Tuesday, 12 February 2008


Tomorrow I’m doing another talk – this one at the lovely Sandwich Bookshop in- well, it’s pretty obvious where it is. Sandwich is one of the Cinque Ports of which the Queen Mother used to be the Lord Warden, which office is now held by Admiral the Lord Boyce, GCB, OBE, DL. Or so Google tells me anyway – I felt it would be wrong to tell you who used to be LwotCP wihout mentioning the person who gets to be it now.. Of the letters after his name, however, I’m embarrassed to say I only know what OBE means. If anybody can enlighten me, please feel free.

I decided to Google some more. And discovered that, originally, as the name suggests, there were five Cinque Ports - Sandwich, Romney, Dover, Hythe, and Hastings and they were grouped together into a confederation, for defensive purposes, by Edward the Confessor which is roughly five monarchs or so before I would have guessed. The Cinque Ports supplied the Crown with ships and men and, in return, received various privileges. I’m sorry, I’m not interested enough to read a second page to find out what said privileges are – they’d probably be stuff like import and export duty and things of which I have no ken. Of course, the coastline has changed an unbelievable amount in the thousand years of the CPs existence and Sandwich is now two miles inland. Of the five, only Dover is really a port in any meaningful sense, these days. And in Dover’s case, as anybody who’s been there and seen the hustling in and bustling out of the ferries, seacats, hovercrafts and cruiseliners, it’s a port in a very meaningful sense.

Anyway, it may not be a port any more but it’s got something which Canterbury for all it’s city status and Mother-Church malarkey hasn’t got and that’s an independent bookshop. I keep mentioning this because I’m actually narked, shocked and disappointed that Canterbury is so bereft. (Not enough to consider starting one, I’m narked, not mad; I mean, have you read Open a Bookshop recently…?) But, too scared to even contemplate opening one or not, I’m rapidly discovering that there is a symbiotic relationship between new (or just not very well known) authors and independent bookshops. They are nice to us. Very nice. Actually, maybe symbiotic isn’t quite right – are they getting as much out of it as we are? Well, the tickets for tomorrow night are three quid a throw plus I guess the bookshop’s delightful owner, Louise, will sell a few copies of Testament. She’s encouraging book groups to come so maybe whole groups will buy it. OK, there’s your symbiosis.

Actually I’m slightly worried about timings and so forth. We’re without a second car at the moment so I’m going to have to persuade the Other Half to come home early so that I can leave Canterbury at 6 to get to Sandwich in time to get myself sorted out before anybody arrives at 7. It should be possible to do it by train but knowing the train timetables around here I’d probably have to leave at about 4 in the afternoon to be sure of getting there.

I’m also having trouble knowing what bits of Testament to read during the talk. It’s really quite difficult to read out bits which illustrate what I’m going to say about writing a split-time book without giving away the story. I always try and drivel on about how only about 10% of the research which you do ends up on the page and that, even then, you don’t want to overload the reader with details unless they’re relevant. But, because they’re relevant to both character and plot, sometimes it’s difficult to show what you’ve done and how without giving key developments away.

It’s weird promoting one book when you’re writing another. I keep getting flashbacks to the work in progress when I’m trying to put together a coherent line of thinking about Testament. On the other hand, when I was flicking through Testament just now, trying to find a particular passage (you’d think I’d know where I’d put them, wouldn’t you?) I was surprised to see how much fourteenth century there was because, in the work in progress, the historical element is more like 20% than 50%.
Hey ho.

It’s a misty foggy start to the day in Canterbury but we’re promised sun when it’s burned off – should be good for the w-i-p where it’s August and sweltering.


Lane said...

I mourn the loss of indie bookshops. Some friends of mine have just opened one. Trouble is, it's in Spain.

Good luck with the talk. That little bookshop looks wonderful:-)

Alis said...

Thanks, Lane. It is wonderful - you just want to spend all day there...
Spain! huh...


An independent bookshop near us has recently closed after 25 years, because a well-known bookstore has recently begun opening branches in small towns like ours, and the independents can't compete. Such a shame. Customers are so fickle too...I, and many other locals, tried to support them but it seemed more people prefer a 'branded' name, if you like.

Anyhoo, best of luck with the talk - I'm sure it'll be well recieved :o)

Alis said...

Thanks, Karen.
I guess we all need to put our money where our mouths are and not be seduced by the three-for-twos in chainstores. Hard on the wallet but indies don't tell you what you should like!

Persephone said...

GCB - Knight (or Dame) Grand Cross of the Most Honourable Order of the Bath.
DL could be Deputy Lieutenant, or Doctor of Letters --- I suspect the former, but both could be wrong!