A UK Wrap-up

I’m back at the Waldorf after a week zipping around England. On Wednesday I visited Bristol, which is a pretty city with lots of hills and historical architecture. I did a presentation at Bristol Grammar School in their great hall, which is pretty much exactly like the Hogwart’s dining hall in the Harry Potter films. I can’t imagine going to school in a place like that – so imposing and ancient. The students were great, and thanks to Lucy, the school librarian, for setting up the visit. I then visited the Queen Elizabeth Hospital School, which is also from the 1500s. I expected to see sick children, but the name “Hospital” is misleading. It was never for the sick, but was started as an institution for helping the poor and orphans of Bristol. It’s now an affluent school for boys – one of those historical ironies, I guess. We had a nice visit. My favorite question: “Are you richer than Justin Timberlake?” I had to admit that I was not. I doubt if Justin is worried about me stealing his limelight.

After some signings at the local bookshops, we boarded the train for Newport, a small town in Wales. We had a small but enthusiastic crowd hosted by the Children’s Federation of Book Groups. A local family gifted me with a set of Roman soldier figurines (they must have heard I used to play D&D). I learned several new Welsh names, like Harri and Gwyn, while I was signing books. Afterward we took the train back to London, and I must admit the combination of jet lag and a month of constant travel took its toll. I slept like the dead and am still walking around in a slight daze. I think when I finally get home I’ll crash for three days, before I have to get on another plane to BEA.

Anyway, Thursday I spent the day at Horsenden Primary in Middlesex (Greater London). What a nice little community, and not a place you would ever see as a tourist. In the evening we went to Coventry for another public event. My favorite piece of news from Coventry: our host librarian told us that an unexploded World War II bomb had recently been unearthed at a local building site. Coventry was bombed almost to the ground in the Blitz, so I guess it’s not so unexpected that some ordnance would still be around. The entire downtown had to be evacuated until the bomb was safely defused.

Today, I visited two schools in Birmingham as part of their young readers’ festival. It rained a little bit in the morning, which makes my record perfect: I have never visited England when it did not rain at least once.

Tomorrow, I’m doing one last public event, a book signing at Tales on Moon Lane bookshop, and then it’s back home on Sunday. Boy, am I ready to get home, even if I do have to leave again. This has been a crazy month even by my standards, but I think in retrospect, I’m going to look back on it with fond memories – after I get some sleep!

Rick Riordan