About Me

Well, here I am, back in Britain. Strange to think that a few hours ago I was in the lovely culture capital of Ukraine, L’viv, with my wife, Gillie, having a magical time. It was a truly extraordinary experience and I loved every minute of it, so let me tell you a bit about what happened.

We arrived by plane, in the late evening and were immediately whisked away to a restaurant for supper. In the restaurant we were surrounded by pieces of ancient instruments of torture! Right next to me was a cage which you could stand in. It was lowered into a tiny pit below and then a lid would be put on top so you were in complete darkness. You couldn’t sit down. How horrible! There were all sorts of other things there too, like a guillotine and iron masks you might be made to wear. Of course none of these things are used now! The food was wonderful. A man and woman at a table near us suddenly came over and wanted a book signed. They had recognised us – in Ukraine! That was just the beginning. Here’s a picture of the cage.

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The next day was like walking into a whirlwind! I went to a library and answered questions form lots of children. Some of them had dressed up as bakers. Take a look at their hats! They had read about me working in a bakery and making doughnuts so the children made doughnuts especially for us! They were delicious! Everyone was so excited and friendly. I had a translator with me, Katerina, who was amazing! She would translate all the questions into English for me and then she would translate all my answers back into Ukrainian for the children. She must have a gigantic brain in her head, I think! Here is Katerina with Gillie, and also a picture of the children and the cakes.

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I was very busy doing interviews. Wherever we went people were taking photos and shoving microphones at us. So I answered questions for magazines and papers and tv and radio. It was busy, busy, busy! And all this time the people – the adults and the children – were all so kind and happy and warm and friendly! In the evening we went an awards ceremony where I had to give a short speech and my Ukrainian publisher, Old Lion Publishing House won an award for best publisher! They won some other awards too. I have to tell you that they are a brilliant group of people – very talented and hard working and also enormously kind. They treated Gillie and me like royalty! Old Lion is an excellent name for them because the city is called L’viv and l’viv means ‘lion’ in Ukrainian. I was so pleased they won that big award. Here I am giving the speech. I was holding a big bundle of papers and saying: ‘Don’t worry, my speech is only 78 pages long!” (It was only two pages really.)

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We didn’t get back to our hotel until very late

The next day was much the same. Another library, lots more interviews and signings. Once again the library session was amazing. The librarian had dressed up as Miss Pandemonium and the room was decorated with all sorts of things to do with the books. I was also lucky enough to meet the man who translated my stories from english into ukrainian. His name is Viktor and he’s also a talented musician with not one, but two bands that he plays with. Viktor and I discovered we are the same age. Here he is on the left in this picture. Someone said we look like brothers. What do you think? In the middle you can see Roman. He is the technical editor for the books. That means he was responsible for putting ¬†them together ready for publication. It’s a complicated job and Roman has been brilliant. He is a lovely man!

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Later we went on to a theatre where some teenagers had prepared a performance – a kid of question and answer drama with the audience. The young actors were fantastic, especially the sixteen year old girl playing the part of Miss Pandemonium. Then I went up on stage and answered questions and afterwards all of us did an impromptu song with Viktor playing guitar and us singing and getting more and more silly. You can probably spot Crunchbag the alligator! You can also see Miss Pandemonium on the left. On the right, sitting down, you can see Maryana who started up Old Lion Publishing House. She is another talented musician – an amazing singer and actress too. I don’t know – this place was full of such extraordinarily talented people!

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Last of all, here’s a picture taken at one of the signings. They were mad affairs, with books being poked at from all sides. Even Gillie was being asked for her autograph!

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So all in all it was a wonderful trip and I have to thank Old Lion Publishing House – Maryana, Mikola, Roxanna, Roman and of course the tireless Katerina for arranging everything and giving us such an exciting and wonderful time. I had never been to Ukraine before and I would love to go back. L’viv is a beautiful city, the food we had was delicious and most all the people we met were so kind and warm. Thank you, everyone!