From the page to the catwalk

Sometimes, you get to watch your inner world come to life.

I spent the weekend in Hamburg, where my publishers, Chicken House in Germany, had run a fashion competition for the launch of ‘Wie Zuckerwatte mit Silberfaden’ (Threads, to you and me). The winner was a lovely 14 year-old called Ann-Kathrin, and the prize was to watch her dress appear on a catwalk at the Hamburg graduate fashion show.

First, there was a reading at the (very cool) Chicken House HQ. I got to meet my fabulous –  and, as it turns out, also beautiful translator, Sophie. The girls from marketing, production and all over gamely agreed to model some of the other outfits and we had a mini show.*


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Next day, we all went to the Big Event, which was held in an uber-cool warehouse on the wrong side (literally) of the tracks in the side of Hamburg where Jason Bourne would hang out if he had to – which he should, because Hamburg docks are just crying out to be the stunning backdrop to a major thriller.

We watched an hour’s worth of incredible outfits, modelled by stunning-but-not-anorexic girls (big relief). Then Ann-Kathrin got to see her own outfit go up and down the catwalk. At the end, I was invited up too to receive a sculptural bouquet and as we all walked back to our seats they played extra-loud fashion show-type music.

Did I try just the tiniest catwalk shimmy during my two seconds of fashion fame?

Reader, I did.

* This is my first attempt at a slideshow. If you hover your cursor over it, it should show you how to see the other pictures. I hope.



Save our libraries

Oh dear. It’s over a week since the amazing afternoon at York Gardens Library and I’ve been so busy talking about books that I haven’t got round to sharing what happened. Bad local writer! Anyway, well over 100 of us got together to try and save a very important library, and here are some of the highlights.

York Gardens Library


The people who need it

The people who came to save it

Comedian Arthur Smith

Caroline Lawrence - of 'Roman Mysteries' fame

Duncan, the local brewer lends his support (and some hops)

Emmy the Great

Nadifa Mohammed and Alex

Clare Hey organises everyone

Threads is quite popular here - happy author face

Other reader/performers included Sam West, Polly Toynbee, Rebecca Elliot, Tim Ten Yen and the very entertaining Nikesh Shukla, who did his beatbox impression for us.

Lucy, a local mother, summed it  up for everyone. Of the 10 Wandsworth libraries, the reason this one has been proposed for closure is that it has the lowest rate of adult loans. Lucy, who lives on the local housing estate, said she was typical: she’s taken out 3 books in the last 2 years. This is because she’s been busy working and giving birth to her son. She’s taken out over 100 books in his name, meanwhile.

That’s the thing about York Gardens. It serves the most deprived community of any Wandsworth library: children who need (and use) the space for homework, because they don’t have it at home; the very elderly who need (and use) the facilities for meeting up and playing bridge together; mums and dads looking for work who need (and use) the internet facilities to try and find jobs. On practically every measure except adult loans, York Gardens scores more highly than any other library.

My library (Northcote – the one I blogged about recently and where I wrote Threads) is in a wealthy area and if we didn’t have it we’d be OK. We’re up to catching a bus to the next library along. Nine year-olds on the York Gardens estate who need to do their homework in the evenings aren’t.

But encouragingly, some of the local councillors who voted in favour of the proposal to close York Gardens were there to listen to over 100 of us imploring them not to. And encouragingly, they were treated well by the people who profoundly disagree with them. It’s called civilization. You get it from having things like libraries in deprived areas.

The next day, at a coffee morning in a very posh bit of Wandsworth, I was told by a local mummy that a man on a contract from the council had offered – practically begged – to clean her dustbins for her that day. His boss needed him to clean every bin on the road.

Why on earth? Maybe the good thing about the Save Our Libraries campaign, and others like it, is that it’s making us more aware of the decisions our elected councillors make in our name. Clean bins or save libraries? Next time we’ll vote more carefully, and protest more loudly.

Meanwhile, I met a lot of wonderful people at York Gardens. We shared tea and biscuits and a sense of solidarity. It wasn’t exactly Tahrir Square in Cairo, but it was about as close as you get in Wandsworth. Let’s hope we’re as successful.