There's a city of tents, talks, pop-up restaurants, workshops for children, TV cameras, stilt-walkers and balloons everywhere. And although it's slap on my doorstep, I never get around to seeing as much of it as I mean to.
This year's excuse is that the boys went down with a horrible sick bug (because it's autumn *sigh*) which has now morphed into hacking coughs and snotty noses. Even stilt-walkers and balloon animals lose their appeal when you're green-faced and hacking.
However, we did manage to see Chris Riddell last Saturday AND Neil Gaiman this Saturday. Both of whom were likeable, inspiring and funny. Ten-year-old loved how delighted Chris Riddell seemed with the metallic purple sides his publishers had given his new book. He kept on caressing them and showing them off - he said they made his book look like a box of chocolates. Ten-year-old was further amused when Neil Gaiman showed off his new book and exclaimed over the shiny metallicness of its cover. He held it up to the spotlight and attempted to signal Morse code at the audience with it.
Seven-year-old's favourite story was of the time Chris Riddell had found himself on a long plane flight with a pen but no paper. He ended up drawing a small goblin upon the bald head of the passenger who was asleep next to him.
After Chris Riddell's talk, both boys got out their sketchpads (as per Chris Riddell's advice) and settled down to draw all day. The peace and quiet was blissful.
Ten-year-old's least favourite part of Neil Gaiman's talk was the way it prompted his mother to keep whispering remarks like...
"Oh my God - look - it's actually Neil Gaiman!"
"Oh my God - that's his real actual hair - look!"
"Oh my God - he's talking with his real actual voice - I can't believe it!"
|Ooh, look - it's real Neil Gaiman and actual Chris Riddell!|
After annoying my son throughout Neil Gaiman's talk, I persuaded him that we should go to the Waterstones tent to have our books signed by Neil Gaiman. He agreed - in spite of the knowledge that this would mean further whispered remarks about how Neil Gaiman was using his real actual fountain pen and so on.
Long before we got anywhere near the Waterstones tent, we came upon the end of Neil Gaiman's signing queue. It was three or four abreast and it wound through the Waterstones tent, round and round the tented city and beyond - into the dark night and the rain.
"Forget about it," said the ten-year-old sternly.
So we went home and read the books again.