Bit of a steamy start to the day. No, not in that way. I checked out of my London hotel, & on my way to the tube had a tangle with one of these…
…and then, by sheer strength of will & physical recklessness, got myself and my luggage onto a tube train that was as packed as this…
Playing sardines in a moving tin can with hundreds of other people is a warm business. It dried my trouser-cuffs out nicely & even made a start on my socks.
By the time I made it to Waterloo & the (thankfully emptier) Hampton Court train, I was much less soggy, though the weather hadn’t improved…
Little did I know that the day would involve a great deal more water before it was over.
At Hampton Court station I met up with fab Templar Commissiong Editor and all-round book genius Helen Boyle, & together we splashed our way to the palace.
Here I am – with luggage – at the beautifully gilded gateway to the Clore Learning Centre there:
In the Centre’s foyer, I encountered this wicker Henry VIII by artist Janet Lightfoot:
And this gorgeous dragon, though sadly I don’t know who made it:
The organiser of my event was Kingston Library’s Vanessa Howe – a librarian with huge commitment to her local community & its schools, who is an awe-inspiring example of just how much difference librarians make. I felt very lucky to have the opportunity to take part in her event. Vanessa had invited students from 2 local schools – Tiffin Boys’ & Tolworth Girls’ – to come & hear me speak about VIII. They were not, however, the only people in the room…
The day was facilitated by Gillian of the Clore Centre staff (thank you, Gillian!). It was a lovely event at a dream venue. A prize was offered for the best question at the end of my talk and the students rose impressively to the challenge!
Then, after lunch, and despite the relentless rain, we all met up at the front of the palace to have a look round inside.
By the time the students had splashed round the maze, this was one very wet author:
Luckily, help was at hand. My dear friend, the writer & script-editor Merle Nygate (see her website here) picked me up and whisked me off to a fantastic tea shop a stone’s throw from the palace, for a long overdue catch-up and (in my case, anyway) the hugest piece of coconut and lime cake I’ve ever seen.
Then it was back by train to London and on up to Ipswich, where I’ve arrived ready for tomorrow’s 3 events (eek!). Ipswich was the birthplace of Cardinal Wolsey, Henry VIII’s long-term right-hand man, and the first great expander of Hampton Court (it had had previous owners, but Wolsey was the man who commissioned a great deal of the palace we know). Funnily enough, earlier at the Clore Centre I had spotted a wonderful old poster featuring the very man: