Midnight Walk 2012

Oh the humanity! I spent an entire Sunday shuffling around the house in a delicate disposition, bleary eyed and tired then being forced to bed early by the husband. In my younger days I could have put this down to excessive partying the night before, this time however it could only be blamed on a little midnight stroll. OK maybe it wasn’t so little, maybe it was about 5 miles and maybe as a result I didn’t get home until 2am.

It was all in a very good cause though, all to raise money for St Elizabeth Hospice an independent charity that provides free palliative care for people with active, progressive and advanced illnesses. They’ve played a key part in my life with the support they provided for my mum as she had an abject fear of ending up in a hospice for her final days so they helped make life as comfortable as they could for her in her own home. They also helped my husbands grandmother and it seems most people I speak to have had one family member or another helped by the Hospice. Never has this been more apparent than when you witness not only the sea of Midnight Walkers but also the dedications and words of remembrance worn on their personalised T-shirts.

What are these Midnight Walkers? Well in a nutshell they’re sponsored walkers. Every year St Elizabeth Hospice organises a special circular walk around Ipswich town. The walk starts around 11-11:30pm so by midnight all walkers are on their way. There are two routes to choose from, one is 5 miles and one is 8 miles, they both start and finish at Ipswich Town Football club in Portman road, and the 8 mile route rather poignantly passes by the St Elizabeth Hospice where they have a ‘tree of remembrance’ which walkers are invited to hang little messages for their loved ones on.

I, being new to the event and a complete wuss that didn’t want to still be wandering around Ipswich Town in the early hours of the morning, opted for the 5 mile walk. So at around 9:30pm I donned my t-shirt and bar code (so I could be scanned in and out) and headed off to Portman Road.

The sight on arrival was amazing, I have never seen so much pink, glitter and flashy lighty up stuff in my life and that was just at the entrance. I made my way past the lines of oddly dressed women waiting to have their picture taken or buy fairy wings and out onto a field which was literally alive with tutus and wigs. Fortunately for me the couple of co-walkers I was supposed to be meeting were a little late so I was at liberty to stand at the sidelines and take in this truly spectacular sight. The amount of time and effort that had obviously gone into some costumes was fantastic, and nearly everyone I saw had a heartfelt message for a loved one written on their t-shirt, some simply had a single name,  saying so much in just a single word. I also saw so many people I knew and recognised, I was even amazed and ever so amused to see a few of my husbands aunts there, the amusement came from one of them wearing a rather large multi-coloured wig!

As 10:30 came around the crowd headed towards a stage at the top of the field in order to do our ‘warm-up’ which was ZUMBA!! This seemed to be enjoyed by most, with at least a teeny bit of effort being put in by all. Unfortunately, due to a medical condition I’ve got at the moment I wasn’t able to do much jiggling about. Well I say I wasn’t able to, I was able to and quite promptly did so . . it just led to me making a quick dash to the ladies loos and having to just delicately bop to the music for the rest of the warm-up.

Then we were OFF!!

All in all it took me 1 hour and 40 minutes to do my little five-mile walk, and even though, less than a mile in, I had to say goodbye to my compadres as they trundled off on the 8 mile route leaving me to do the rest of the walk on my own, I wasn’t really alone. There were Midnight Walkers everywhere, and I ended up walking with a whole range of people,  from a group of travel agents discussing difficult customers, to members of a WI exchanging gardening tips. Also scattered along the route, at every road crossing and mile mark, were stewards (volunteers who had given up their time to stand around on a rather brisk May evening offering words of encouragement to an endless stream of crazy ladies) There was also, I’m delighted to say, a tea and biscuit stand halfway along the route for that extra little oomph we all needed. We were all rather well catered for and looked after and I must say I have never felt so safe walking the streets of Ipswich.

When I was done I was proud of myself, I had finished in good time with an amazing sense of self achievement, a medal, and a bacon roll!

. . and I’ll definitely be doing this again next year!

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Far From Home

For the last few months I’ve been rather reluctant to organise any evening events in Waterstones, this stems from a rather awful evening we planned late last year. Things were set to go well, the book had all the trademarks that a top selling local book has, the author had a double page spread in the local newspaper the weekend beforehand, he’d even been on the radio the morning of the event and of course we’d been promoting the event ourselves in store and online, so we were expecting a fairly good turn out. Well, I have never been more wrong! Absolutely nobody turned up to the event, not a single person. I felt really bad for the author, but luckily he hadn’t travelled far so it hadn’t taken too much out of his day, and as you can imagine I was left with an abject fear of something like that happening again so I did my best to avoid organising any more evening talks.

However, when two local authors got in touch with me within the same week and expressed an interest in putting on an evening talk for their book, part of me thought ‘well maybe at least one of them is going to garner some interest’.  So, after establishing that both authors lived quite locally, just in case the worst happened, I said yes and coincidentally enough the dates the authors were free were right next to each other, so that raised my hopes a little more.

Then we moved on to the next bit, advertising and promoting the events and waiting . . hoping that at least a few people would call up for tickets so we could get some bums on seats. Well two weeks drifted by and not a peep, I was already mentally drafting the email I would have to send to each author to let them know that there had been no interest when the first phone call came in “Hello, I’d like two tickets for the Joy Bounds event on the 2nd” Somebody actually was going to come to the event! I practically hugged the phone, that’s how happy I was that at least there would be someone there on one of the evenings. Then the phonecalls started coming thick and fast and by the time it came to the evening of the event we had at least fifty ticket requests.

So that event was last night, local author Joy Bounds with her book ‘Far From Home’ – A fictional account of the life of Joan of Arc as told from her mothers perspective.

The evening was a huge success, not only did we have about 50 ticket requests, but they all turned up too, and at least 80% of them also bought her book (which, by the way, Joy was donating £1 from the sale of each book to St. Elizabeth Hospice, as she is participating in The Midnight Walk on 19th May) Everybody really seemed to enjoy themselves, and were still chatting and enjoying the drinks and nibbles laid on by us lovely people at Waterstones till nearly an hour after Joy had finished her talk.

I was so happy to see the evening turn into such a success not just for us but for Joy aswell, it’s great to  support local talent.

Tonights event is with Ann Chadwick and her book ‘Suzie: The little girl who changed our lives’ Which is her true story about when her family took in a 5 year old Jewish girl during the war. brought over here of the Kindertransport and not speaking a word of English.

Unfortunately, there haven’t been as many requests for Anns event as there were for Joys, but Ann has informed me that she has handed out at least 42 tickets herself, so hopefully it will be as much of a success as last nights.

Accidental Success

Well last night (Monday 23rd April) was World Book Night and Shakespeare’s birthday. So we had some big celebrations planned.

If you don’t know what World Book Night is www.worldbooknight.org it’s essentially a celebration of reading. If I’m getting my figures right 40,000 people around the country were given 24 copies of a book they had specifically chosen from a list of 25 (mine was Bill Bryson’s ‘Notes from a Small Island’) to hand out to whomever they choose. So whether it’s someone they think doesn’t read much, so the book could help get them into reading. Or maybe it’s someone who has never read the genre that their book is in. Giving these books out free could help in a number of ways. World Book night is in its second year now, and it’s growing with each year.

Basically my task is then to organise some kind of event, a platform for the ‘Givers’ to distribute their books. Last year I organised an in store event, which went well but then there’s still the issue of how do you entice non-readers into a book shop? So this year we decided to hit the streets!

It was going to be great! We would all meet up in the shop about 5pm have tea and coffee, get to know each other, maybe swap books if somebody had a title you’d like to read, then at 6pm we’d head out on our walk. We had a designated route planned out for the ‘Town Walk’ where we’d be passing some old buildings and sites of historic interest so I invited local author Carol Twinch along to maybe point out and tell us a bit about such things, and as we merrily skipped along the streets we’d be distributing our books to the people we met. It was a very Disneyesque image I had conjured up, ideal for a beautiful spring evening.  The only thing was I hadn’t counted on the general mistrustfulness of the public whenever you mention the word FREE, and . . the British weather.

Oh yes, rain was well and truly my downfall on the evening as not many people are overly keen on walking round the streets of Ipswich on a rather wet Monday evening. So as six o’clock slowly came around I had to admit defeat for, alas, instead of the hoards of Givers descending upon the unsuspecting pedestrians of Ipswich, which I had envisioned, instead we had 3 Givers, 2 ‘assistants’, and an author. This however did not deter us from our mission, as three of us had dressed up for the occasion (two fairies and an Ass to be precise) we were going to see it through till the end.

So last night six very odd-looking, overly cheerful, and slightly damp people took to the pubs, cafes and shops of Ipswich distributing our wares to whomever we came across. Aside from a very high number of suspicious looks and rejections of a free book we all really had a good time and distributed our books quite widely and rather quickly.

                As we sat in a pub afterwards, having a well-earned drink, I looked around at our merry little band and realised that this was perfect. If there had been a lot of us it wouldn’t have worked, we would have been too intimidating and we wouldn’t have had the great interaction we had with a few members of the public. Also there would have been too many books we wouldn’t have been able to distribute them all, as things stood we were able to distribute all of our books and have a good time in the process.  So it turns out that completely by accident we ended up having the perfect end result.

Although I think I may pass the ‘Events’ cap to somebody else next year.

Radio Ga-Ga

There are many facets to my personality, one of these is an Events Manager at the Waterstones where I work.

As many things as there are that I love about being an events manager, there are a couple of things that I’m not too keen on and those are; authors that act like they’re doing you a big favour by attending this event that you’ve organised for them, and the other is being the centre of attention. I’m more of a ‘behind the scenes’ organiser. In an ideal world I’d plan my event, email, call, harass all the people I need to to promote the event then on the day I’d have somebody else be me.
So you can imagine my utter despair when I was coerced into going on to local radio to promote our World Book Night event. Cold chills and night sweats were only the start of it.
Technically I didn’t have to do it, but one of the things about being the organiser of an event is that if anybody wants to know anything about what’s happening you’re the ‘go to guy’
This was little comfort as I spent a couple of weeks pacing up and down wondering; what would I say? What would I be asked? Would I have to sound knowledgeable? Would I have to have some kind of idea what I’m talking about? What if I stammered or was lost for words?
So by the time it came to Tuesday morning, the morning of my debut radio appearance, I was more than a little bit nervous.
So I anxiously sat in the waiting area silently praying to any god that would listen for a power cut, or for the cold I was developing to strike me down voiceless, or even (if none of the above were available) for the small mercy of my segment to at least be pre-recorded.
Alas none of these came to pass, and in time I was led down a corridor by James, one of my interviewers, and into a little room. Which consisted of a production desk, manned by a lovely and very friendly lady named Charlotte, and a little round table with a few microphones attached to the edges. My nerves started to ease off as I realised I wouldn’t be spending the next twenty minutes in the radio booth of my imagination (which had more technology and gadgets than the Enterprise), but in this rather cosy looking little room.

During the ten minutes before the interview we had such a lovely chat about books and authors that by the time we actually went on air I was so relaxed that it just felt like a normal every day conversation.
We talked about; World Book Night, Bill Bryson, local authors, Waterstones, signing events. I even messed up a couple of times, and admitted to not knowing much about a certain book, but that didn’t faze me. We talked about so much and with such ease that I was genuinely sad when it ended.
So I’d like to thank James and Charlotte at ICR http://www.icrfm.co.uk for being so lovely and making me feel so at home. Also for unleashing a monster, as now I’ve conquered radio there’s no stopping me!! NEXT STOP . . . .’ANGLIA TONIGHT’!!

. . .

Well shortly after writing the above and saving it as a draft for me to review later I received an email and dun dun dun I’M ON THE COVER OF THE NEW STEPHEN KING BOOK!!!. . http://www.stephenkingfaces.com/#!i=8359 well ok, I’m on the back. .and it’s just the UK edition . . and it’s only a small picture . . .out of a montage of thousands . . and you’ll probably need a magnifying glass to see me, but dammit! I’m on a book!

Time to conquer the world now methinks.