Reporting from Manchester

Reporting from Manchester – where all day I’ve been trying to avoid singing “Manchester, England, England” from the musical Hair.

Tuesday, I visited the American School in London. I’m not sure who was more disoriented, me or my publicist, but it was very odd doing a presentation to hundreds of American school kids in the middle of London. It’s a beautiful school with tight security, not too different than many private schools in Manhattan, though. The guy at the front steps was talking into his sleeve to his colleague, who was standing about ten feet away at the main security desk. I suppose he could’ve just yelled up the stairs, “Yo, Joe, I got two comin’ up!” But it looked much cooler to use his high tech intercom gadgets. I spoke with 4th-6th grades and we had a great time. After three years, I’ve finally figured out the difference between American grades and British years. You subtract one from the year to get the grade. So Year 7 is Grade 6. The reason is that Year 1 here is what we call kindergarten in America. Of course, then I learned that Form 6 happens when you’re eighteen, so now I’m all confused again. I’ll let you know what this means, probably in about three more years.

After ASL, I had a slew of media interviews. I had a nice lunch with Amanda Craig of the Times. Our sons are about the same age, so we had many stories to share about raising boys to be readers. After that, it was a photo shoot for the Times at the British Museum, where I got to see the Elgin Marbles and get my picture taken with Hera and Dionysus and some of my favorite gods! As many times as I’d been to London, I’d never been in the museum. I walked right in and said, “Wow, that’s the Rosetta Stone. Okay.” Then I turned the corner and found myself facing two twenty-foot-tall Lammasu from Mesopotamia. Unbelievable to teach about these things for fifteen years as a social studies teacher and then come face to face with them. I spoke with Nikki Gamble from the website for teachers, Write Away, then headed over the BBC TV studios for an on-line chat with kids on the Blue Peter website. My publicist Adele said the last time she was at BBC, she ran into a Dalek from Doctor Who, so I had high hopes, but alas, we encountered no aliens (unless you count TV reporters).

Wednesday, it was on to Manchester with my fantastic editor Sarah Hughes, where I spoke at Sale Grammar School. It was a visual arts school, so the kids were highly creative and had super questions (including ‘what’s your favorite football team,’ which naturally stumped me.) On the way back into town, our taxi driver was aghast when we asked him what the big stadium was for. Hello! Manchester United. Duh! When I pleaded ignorance because I was from Texas, he got very quiet. I don’t think he was quiet out of reverence. I did a stock signing at Waterstone’s (thanks for coming by, Christine!) and learned that one of the Greek gods will be walking around Deansgate Road on Saturday handing out blue candy and directing people to buy the Percy Jackson books. They described this god as a dapper man in a pinstriped suit, holding a lightning bolt. I wonder who?

Today it’s on the Sheffield for a school visit, then back to the BBC in London for a live radio interview with Jacqueline Wilson, Britain’s renowned children’s laureate. I can’t wait to meet her! More later in the week. Now it’s time to catch my train.

Rick Riordan