you sods are keeping it fresh.


Enfield Town Library
7.00 pm
15.8 km from Covent Garden

Enfield Town Library - a very nice cafe with a rather good Library attached. The cafe does brilliant coffee and made some special Folly cupcakes just for the occasion. There would  a photograph ere but I scoffed the lot before I thought of taking a picture.

Enfield is my first cardinal point on the map of London (North) - next comes Hornchurch in Havering (the East)!

Wednesday, 15 April 2015

Day 15: The Barbican


Barbican Library
7.00 pm
2.3 km from Covent Garden

Here is the large audience I got (so big I needed to pictures). Given that the library was in the Barbican Centre, a brutalist complex that is needlessly labyrinthine even by 1970s standards, I'm amazed they all made it.

Good questions,  nice coffee, friendly librarians - I call that a result.

And next: The Idea Store (where presumably we shall buy some ideas) and then the hidden Kingdom of Enfield!

Tuesday, 14 April 2015

Day 14: Hackney Hijinks


Hackney Central Library
6.15 pm
6 km from Covent Garden

After the frenetic show business razzmatazz of Forest Gate it was good to get back to the small intimate village atmosphere of Central Hackney. There I was greeted by select audience drawn from the elite Hackney reading group - you asked lots of questions that I hadn't been asked before.

Also thanks to Lydia and Monica (below) the best coffee I've had so far.

Or I may have written their names down wrong in which case let me know.
But the quiet of this village idyll must give way tomorrow to the tangled arcology they call the Barbican Centre!

Monday, 13 April 2015

Day 13: The Gate in the Forest


Gate Library
6.00 pm
11.1 km from Covent Garden

Forest Gate is named after the South Gate of Epping Forest and the library stands hard by the Romford Road which marks the passage of the Roman road from Londonium to Camulodunum (once the capital of Britannia until people came to their senses).

Staggering from my taxi (I don't travel that well) I encountered Martine outside the library who wanted to know if I was doing anything that evening. Sadly she was drumming up business for my talk and upon my explanation ushered me inside.

They take their culture seriously in Newham and there were a ton of local councillors there to see the events, not me you understand but the much more entertaining events that had been laid on in support.

One of thee attractions was the Unity Dance Academy (soon to be on Britains Got Talent) but they were stuck in traffic and the audience was getting restless.

I'll get to the audience later - they were an interesting bunch.

First into the breach was Mike Hamilton who read an extract from Rivers of London but even he could fill the void created by road works on the A118

Into that void stepped Tamika Cater who performed an impromptu solo and very good she was too.

Obviously Newham is so stuffed with talent that you can jury rig a variety performance in less than ten minutes. There must be something in the water - I should investigate and find out who.

Alas it was enough and I thrust into the limelight to keep everyone entertained for ten minutes.

We are The Audience - entertain us!
This was a tricky audience - on the one hand you have the toddlers, cute little bundles of noisy energy, on the other you have the serried ranks of SF fans and gruesome Grannies (I love a good murder I do) that form my normal audience and then there were the teens. Why they were there I never did establish but in conformity with EU Directive 96/6589EU Maintenance of Intergenerational Stereotypes they spent much of the time texting, giggling, whispering and taking selfies. They also asked some surprising erudite and pertinent questions which just goes to show that just because they didn't look like they were paying attention didn't mean they weren't paying attention.

Fortunately the dancers arrived and I managed to escape with my dignity intact.

Next: the wilds of Central Hackney!


Saturday, 11 April 2015

Day 11: Heckled in Twickenham, fated in Wimbledon


Twickenham Library
2.00 pm
15.9 km from Covent Garden

So on the noon of the eleventh day of April I set forth in my trusty black cab to brave the perilous and crowded highways of South West London. Many were the punters heading for the rugby, and rammed the roads were with people off to see the Oxford and Cambridge Boat race. Many and twisting were the ways my trusty driver took to avoid the jams before depositing me safely before the hallowed halls of Twickenham Library.

There I was plied with coffee strong before being turned out to face the multitude that had arrived to see me, Many of whom, it transpired, had no idea who I was at all.

It was here that I was heckled for the first time by a member of the audience. I say heckled but actually it was more like a demand that I explain exactly what it was I was planning to do with the rest of my books. Caught unawares I was tongue tied and she was unimpressed.

 Fortunately the rest of the audience seemed much more forgiving and after my terrible trauma I was supplied with crisps by Pen, Gavin, Joss, Jonas and Cheney (see below) until my nerves were steadied and my taxi had arrived.

We're ready to lend books to YOU!

Onwards to Wimbledon!


Wimbledon Library
6.30 pm
11.4 km from Covent Garden

I arrived with a couple of hours to spare to I sated my hunger with a Smoked Krakauer inna bun from this guy...

I was then ushered into the library by Wimbledon's insanely well groomed library team...

Now I actually wrote down everyone's names, at least I think I did, but I can't find the piece of paper so if any of you read this could you put your name in the comments so I can edit the blog.

After a reading from Rivers of London by local actor and playwright Michael Norman-Smith I was turned loose on the audience who were very nice and gentle with me even those that had obviously been dragged in by their better halves.

So that's twelve events done - plenty more to go.

On Sunday I get a day off but on Monday - FOREST GATE!

Friday, 10 April 2015

Day 10: HMP Holloway and Walthamstow


The Women's Institute Reading Group
2.00 pm
You have to leave your phones at the front desk so there are no other pictures of the event which was enormous fun and very interesting. The interior of the prison was very much like my old school only much much cleaner and with much thicker doors.

This being the WI there was coffee and some lovely lemon cake (home made). The audience was about thirty in total and one of the best I've had so far. They were good humoured and asked some fairly difficult questions and didn't hold it against me when I rambled a bit in response. I also learnt some stuff that I ain't going to talk about because it's research gold. Let's just say I'm never going to think about chickens in the same way again.


Walthamstow Library
6.30 pm
10.8 km from Covent Garden

Talk about an event that had everything, a reading by Charles Angiama, puppet making and a puppet show courtesy of the E17 Puppet Project. All organised by Jo, Maddie, Caroline and Abi the grandly named Cultural Programming Team.

The Cultural Programming Team

It was a big audience and I was a bit high up on a perilously narrow stage but once again the free wine loosened us all up and the questions came thick and fast. I'm fascinated by the range of questions I'm getting on this tour.

Next: Twickenham and Wimbledon!