Alexander Gordon Smith

Archive for the Category Trains


The King of Kingston!

I had another couple of great events yesterday, as part of the awesome Kingston Readers’ Festival. But I nearly didn’t make it. Believe it or not I managed to make the same mistake as Saturday, and got off at the wrong station! It’s because of this edit I’m working on, I’m sure of it. I was sitting on the train thinking about Cal and Brick and Daisy, wondering what might happen to them and how they are going to cope with it, and the next thing I knew I’d gotten off at Richmond, even though I was supposed to be going to Kingston. It was only because the ticket machine didn’t let me out of the station that I even noticed at all, otherwise I’d probably still be roaming around Richmond trying to find my event.

Luckily I managed to catch the next train, and Vanessa, one of the festival coordinators and an absolutely lovely person, met me and took me to the Tiffin Boys School. Everybody there was fantastic, and I did my show to a couple of hundred students. Then it was another mad dash to Southborough Boys School and another fantastic audience! I just want to say a huge thanks to Vanessa, and to everybody at both schools, for making me feel so welcome!

I’ve been down to London quite a bit the last week or so, and it’s been great as it’s given me a chance to finish reading Game of Thrones. I just have to say wow. I mean, WOW! It’s an incredible book. I started reading it because I was watching the new HBO adaptation (which is also brilliant), and I couldn’t stand to wait a week before finding out what happened. So I bought the book and just devoured it. I really couldn’t put it down. I’m going to post a proper review soon, but I just wanted to say how much I enjoyed it, and how much I wish I was living in George R. R. Martin’s world. With a broadsword. I think I might change my name to Ser Gordon of the House of Smith. Or maybe just King Gordy.

Anyway, back to the edit!

On Tour!

Sorry I’ve been absent for a while, I’ve been on tour! Yes, a tour, just like the gods of rock – huge triple-decker tour bus with swimming pool and disco, private jets with military escorts, insane riders at venues (I simply must have a bed made from haggis and I must bathe in champagne every evening) and not to mention my entourage of hair designers, make-up artists, fashion experts and foot corn filers.

Well, to be honest not all of that is true. I didn’t have a foot corn filer. I have been on tour, though, to promote the release of Furnace 3: Death Sentence. It’s all very exciting! I’ve finished the first leg, and am off on the second tomorrow, so I don’t have an awful lot of time to write, but I just wanted to give you a rundown of events so far and say a huge thanks to everyone who came to see me!

First there was the Free Word Festival at the wonderful new Free Word Centre in London. This is an amazing place devoted to literature, literacy and free expression, and well worth checking out! I was just one of a number of things going on that day, including a Shakespeare rap session with Akala and a manga workshop. Thanks to everybody for listening to my talk, and for asking some great questions!

Next I was on the train heading up to Wigtown. Isn’t that just the coolest name for a place?! It has nothing to do with wigs, apparently – if anyone does know why it’s called Wigtown please do let me know as I forgot to ask! It was a long, long journey up there (my private jet and coach weren’t working that day, I think Bono might have borrowed them) but I took my book and the hours just flew by. All nine and a half of them. It would have been nine, but the lovely retired couple who came to collect me at Dumfries Station needed to do their shopping and so I ended up accompanying them on a trip round Tescos! It was dark when I arrived at the hotel, a beautiful place called the Rowallan Guest House, but when I woke up in the morning the views were absolutely stunning! I always forget how beautiful parts of Scotland are, and the west coast is unbeatable.

After a delicious and healthy fry-up with haggis for breakfast I ventured off to get the bus – I mean my private helicopter – to Wigtown. It was a beautiful, sunny day, and after I checked in with the lovely festival organisers I decided to go and have a wander. I had a couple of hours until my event and the countryside was beckoning me! I headed off for the harbour, and arrived after ten minutes of the freshest air you could imagine (I looked like a man about to try and blow up a hundred balloons). I arrived at the harbour, however, just as the heavens opened. And I mean a monsoon! I was only in my T-shirt (well, I had trousers and stuff on as well, I just mean I wasn’t wearing a coat) and I legged it back towards town. Half way there I spotted a signpost for a path and gambled on it being a shortcut… It wasn’t (of course), and I ended up taking a very muddy, very wet, very windy detour around the entire town. By the time I got back I was drenched and looked like a mud monster. But it had stopped raining so I walked up to the Windy Hill (yes, it is actually called that) and stood there in the gale-force wind until I was reasonably dry.

Here I am on Windy Hill!

By that time it was almost four, so after a quick spot of lunch in the writer’s retreat I headed over to the children’s tent. Because of the weather there weren’t as many people there as there could have been, but everyone who did come was absolutely fantastic! Smaller audiences often work better because everybody gets a chance to talk, and these guys were so full of great ideas – especially when we started coming up with ideas for horror stories! Thanks so much to you all for braving the weather, and I owe a special thanks to Greg for his wonderful introduction! It was a really great event, and I hope I’ll be back again next year!

Afterwards, still a little damp, I popped back to the retreat for a cup of tea and ended up chatting to the wonderful Charlie James, author of Fish and Dino Egg. We even came up with a fantastic Wigtown Scooby Doo episode together! After that I made my way back to the lodge and thought about crashing out for a while before heading off to the festival ceilidh (weirdest spelling ever). I especially wanted to go because fellow Faber author Philip Ardagh might have been there. However, after a hot bath and some chocolate the thought of venturing back out in the dark was too much and I ended up watching X-Factor, playing Civ then going to bed! The next day involved more haggis for breakfast, then a long, long trip back to Norwich (but no trip round Tescos this time)!

Thanks to everyone at Wigtown for being so great! And for anyone who has never been, it really is worth it, especially if you like books. It’s Scotland’s book town and there are about 15 book shops there, maybe more! Heaven!

After a long snooze I was back on the road (well, the railway tracks) the following day, this time heading in the other direction. I was going down to Kent, to the Petts Wood Library. I got there two minutes after I was supposed to start, and launched myself straight in to my talk. The library was packed, which was wonderful, and it was a younger crowd than the ones I’ve been talking to recently which was such a nice change! They all laughed their socks off as I talked about building crazy inventions, making rocket boots out of fireworks and shooting cowpats with shotguns, and once again there were some brilliant ideas for stories! Most of them bought books afterwards as well, although sadly there were no copies of The Inventors there because I think it’s out of print. ARGH! I’ll find out and let you all know! But thanks to you all for making it a fantastic event, and a special thanks too to Jenny for organising it all! I had a great time!

The next event was an extra special one because it took place in another of my old schools! This time my old infant school, Bignold, in Norwich. It was so weird going back there after twenty-five years. Yes, you heard right, a quarter of century! But the weird thing was it smelled exactly the same. In fact that’s one of the few things I can remember about Bignold, the smell. It’s not a bad smell, just a school smell, but it takes you right back to your early days! I also vaguely remember playing kissy-cat in the playground when I was at Bignold (er, when I was a kid, that was, not when I visited the other day!!) but other than that I don’t remember much at all!

I was giving a talk to years 4, 5 and 6 so the hall was absolutely packed. But they were an amazing audience, one of the best I’ve ever spoken to, and at times they were laughing so hard I thought the windows were going to explode! Thanks to you all for coming up with some great scary ideas and for being such stars! This will definitely go down as one of the best events I’ve ever done! Thanks to you all, and also to Rachel and Lisa for organising it! I’ll definitely be back in soon to do some workshops!

Tomorrow I’m off to London for a week of school events, which I’m really looking forward to! If I’m coming to visit your school then get thinking about scary stories now!

I’ll try and blog again as soon as humanly possible. And once again a massive thanks to everyone who came to see me!