Wednesday, 16 July 2014

Photos of an amazing day

Yesterday was an amazing day. We had two book launch events for The Children's Book of Richard III and each one was the kind of exciting event that gives you an inner buzz.

This blog post is going to be totally self-indulgent with photographs of both events, in case anyone is interested in looking at them.

The morning event was a media launch held in Leicester's Guildhall, an appropriate venue because the hall predates Richard III. This is a picture of Alice Povey and myself (Alice is on the right) posing for the Leicester Mercury photographers. I've started with this photo to show you what an amazing room we were in. Just look at that wonderful fireplace!

A clearer photograph of Alice and myself.

We were delighted that Richard Buckley, Head of Archaeology at Leicester University, was able to join us. This photo shows him talking to us about the book.

We were interviewed by Bridget Blair from BBC Radio Leicester and that interview can be heard on the Radio Leicester website here

In the evening we had a private launch party at The Reading Shop. The crowds were overwhelming. This photo was taken by Dave Goodman from Soar Valley Press, the lovely people who printed the book for us.

We were delighted that Tori King, Leicester University Geneticist, the lady who announced the DNA results on Richard's skeleton, was able to join us in the evening. A number of guests asked if she would also sign the book and this photo shows her joining our 'signing table'. She's sitting to my right in the middle of the photograph.

I shall end this picture show with a photo of some of our writing group members. From the left there's Alex Gutteridge, me, Josephine Feeney and Bridget Blair. They have been so supportive and they piled me high with flowers and chocolates last night making me feel like a real star!

If you'd like to buy the book it's for sale at The Reading Shop, Oadby, Leicester or online at The Reading Shop.

Thursday, 10 July 2014

Nurse Mum

I’m relieved to report that Daughter is progressing as well as can be expected, considering the major surgery that she had. The specialist Endometriosis Unit at London’s UCH is, as I said in an earlier post, excellent. 

But to more mundane matters… how I coped as Nurse Mum for two whole weeks!

For the first two nights after the operation I stayed at the Premier Inn, within walking distance of the hospital. On the third night I made my way to Daughter’s house to prepare for her homecoming. It was a long, bag-laden walk to the station and an even longer walk along the platform looking for the second-class carriages. It took me five carriages to realize that the word ‘First’ referred to First Direct and not First Class.

My biggest test as Nurse Mum came when they discharged Daughter with a catheter fitted to ‘rest the traumatised bladder’. On her first day home she couldn’t even bend to reach the drainage tap, never mind tackle the night bag! Have you any idea how heavy a bag of wee can be? The post-hysterectomy inability to lift meant that the night bag was a ball and chain around her leg. I won’t go into the fear and panic when, on Sunday morning, the bag became blocked, I will merely thank the efficiency of the district nurse who arrived in time to save us a rush to A&E.

While I was staying at Daughter’s I was ‘sleeping’ on a blow-up bed in her living room. Strange how you can sleep anywhere when you’re exhausted! On the eighth night of blow-up-bed-habitation, Daughter’s cat brought me a present… a shrew… a live shrew. She placed it lovingly beside my head, which was mere inches from the floor. Needless to say my head didn’t stay there for long! I rescued the poor little shrew, set it free in the garden and spent the rest of the night on the settee. For my last two nights as Nurse Mum I checked into a nearby hotel. That, as it turned out, was a good plan because it gave Daughter a chance to see if she was ready to manage on her own.

I’m now back home and catching up on a little paper work and a lot of sleep. I hope to resume normal service as soon as possible, especially as I have a major book launch to attend next week for my Children’s Book of Richard III. Apparently I have to make a speech. I dare say I’ll blog about it and I’m quite sure there will be photos to post up so you can kind of join in too.

Thank you to everyone who sent get well wishes to my daughter. We both really appreciate all the messages.

Thursday, 3 July 2014

*New Release* The Children's Book of Richard III

I'm proud to announce that

The Children's Book of Richard III 

is now published and available for you to buy. 

Here's my copy...

When I started writing this book the plan was to explain the last years of the Wars of the Roses in easy terms. As I progressed through the story of his life I became more involved with Richard, his life, the way that his name was treated after his death and the excitement of the archaeological dig.  Consequently this book has become much more than my original plans for it. To give you a taster of what's in the book here is a photo of the Contents Page and aren't Alice Povey's illustrations amazing!

The most exciting bits to write were... well, all of it really, but I did enjoy writing the interview with the Witch of Daneshill. She was said to see Richard riding out to the Battle of Bosworth. His foot hit the side of Bow Bridge and she predicted that the next time he crossed that bridge it would be his head that knocked against the side... and she was right! I also loved writing about the science and archaeology aspects of the search for his body.

(Update posted on Friday 4th July: Apologies if PayPal tried to add £10 shipping on top of the p&p. This has now been resolved. We will be including payment by credit and debit card very soon. )

If you'd like to buy a copy, you can get one at The Reading Shop either online or phone through your order on 0116 2717077 and it will be posted to you. Alternatively you can pop into the shop on The Parade, Oadby, Leicester.

Note for teachers:
 I will be visiting schools next term to talk about Richard III and the book, which covers a range of Key Stage 2 areas in addition to history. If you are interested in booking a school visit then please email me on

Daughter update: Thanks to all those of you who have sent your kind messages to my Daughter. She is starting the slow post-op recovery and, yes, I'll still be Nurse Mum for at least another week.

Sunday, 29 June 2014

Next Week

Last week my daughter had major surgery. She was operated on in a specialist unit at the University College Hospital in London. There were four surgeons operating on her. It was a long process and the surgeons told us afterwards that it had been a particularly complicated procedure. Thankfully the operation was a success and I have nothing but praise for all the staff at the UCH.

I recently blogged about endometriosis. It's a very painful condition that sticks the bowel, uterus, bladder and other organs together. The only way to cure it is to have it removed surgically. That's why my daughter's operation was so complicated. She's got a lot of healing to do now so I have become Nurse Mum and I'm staying with her until she gets a bit stronger.

It would never have been a 'good time' for this to happen and this is not a good time. I should be jumping up and down about The Children's Book of Richard III but that's going to have to wait until next week...

Next week I'll post up the link for people to order a copy.

Next week I'll post up photographs of piles of books. I haven't yet seen a copy but my publisher tells me that they have arrived from the printers and that they are amazing.

Next week, hopefully, things will be a little easier for my daughter. Only then will I be able to jump up and down and I shall do it with gusto and I shall make all sorts of Richard III-type noises!

But this week I have a different job to do.

Friday, 20 June 2014

You don't know what you don't know...

You don’t know what you don’t know until someone tells you and then you realise that for all those years you never knew that you didn't know. Let me explain...

The title proper of my Cemetery Project is Lives Behind the Stones. This was the original interest, before we started filling in the Heritage Lottery Fund application. As we wrote down our plans we realized that we needed first to catalogue the entire cemetery, set up a database with basic information about all the graves etc. We have just about done those things and so we’ve moved on to the most interesting part; finding out about the lives behind the stones.

Some of the deceased have family still living in the community and so, rather than researching files, folders and internet sites, I’ve been visiting, chatting and gathering their stories together. That was when I realized that I didn’t know what I didn’t know… but now I do and, yes, I am going to share.

Before the war there was a street in Leicester called Wharf Street. It was a busy shopping street full of character. One of the shops belonged to a man called Sam Jacobs, the grandfather of a friend who is also a member of my project team, so I went to speak to my friend's father to find out more about Sam Jacobs.

Sam Jacobs had a shop selling ladies fashion wear. We talked a bit about the shop and about Wharf Street and then my friend’s father became animated as he remembered that his father would get the clothes altered for the customers by two sisters who lived in London. These sisters also made dresses for his mother for special occasions. They must have been very good dressmakers, I thought. My friend’s father continued,

“I was the one who was sent down to London. I was only a lad. I had to take the dresses that needed altering and bring back all the work they’d done. Then when war broke out,” he said, “They came to Leicester to escape the bombs. They stayed here after the war was over and carried on working for my father. They were two sisters, little ladies, foreign, spoke Yiddish. Their names were…”

And then I stopped him because I knew what their names were and I was right. They were good. They were my Grandma and my Great Aunt. I talked about them here a few years ago, about their private dressmaking workshop and the way I used to ‘help’ by picking up pins but I never knew that they were doing business with someone from Leicester long before war broke out. I never knew why my family chose Leicester when they evacuated from London but now I do. They had business contacts here. It’s amazing what you find out when you’re least expecting it.

On the left is a photograph of my Grandma Bessie and on the right is a photograph of my Great Auntie Alice. These were the two sisters who worked for Sam Jacobs all those many many years ago.

Thursday, 12 June 2014

Richard III and Fancy Headstones

A blog post of two halves:

Richard III

The other day I went along with Lynn, my publisher, to the printers, Soar Valley Press to do a final, final check of The Children’s Book of Richard III. I found myself discussing gutter marks and bleed lines. I’m learning so much! Here is a preparatory version of the complete outside cover; back, spine and front.

Everything was good with the proofs so now the printers are printing and binding while I sit back and sip tea… I wish! We have two launches to arrange; a media launch and a private launch. We have promotion to do; schools, retail outlets, anyone who will listen and I’m proposing to do school visits next term.

The school visits are going to be fascinating. The contents of the book are relevant to a number of areas of the curriculum, not only history, and we hope that this element proves to be an additional selling point. It’ll be strange standing up in front of children again, a bit like being a grandma. I can have lots of fun, drawing on skills that I honed when I was younger, and then I can hand them back at the end of the session.

Fancy Headstones

For those of you who are getting fed up of me rabbiting on about Richard III, I thought I’d tell you a bit more about the cemetery project. This week I’ve been working on an article about headstone embellishments. It was researched and written up by one of my team and I’m sorting out photos to illustrate it and preparing it for uploading onto the project website.

In modern Jewish cemeteries it’s customary to have plain headstones, usually with just a Star of David embellishment on them but in the early 1900s the designs in our cemetery were quite elaborate and very similar to the headstones in the non-Jewish part of the cemetery. A recurring theme among the earlier headstones is ivy adornments, ivy being a symbol of immortality. One of the most fascinating headstones has a cut down tree, representing a life cut short and probably a reference to the ‘tree of life’ mentioned in Genesis.

I seem to be learning something new every day at the moment. Steep learning curves are exciting but just a little tiring. Maybe I will sit back and sip tea after all.

Have you experienced any kind of learning curve recently?

Tuesday, 3 June 2014

Exclusive Front Cover Reveal

These last few weeks have been a frenetic time of checking and rechecking final proofs for my Children’s Book of Richard III. I am relieved to say that, at just gone midnight last night the book finally went off to our local printing firm, Soar Valley Press. I’ve used them before and so I know that they are four friendly, accommodating, award-winning printers. They hope to get the books to us in three weeks’ time.

Here is an exclusive peep at the front cover:

I'm so pleased with Alice's illustrations and design work. She has turned my book into something very special. You can see more of her work on her website, Alice Povey Illustrations.

So far, Independent Publishing has not been as scary as I had expected. I mentioned in an earlier post about the disparity of heading styles. I've certainly learnt a lesson from that, but this last week has been full of insecurities over spellings, word usages, spacing on the pages; all those small things that can make such a big difference. For example, on one page I’d put battle field as two words even though I know that it’s one word. On another page I’d repeated a word three times in one sentence. It was easily corrected but what amazes me is that five people have proof read this and I’ve proof read it many, many times. I suppose there will still be the odd mistake hiding amongst all those words but if you buy a copy and find one of them, I don’t think I want to know about it… ok, ok, you can tell me but please be gentle!

If you want to order an advanced copy please contact Lynn Moore at The Reading Shop. Lynn Moore is not only my publisher; she is also the owner of one of the few Independent Children’s Bookshops left in the UK. 

Quite soon there will be launch parties to arrange and school visits to plan but before all that happens I have to get back to working on my Cemetery Research Project. I’ve fallen seriously behind schedule… but it’s been worth it.

For those who didn't catch the announcement, the High Court Judges have ruled that Richard III will be reinterred in Leicester Cathedral in Spring 2015.