Friday, 20 May 2011

Don Calame visits Bristol (and Jayne argues with her satnav...again...)

Back in the office today after three days in Bristol with Don Calame - for both of us a first time in the city and we were made to feel so welcome. As you may remember I do have satnav difficulties on my travels and this was no exception, but I think it was more down to me than the technology. Don was rather amused when at one point I was shouting at the instrument - but I was right, the school wasn't down a cul-de-sac! I am not sure how he felt about my driving - as I was on the 'wrong side' for him coming from Canada and I noticed his foot pressing down on a non-existent brake pedal now and again...

Our first stop on Tuesday was at Backwell School and a hundred year 9 students, marshalled into line by librarian Anne Gibson. Don started off by showing his trailer, which got everyone into the mood and although some students had to leave early for other lessons, they all stayed awake and paid attention, laughed at the dirty bits - of which there were quite a few. Good questions and answers.

A call came through from LBC - could Don do a quick live interview with Julia Hartley-Brewer on her afternoon phone-in show? The subject was why teenage boys can't concentrate and how that affects their reading. Perfect platform for Don, so we arranged to take the call at 2.00pm when we were at the next school, Broadoak Computing and Technology School in Weston-super-Mare.

Don with pupils at Backwell School

Off we sped - towards the seaside resort - sadly not sunny - grey and misty and there were seagulls on the playing fields. Broadoak's librarian, Frances Tout very kindly lent Don her office to take the call from LBC. This audience was a mixture of Y9 and Y10 students and very different from the morning lot. Here we had lots of very direct questions about the sex or implied sex in the book, which Don coolly dealt with and his reading of an extract from Beat the Band bought the house down.

At the end of the session, one of the Y9 students approached Don with some writing of his own, which he asked for some advice and so had a personal tutorial.

Plenty of books to go round at Broadoak school

On the way back into Bristol we went over the Clifton Suspension Bridge, which delighted me and rather perplexed Don - but I do like a good bridge! After a quick cat nap, off we went to explore the delights of Bristol - spotting a Banksy on the way down to the harbour (which again delighted me!). After wandering around, we ended up in an Indian restaurant (recommended by one of the sales team here at Templar) and then staggered back to the hotel, full and tired. Don's quite a foodie so we spent a lot of time discussing favourite chef's and cookery writers and what a hard time Jamie Oliver was having in America.

Up and off again on Wednesday morning - this time to the very smart and traditional QEH school for boys. Very grand buildings with portraits and statues placed around the reception. Librarian Annette Robbins marched us up seven (yes 7!) flights of stairs to the library. The boys were very polite and listened intently to Don's reading. Sadly we couldn't show the trailer as they didn't have a screen available. Again, some interesting questions - not only from the boys but also their English teacher. Coffee and lunch at QEH - we both chose broccoli and stilton quiche.

A lucky pupil gets his book signed at QEH School

Last stop on our Bristol leg of the tour was Nailsea School - newly re-built and amazing architecture with a wonderful atrium in the centre and fantastic auditorium. The audience here were handpicked year 9 and 10's - all were good at English and enjoyed their books and it really showed. They were terrific - and really picked up on the different characters and the dialogue Don uses. Thanks to Alex Jones for her support.

Swim the Fly is a hit with the girls at Nailsea school

Finally, a mad dash to Bristol Airport for Don to get his Easyjet flight up to Edinburgh. He was 2kg over on weight and it turned out to be the cookery books we had bought the night before... luckily there was room in his hand luggage - as I was feeling very guilty at having persuaded him to try Nigel Slater's recipes.

Now he's enjoying the delights of Edinburgh - my thanks to Don for entertaining company and I hope he's not missing his wife and dog Scooter too much.

If you want more, check out what Don thinks of his UK tour so far on his blog.

Blogger: Jayne

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