Without Alice in London

As you know from my previous post, I had a hectic time of it on Monday getting ready to go to London for D.J. Kirkby’s launch for Without Alice. And yet…I was ready to go long before Kaff. Women, eh?

It was a lovely sunny day in Cardiff when we left on the megabus. (Just between you and me, I don’t think it’s that mega a bus. It looks pretty much like any other.) Still, it was a lovely comfy trip and because there weren’t that many people on it, I got a whole seat to myself! Luxury. Here’s a pic of me about to tuck into my lunch of honey-roasted peanuts and cashews and very tasty they were, too.

As the coach approached London, the sky turned a lovely shade of squirrel. I knew there’d be something special to mark my arrival, you know.

First stop was Whitehall, naturally. That’s how much of a V.I.S. I am. We met up with online pal ZeroHypeArt for the first time and then the three of us started the Great Tube Relay Game to make it to Wood Green in time for the launch. What is the Great Tube Relay Game, Squizzey, I hear you cry? We want to play that. Actually, no. No, you don’t. It’s only played on days like Monday when there’s a tube strike and it involves using whatever tubes are still running to get you to your destination. Super lots of fun, especially late at night when even though the strike finished hours earlier, there is not much running, so you miss your train home… and have to walk, get a bus and then a taxi in a hairy London Transport-athon until you get home at 2 a.m., collapse and fall asleep in your clothes.

The book launch itself was a fabulous success and lots of fun. I was adored by everyone there. Well, just look at how snazzy I was in my pinstripes and natty bow tie. How could you not think me completely gorgeous? Denyse (D.J. Kirkby) obviously did because she bought me a huge bag of nuts!

I met lots of online pals, like the very lovely and glamorous writers Rebecca Emin and Talli Roland aka Marsha Moore (think she must be a Spook with all her different identities), Tamsyn Murray and Claire Marriott.

Being a V.I.S. means you’re always on duty and even on this special night I had to work. Kaff did a reading from Without Alice and I rendered my services to give a fine dramatic interpretation, which Denyse now says she will always think about when she reads that same passage. I can understand that. Once you’ve seen me in action, it’s hard to remember how it was done before.

All in all, it was an excellent night out in London and I had a brilliant time. And finally… if you haven’t already bought the book, BUY WITHOUT ALICE NOW!

What to wear? What to wear?

Oh dear! As you can see, I’m in a bit of a flap trying on outfits and I simply can’t decide what to wear.

You see, I’m going to London later today.

Yes! The BIG CITY.

While I may roam around the house here in Wales in my shorts and t-shirts, I think I ought to put in a little more effort for today’s trip. After all, I will be a V.I.S. (Very Important Squirrel) guest at the book launch for Without Alice written by my very dear and lovely friend, D.J. Kirkby. It’s going to be a top evening, so if you’re near the Big Green Bookshop in Wood Green between 7pm and 9pm this evening, pop in and say Hi! and buy a book or two. I’m sure the lovely D.J. will sign them for you, too.

I can’t decide whether or not to go beatnik squirrel or top hat and tails or grunge or…

I guess you’ll just have to wait and see what I finally decide upon. Come back soon and I’ll tell you all about my night out in London!

Bright Prospects

This is one of the stops we made on the way up from Helmsdale to Strath Halladale: it’s a picture of me at Baile-An-Or, the site of the Sutherland gold rush. Kaff’s grandfather took part in it. No, he didn’t find any gold – like Kaff’s family has ever had any luck with finding their fortune! – but it is a beautiful part of the Strath. Whenever we reach Baile-An-Or, we stop and have a breather, knowing that we’re very close to reaching the croft where we usually stay.

It’s also by this point that we lost any decent Internet signal so mine and Kaff’s hopes of blogging and tweeting our vacation were abandoned. The poor thing tried to get a signal and drove up and down the Strath, stopping in almost every passing place to try and see if she could get 3G, but it was never strong enough for mobile Internet. She managed to get some time online at the local library in Thurso to deal with some emails. Ho hum. In the end, she was forced to do what everyone should do on holiday, and RELAX. It was kind of funny watching her struggle to switch off and enjoy that she couldn’t get online and nobody could reach her. She has become Geek-Girl in an alarming short space of time, bless.

I’m thinking that being able to take a real holiday and disconnect from the Internet and mobile phones might just be the GOLD DUST of our time.

A Wee Dram

Hello there! McSquizzey here…

Yes, I am at long last on my summer holidays and whizzing ever northwards. After a fab-ly fun stopover with my lovely mates in Kendal, I have made it into Scotland. Currently in Fort Augustus on a stop-over, we visited Dalwhinnie Distillery yesterday to pick up some of their special brew for Geek-Boy who’s been left at home. He’s fine. He has computers to play with and a kitchen floor to put down. 🙂

I persuaded Kaff to get me a bottle of Dalwhinnie whisky and I look forward to having a wee dram this evening when I put my paws up.

In the meantime, here’s a pic of me with my bottle among some of the casks at Dalwhinnie. Like the outfit? It’s so Moi, n’est pas? It was a pressie from our mates in Kendal. That’s how cool they are.

More posts to follow, lovely friends, so you can follow me on my Scottish adventure.

Way-Hay!

I have Hay Fever after my first ever weekend camping in the famous Book Town. Okay, okay, so technically the campsite was just outside it and over the border in England, but still. I was there!

Although I’ve been to the Guardian Hay Festival many times in the past, I’ve always gone up there for the day and come home again, Kaff being too much of a skinflint to shell out for some deluxe squirrel-friendly accommodation. I don’t know what happened to her this year but somehow Joycey persuaded Kaff to camp over the first weekend and she booked a Yurt for the three of us. It was smashing. We had enough room inside for two single air beds, a table, two chairs and plenty of space for my travel hammock.*

Hay was fab. Plenty of squirrel-friendly treats, like macadamia nuts, pistachio ice cream and amaretto and cherry fudge during the day and coconut curry in the evening. I wore my trendy festival gear and made lots of new friends. I think it’s fair to say that I was quite the hit. No doubt everyone I met will be back the next time I appear at Hay to promote my very own decalogy, The Adventures of Squizzey. I should think next year for Volume 1. The wench must surely have finished it by then?

*A travel hammock is slightly less salubrious than my usual hammock, with no paint job but still with palm trees (I do have my standards, after all!) but it stands up to the rigours of being on the road much better than the posh Floridian hammock does, and I would hate for that to get damaged.

(Many thanks to Kaff’s mate (@ViolaMaths) for the pic.)

April blossoms

I scampered up to my former stamping ground of London yesterday and fell a little back in love with it again.

In the 10 years in which I’ve been away from London and in my new home of Wales, I haven’t really missed the hustle and bustle and smell and grime and rudeness of the big city. I love my new home and the big back garden, which would almost classify as a park if it were in London, but more often than not looks like a meadow (too much rain to cut the grass, is the standard excuse around these parts).

However, yesterday Kaff and I stumbled around London – we weren’t drunk, this is her term for just wandering aimlessly around – and sat and had lunch in Green Park with one of her friends. That was quite good fun. How I laughed at the people on their lunchtime workouts – there was one particularly sad group of three, who’d hired a personal trainer between them. He was not worth the money and it didn’t look as if any of them broke a sweat, not even the lardiest of them.

Once we’d dropped Kaff’s mate off back at her office, we walked on past the Canadian High Commission and into Grosvenor Square where we found this lovely park filled with blossom. I snuck out of Kaff’s bag and had a little scamper around while she sat and people-watched for a while.

South Chocolate Bank

When my mate Kaff got me up at stupid o’clock yesterday morning, I did wonder if the time had perhaps come to end our albeit immensely rewarding relationship. Not only did she get me up very, very early in the morning when most self-respecting squirrels – and even some of us reprobates – are heading to our hammocks, but she also told me we were going to London for the day. Yes, yes, I know. Wildly exciting and the place-to-be and all that congestion-charging traffic to dodge but really folks… I’ve lived there, I’ve done London like an American tourist could only dream of doing it, I’m an old squirrel and, quite frankly, not only do I have the t-shirt but I have the jumper as well (see picture if you don’t believe me).

Still, days out with Kaff are almost always fun and they usually involve road snacks, which are not the same as road kill, in case that’s what you were thinking. One of Kaff’s better (only?) qualities is that she is happily very squirrel-friendly. No, road snacks means chocolate or nuts, and sometimes both combined in a deliciously-wrapped but easy to open package.

The beginning of the trip started off at Victoria train station. I know what you’re thinking, less than auspicious. My thoughts, too, until we bumped into Kaff’s very lovely Swedish friend, Catti and her colleague. Apparently, that’s why we were there. Kaff and Catti (which is Swedish for Kaff – I don’t know why she picks friends with the same name as herself but she will insist on doing so and it is confusing, trust me) hadn’t seen each other for 7 years. Can’t really be that great friends then, if you ask me, but Kaff insists it might have something to do with the fact that they live in different countries and she isn’t a fabulously successful writer who can afford to jet around seeing her bessie mates yet. I told her, she shouldn’t be gallivanting about in London but perhaps ought to stay home and finish my decalogy of books. That’s when she zipped up the bag I was traveling in and wouldn’t talk to me for a while. Some people just don’t like hearing the truth.

So, she did let me out at lunchtime and we had a very pleasant, enjoyable time with Catti and colleague in benugo at the BFI on the South Bank but it was sadly over all too soon and we saw them off into a taxi so they could catch their flight home. But, en route to finding a taxi, Kaff and I stumbled across something rather wonderful – a Chocolate Festival! Yes, stall after stall of chocolate (and a goodly proportion of nutty) goodies. It was just the thing to wander around until it was time for us to wend our way homeward. We met up with a Twitter friend, the lovely @marmadale from Rococo Chocolates. This was brilliant because we’d only recently been unable to make it down to London for a chocolate tasting at Rococo when it fell on a school night. We made up for this by stocking up on some goodies and both Kaff and I love their Scorched Almonds and Scorched Hazelnuts – absolutely delish. (I have to say that neither of us were that sold on the Earl Grey chocolate though. Kaff drinks EG tea but doesn’t think the mix with chocolate was great.) We also made new friends and discovered some amaretto chocolates, which were sadly a bit bleh due to the low cocoa content choc used. I was so disappointed with those – amaretto is, after all, my favourite tipple. However, we also found some lovely nutty chocolate from the fine folks at Artisan du Chocolat – they gave us a selection which were super-yummy.

As you can see from the picture, Kaff made sure that I brought home a fair stash of goodies for me and the crew and they all went down very well, and very quickly. I wonder where my next nuts are coming from…

All roads lead to Chocolate

Today has got to have been one of my favourite days of the year because I spent it with some of my all-time favourite people in the totally chocolate-covered land that is Cadbury World. Yum diddley scrumptiousness all day long!

The day started early which is not how I like them to go but Kaff let me sleep in the car because she had her paws full looking after her youngest niece, Tegan, who was coming with us. Tegan is fab – a lot of fun and very smart and super-friendly and she loves me so hey, what’s not to like about the kid? It was a very long car journey or so it seemed to both me and Tegan. We did stop on the way for a comfort break and to stretch our paws but eventually we pulled up outside the purple paradise that is Cadbury World in Bournville, just outside Birmingham. There we met up with Joyce from the Lake District and some of her friends and went on the Cadbury tour. It was absolutely brilliant and being so near to Christmas there were lots of fun extra things to see and do as well. My highlights include: getting my piccie taken with Santa (nice sleigh and reindeer, mate!), going for a ride on the Bean Car through Beanland and getting my pic taken again (I am very photogenic), having some elves play Christmas carols on handbells to us, and sampling some of Cadbury’s product range. Yes, you go on the tour and they give you FREE chocolate. We stocked up in the shop before coming home so I have a replenished nut stash which is always good. What a fun day out and it’s put me right in the Christmas spirit. Perfect timing!