Home is the Sailor

I’m just back from a great trip overseas, touring in the UK for Body Work.  I did a few posts on Facebook along the way but I’ll try to share a few highpoints here.

Dogs.  Knowing how much I missed my Golden, Kerry Hood from Hodder brought Maddy into central London one morning so that I could have some dog time in Hyde Park.Maddy

Also in Hyde Park is a large human-made pond, the Serpentine, filled with all manner of water birds.  People come down to feed the birds, and dogs frolic nearby in the shrubs and lawns round-about.

Swans on the Serpentine, Hyde Park

Maddy circled the pond without a lead.  She eyed the bread put out for the ducks but on Kerry’s command abandoned it, and never once tried to jump into the Serpentine.  I realized that if Callie and I lived in London, we would spend all our time in Magistrate’s Courts, paying fines for jumping in among the birds.

Other dogs: a working dog in Glasgow that stood up and took applause any time Denise Mina or I roused a laugh.  An old man walking along the river in Carlisle, with his dog frolicking around him.  I followed as long as I could, thinking the scene looked straight out of the opening of Mill on the Floss. A lost dog in Toulouse, trembling with fear because it couldn’t see its mistress.  I handed her over to the park maintenance crew, who found her address screwed into a cylinder around her neck and promised to take her home.

Events Natasha Cooper helped me launch Body Work at Waterstones Piccadilly and Denise Mina did the same favor at the Mitchell Library in Glasgow.  Both women were as interesting and generous in person as they are in print and the audiences responded warmly to the warmth they could feel on the stage.

Reading Room at the Mitchell Library, Glasgow

Two sisters in their eighties attended the Glasgow event.  During the Q & A, one commented that the acknowledgements in my books are so long she couldn’t understand why mine is the only name on the jacket cover.  However, she stood in line, very erect despite a cane, and bought a book for her baby sister’s 80th birthday.

Bookwitch came to the Mitchell event, and took some lovely photos; thanks to her I can let you see Denise and me in all our glory.

Bookwitch's photo of Denise Mina and Sara Paretsky at the Mitchell Library

From there we went to Peebles for the Borders book festival, where Alistair Moffat did a Q & A.  On his first trip to Chicago, Mr. Moffat was put into Cook County Jail overnight until his wife posted $500 cash for a fender-bender.  Myself, I think they were shaken down–I never heard of anyone being locked up in County for a fender-bender.  Even so, he generously likes Chicago.  And was the most thoughtful interviewer I’ve encountered since the late great Studs.

We finished in the south at the Sandhurst library, where a great audience included a 14-year-old Emily Miles, who kindly helped me out of my windbreaker when the zipper stuck, and found my passport and wallet on the library office floor.  I was a tired and lucky writer to have her on board.

Reading on the Road Nancy Pickard’s Scent of Rain and Lightning. Nancy writes elegiacally about the landscape of the Great Plains as she tells a gripping story.  Emma Donoghue’s The Room; disturbing, hard to drain the troubling images out of the brain.  Edith Pearlman‘s Binocular Vision.  These are short stories, exquisite, haunting, satisfying. I started the Tiger’s Wife (not to be confused with the Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother) and the Uses and Abuses of Literature.  As we grapple with a nation where a quarter of adults can’t read and most people don’t read books, this is a thoughtful look at what literature does and doesn’t do in our lives.

The weather couldn’t have been more glorious for the whole trip.  Flowers bloomed, grass was green, trees were in leaf.  It was a terrible shock to return to Chicago, where it’s all still brown and cold.  In fact, when we landed and the pilot announced that the local temperature was 26 F I wanted to curl up in my seat while the cleaners prepped the plane and return to London.  But I climbed off, and now, after going through a 2 1/2 week pile up of mail, dust and laundry, will return obediently to work.

  • Sara – glad to hear you made it home safely and that the trip was so full of greenery and warmth!

    Speaking of warmth, I just registered to attend a conference in your neighbourhood in July….. am I going to regret it, temperature-wise? (Of course, if I can’t scrape together the exorbitant airfare, I’ll be staying home and enjoying our mild summer temperatures….)
    Also hoping against hope that you’ll have an event scheduled in Chicago at the same time! Unless you want to volunteer to give me a guided tour of all of VI’s hangouts…. I thought not. Sigh.

  • bookwitch

    Thanks for coming over, Sara. Great to see you.
    Bag Lady, I see no reason why you can’t hang out with Sara little… Air fare? Nothing wrong with your bike, is there?

  • Bookwitch – it’s only 2740 kms (1680 miles) from here to Chicago…..once I learn to ride a bike, if I start now, I could be there by July, couldn’t I??

  • Penny

    So glad our spring flowers came out for you in UK while you were here, Sara! Even with the temperature challenge, I bet you’re glad to be home again.

  • Idzan Ismail

    Great posting Sara. Made me feel like I was there too.
    As Malaysia was a former British colony, England holds a special place in our hearts. Most Malaysians made it a point to visit the UK at least once in their lifetime. If you walk along Oxford Street, you are bound to meet Malaysians there.
    We are all agog with the royal wedding, Glad that our King and Queen are invited too. Will be glued to the TV set on April 29 to watch it.
    Bookwitch, would love to see your photo with Sara. Please upload it for us to see. Thanks

  • Dear Bag Lady I’ll keep you posted on any events–the paperback of body work comes out in July, so the publisher may schedule something. Idzan, how nice to hear from you again! I’ll hope to catch some footage of your own Queen and King.

  • Idzan Ismail

    Never missed reading your blog. I hope your publisher will arrange for you an official visit to Malaysia. Martha Stewart was guest of our governmen some months agot. She was granted an audience with our Queen.
    She got a royal present of songket (woven gold-threaded and embroidered) shawl worth thousands..
    Songket is mostly worn by royalty. For commoners, its only for royal functions and investiture ceremones). I guess our King and Queen will wear the full regalia when they attend the royal wedding.

  • Idzan Ismail

    Sorry for the typo in words such as Government, months ago and ceremonies.

  •  Just looking for a blog post that would justify my leaving a comment on Body Work. Sorry if this is a bit off topic from your book trip. Just finished the story and, as usual, loved being reacquainted with V I.  Talk about convoluted loose ends all coming together… well of course they would… but seeing how they came together was loads of fun. Thanks so much for all the work required to give me a few days of real enjoyment.

  • Thanks, Richard–I’m glad you liked it and thanks for being so gentle with my tendency to ramble –I must have been a Ptolemaic astronomer in a previous life


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