Today I received my Nainital Nostalgia 2019 Limited Edition Calendar. I am thrilled to see the images of Barnes Restaurant adorning the month of March. The restaurant was run by my grandmother, Phyllis Dover and her sister Muriel in the 1930’s. From the hundreds of letters I have spent reading (for the research of my first novel – Dance with Fireflies), I think they ran it with great gusto and thoroughly enjoyed themselves! They held all kinds of parties that serviced the needs of the local gentry and army camp in Tallital. The British Raj was still in full swing, the piano was played (often by Phyllis) and the gramophone wound up, ready for action.
This beautiful calendar is the end result of a group of admirers and residents of this historical hill station who have worked together (with the help of Facebook) from across the globe….including India, Australia and the UK.
I feel very privileged to be part of Nainital Nostalgia; a Facebook group that started about 8 years ago. The warmth and kindness from its members along with their incredible knowledge of this remote town that meant so much to my ancestors is remarkable.
This will be a year-round reminder of this amazing place my family once called home and where my great, great grandmother is buried.
It’s that time of year again…the leaves are turning and hordes of book lovers are descending on my home town.
The Cheltenham Literature Festival is always such a great event, particularly when it’s on the doorstep. I am renowned for being useless at catching buses and frequently miss them … I swear I have timetable dyslexia!
So it was a miracle that we made it to Chimamanda Ngozi Adiche’s talk about the impact of her work and fantastic feminist views. I have enjoyed all of her novels. My favourite is probably Purple Hibiscus (another lent out never to return) followed very closely by Half of a Yellow Sun. If you enjoy great fiction with superb characters and plot and fancy losing yourself for a few days, read them. You won’t be disappointed.
The following day we made it (I know, weird right? Two days in a row and I negotiate the bus network!) to a superb discussion on the Syrian conflict hosted by Lindsey Hilsum. Lyse Doucet, BBC’s Chief International Correspondent was a great speaker; passion and knowledge abounded.
I couldn’t resist buying a copy of No Turning back by one of the other panellists, Rania Abouzeid; an outstanding journalist with many stories to share. Alfie (my son and companion to the festival) was very happy with his signed copy.
After a delicious smoked salmon and cream cheese crepe in the food tent and a discreet distribution of Dance with Fireflies bookmarks on tables, we made the last bus home…..unfortunately, the only bus back wasn’t exactly a direct route. We alighted at The Rising Sun pub on Cleeve Hill and walked through two fields of sheep as the light faded. Luckily I wore trainers and not heels (I’m not really a heel kind of person). Almost home, our house in sight, the mother of all rams, big, black and well hung, stood in the only gateway, blocking our path home.
A bit of flapping about with the newly acquired Waterstone’s bag with the aptly titled No Turning Back book inside, finally worked on the stubborn beast and our journey was complete.
Thought I’d have a go at this…. taken at Cowley Manor, my favourite cheeky lunch venue. This is my big sister. The quote is a genuine 5* review on Amazon. I’m particularly chuffed with the reference to Andrea Levy, the author that inspired me to put pen to paper and write Dance with Fireflies!
When I was asked to do a talk to The Tewkesbury Historical Society back in 2016, I said ‘yeah sure’, thinking that’s two whole years away. I put it on the back burner for quite some time and thought little about it until the first day of January this year. Ummm, suddenly the date of the talk felt a bit close for comfort. I had been supplied a title which sounded rather good; Conflict between fact and fiction.
It took a few drafts to complete my PowerPoint presentation supported by copious notes. I tested it out on my poor nearest and dearest, who all said it was jolly fine.
Great, except that I haven’t presented in a while. I did an author Q &A on a stage in India (that was up there with hairy scary experiences). I had done a bit of presenting in my former life as an Art Director, but nothing like this. I love talking about my book, my research, my ideas, I could talk all day about it …. but to a room full of people for an hour!! This was a whole different level of hairy scary! Anyway, last night, my two years was up. Somehow, from deep within my nerve-wracked brain I found the courage to walk into a roomful of strangers ready to perform. It was less a room and more a church! I actually gave my talk standing at the pulpit to my 50 strong congregation!
How did it go? I surprised myself. I loved it! It was fun! I felt happy to be sharing my story of writing a novel and my thoughts on the conflict between fact and fiction. I had a round of applause and lots of brilliant questions. Books were sold and everyone seemed genuinely interested and happy. Result! I am now officially unafraid of presenting!
Thank you John Dixon (chairman of THS) for giving me this wonderful opportunity to come and speak to your lovely group. I learnt a lot…. I hope they did too!
Spot the difference
Spot the difference. Okay, there are many, but I am super excited to see that Ali Smith’s Winter and Dance with Fireflies have shared the same small space. Thank you Heffer’s Bookshop in Cambridge.
Oh yeh is actually spelt oyez but that looked far too weird for a title.
Who knew a morning of book signing could be so much fun! The town crier turned up and Dance with Fireflies was announced to the world… well Tewkesbury. I met a stream of book lovers, sold an armful of copies and didn’t misspell any names (a fear of mine). Thank you Alison’s Bookshop for hosting this jolly event.
So last night I met the amazing Vikram Seth after an enlightening session at the Oxford Literary Festival. What struck me was not only his total passion for the written word, be it novels or poetry but also his warmth.
He indulged me in a lengthy conversation and even complimented me on the title of my novel (Dance with Fireflies) which I gave to him, despite a snaking queue of people wishing to speak with him. He asked me to dedicate it to him as he was signing my copy of A Suitable Boy….what a great moment!
I was lucky enough to hang about for a while and felt hugely pleased to see him rest his arm on my book throughout the whole signing process.
As we sped back to Burford that evening to enjoy one of my husband’s birthday treats …a night at The Golden Pheasant, I prayed to the stars that Vikram would at least flick through my book, if not read it.
I can’t wait for A Suitable Girl….published later this year .