…. that gin is actually flavoured vodka? That archaeobotanists use straw from the thatched roofs of old buildings to research ancient heritage grains? That indeed, there is such a job as an archaeobotanist?
These and other gems I discovered on a visit to The Oxford Artisan Distillery (TOAD). Once again, the lovely old barn that is TOAD’s home was the venue for a gin-flavoured hour of information and inebriation. Well, someone’s gotta do it!
All in belated celebration of the publication of Note to Boy which, you may have noticed, features quite a bit of gin tippling.
Tipples, nibbles and giggles were on the agenda, as we listened to our guide Sarah, who provided just the right mix of historical context and (increasingly) hysterical laughter. My thanks to her and the rest of the TOAD crew, and to Sheila, Louise and Michael for their company, and for backing me over the years.
TOAD is well worth a visit if you’re in the Oxford area. While you’re there, don’t miss the picture of our new king, complete with improvised crown, being let into some of secrets of TOAD gin making.
Sarah explains about the copper gin stills and how they are cleaned. (Someone climbs inside!)
A rapt audience learns about base spirit and botanicals – and immediately forgets everything they’re told!
TOAD’s lovely old barn.
The Three Muskgineers! Making the ultimate sacrifice for literature – Louise, Sheila and your author.
Very excited to be talking to the Friends of Sonning Common Library about my comic novel Note to Boy and my mis-spent youth as a BBC comedy scriptwriter. Tuesday 27th September at 7pm. Contact the library for details. Hope to see you there.
No need to state the obvious about the weirdness of the year. I’m going to take this chance to look back and find some positives and say some thank yous instead.
The biggest positive of 2020 for me, of course, is that Note to Boy was published. Yaay! Eloise and Bradley have been out ‘in the wild’ for five months and seem to be thriving. Certainly, reviews have been kind.
‘Comedy gold’, ‘brims with humour’, ‘wonderfully entertaining’ and even ‘genius’ are some of the generous comments received by this blushing author. It means a lot to know I’ve made some readers laugh and a few shed a little tear. Thank you, readers and reviewers.
Here I must mention my publisher, Unbound. Throughout the many difficulties, they have been marvellous. It cannot have been easy to see my book through its final stages and into production and distribution during this strangest of summers. But they did it, and I shall be forever thankful that my launch wasn’t postponed, as so many were. Thank you, Unbound.
Let’s also hear it for the independent bookshops. Times have been hard for them but they’ve been a great support. Getting on for forty, from Bristol to Edinburgh, Bridport to Hampstead currently stock Note to Boy, and the list grows weekly. It’s also listed by bookshop.org, the new ethical way to buy books online. Thank you, all.
People seem to have fallen in love with books again. The upsurge in the popularity of reading has been wonderful to behold and some compensation for the restrictions we’ve been enduring. Readers have not only been tackling the classics like Austen and Orwell, and weighty tomes like Tolstoy, Hugo and Dickens, but also turning to comedy, as we often do in times of stress.
Great to see comedic works such as Cold Comfort Farm, the Adrian Mole and Bridget Jones series, Nick Hornby and Nina Stibbe books and, of course, Richard Osman’s cosy crime debut, all enjoying success. Let’s hope humorous writing will get the industry recognition it deserves from now on.
With time on their hands people have been writing too, turning the pandemic into a PENdemic. See what I did? Aside from hastily written celebrity books, there are bound to be some gems. I’m looking forward to reading some stimulating lockdown literature during the coming year.
Another plus is, through necessity, I’m verging on becoming competent in various videoconferencing systems. If you want to be frozen just as you come to the punchline of a joke, or muted when you have something fascinating to add to the discussion, I’m your woman!
Talking of which, the Note to Boy virtual book launch in July attracted more than fifty people and reached friends and supporters as far afield as the USA, Italy and Chipping Sodbury. A similar number signed up for an author talk I gave in early December to the Kensington, Chelsea and Westminster libraries, with one participant joining in from Riyadh. The international reach of virtual events is another big positive. I’m planning more for 2021. Thank you to those who work so hard to make them happen.
That’s it. I’ve run out of positives except to say, it’s been a funny old year and it’ll be a funny old Christmas but we keep on smiling, reading and writing. Merry Christmas to you all. 2021 will be better. Won’t it? Cheers.
That was fun! I’ve been ‘staying in’ with the lovely Linda Hill of the multi-award-winning blog, Linda’s Book Bag. What a pleasure that was! It was an honour to be in conversation with her, particularly as she has been so supportive of Note to Boy since we first ‘met’ almost two years ago.
It’s here! Note to Boy was launched into the world – and the bookshops – on 23 July 2020.
No actual champagne and nibbles party being possible, the splendid people at the independent bookshop, Mostly Books, arranged a launch via Zoom. More than 50 people crammed into the virtual venue, tucking into the imaginary cocktails and macaroons. Great to see so many smiling faces – some from Italy, Germany, the US, not to mention the wilds of Cornwall. But they weren’t just there to enjoy themselves. I had to answer some of their probing questions too!
Star of the evening was the comedy legend that is Paul Mayhew Archer, who interrogated me most charmingly about bits of the book I hadn’t even noticed myself. You can see the interview here.
Thank you for helping me celebrate. I had a great time. I hope you did. Now it’s up to Eloise and Bradley!