I’m here! In London! After a very long flight I am finally here, and am almost over my jet lag – I slept until 6am this morning. Already, I am liking all the different versions of London I am seeing. The family friends I am staying with live in a lovely old English farmhouse (I am staying in the stables – repurposed stables, I might add; I have my own bathroom and a tin of biscuits) full of old beams and a big old fireplace and generally could fit into an old storybook. But then, yesterday, I explored East London, which is full of tiny, colourful shops, and brick townhouses and lots of coffee and vintage stores and antiques. My friend took me to ‘The Breakfast Club’ for dinner, where we had breakfast food at 7 o’clock in the evening (probably didn’t help my confused body clock, but it was delicious). Meanwhile, I am reading Philip Pullman’s ‘The Ruby in the Smoke‘, which is set in London in 1872, and full of gritty London settings, and mystery and penny dreadfuls and people being murdered in dark alleys. I feel like London is full of lots of different faces, and I like that. All the different areas I visit, and the different sides of it I see, seem to remind me of different books, and I can see why so many people have written about London.
While wandering around yesterday, I got a bit lost (as per usual) and stumbled across the Museum of Childhood, which was doing a display about Jaqueline Wilson, a children’s author that is both on the 1001 Children’s Books List and an author than I read a lot of around nine or ten. There I was, surrounded by loud children and their parents, probably the only twenty-something year old in the whole building, but I found it very interesting. There was a whole lot of original illustrations from her books, and original notes and drafts. They even had a copy of the letter she received from her first ever acceptance of a story from a magazine, in around 1965ish – they accepted her first story, which was about dieting, but rejected her second story, in which an ordinary boy becomes a celebrity overnight. They rejected it based on the content, as girls, they said, read as part of escapism, and don’t want to break the illusion of celebrity – there are some things, they wrote, ‘that girls just don’t want to know’. It was quite funny reading that as a modern reader, especially knowing what Jacqueline Wilson has written about since then – she has written about divorce, foster care, negligent parents, bullying, and all sorts of topics that some parents don’t think suitable for young readers. Unfortunately I couldn’t take any photos in the building.
I look forward to sharing my bookish adventures with you as my travels around Europe unfold.