Last night I went to Windsor for a marvellous event called the Firestation Book Swap, hosted by Scott Pack and Marie Phillips. Caroline Smailes and I were their guest authors for the night. We sat on a sofa and answered a range of short written questions submitted by the audience. The questions ranged from the absurd to the profound, and were very entertaining to answer.
The audience are invited to bring a book to swap, and either pay £5 on the door or bring along a homemade cake. Since plenty of people opt to bring a cake, there's plenty to go round. Last's night's offerings (only some of which are pictured here) included macaroons, fairy cakes, Mars Bar krispies, tomato soup cake, a spicy fruit loaf, and a cake decorated with a picture of Caroline's forthcoming book, 99 Reasons Why. I think I tasted almost all of them, and they were delicious.
The Firestation Book Swap is held in Windsor, which I had never visited before, even though it's a short journey from Paddington by train. I was astonished to see that the castle was right there by the train station - for some reason I had thought it would be hidden away in the countryside. I'm currently doing some research for a swashbuckling Restoration adventure series that I plan to write, so I was delighted to be able to take a picture of the Nell Gwynn Chinese restaurant for inspiration, as well as the castle itself, where Charles II spent some of his time.
I took along a book to swap called The Zoom Zoom by Penny Goring, which I love. Penny is an artist and the book is a collection of stories and poems that are full of beautiful, disturbing imagery. A lot of them are funny, too. I first read the book on the Kindle and subsequently drunk-gifted quite a lot of Kindle copies to strangers. I would never have read the book if I hadn't met Penny at a New Libertines reading in Oxford last year. Her book is published by a small press (Eight Cuts), and I wanted to bring something to the Firestation book swap that people in the audience might not otherwise have come across on the shelves in their local book shop (though it is available to order if you like the sound of it). Also, I really love it and I wanted one more person to have the chance to read it. Here's a link to a poem from the book called Temporary Passport.
I swapped The Zoom Zoom for The Driver's Seat by Muriel Spark. I love Muriel Spark and I gave away The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie for World Book Night last year, but I hadn't read The Driver's Seat so I'm looking forward to it. Yet another good reason to make the trip to Windsor.
Thanks to everyone who came along last night and made it so much fun. Thanks to Scott and Marie for hosting it, and to Scott's daughter Martha for looking after Caroline and me, and submitting a very sensible question. Thanks to Carol from Waterstones in Windsor for arranging the sale of our books. Thanks to everyone who bought a book. Thanks for the cake.
If you're looking for a link to SBI, the online detective agency I recently set up with my daughter to investigate paranormal activity, it's here. You can find out why, when asked in one of the written questions which painting I would choose if I could take any work of art from a public gallery to put on my wall at home, I chose Daughter of Herodias by Sebastiano del Piombre from the National Gallery (or, as I called it last night, a picture of my daughter Lauren's friend Katie Pitts).