I’ve been away for most of this week, and for once it wasn’t part of the never-ending Oliver and the Seawigs publicity tour…
|Photo: Sarah McIntyre|
I’d been invited up to Cambridge, to be presented with an Honorary Doctorate by Anglia Ruskin University. I’m sort of an old boy, since Anglia was where I studied illustration back in the ‘eighties. In those days it was just plain ol’ CCAT – the Cambridgeshire College of Arts and Technology – but it’s now morphed into a fully fledged university, and the illustration course has become one of the best in the country.
I’ve never attended a graduation ceremony before, let alone had to make a speech at one, so I was very glad that Sarah McIntyre came along to lend me some moral support, as did Dave Shelton, author of A Boy and a Bear in a Boat and a fellow graduate of the old CCAT illustration course, and Farah Mendelson, SF scholar and critic and author of The Intergalactic Playground (among many others), who is now part of the faculty. I also got to meet Pam Smy, whose illustrations for the forthcoming Siobhan Dowd book The Ransom of Dond which I glimpsed at David Fickling Books earlier this year – it looks astonishing.
And Philip Pullman was also being given a Doctorate, so I was able to meet him at last! (That’s him in the photo at the top of this post.) Apparently he’s had thirteen of these honours already, so I still have Some Way To Go. He gave a very good and serious speech about what a degree means, and used a lovely phrase about us ‘living in a time that is still warmed by the background radiation from the enlightenment’. (I mostly just reminisced about my college years and made cheap jokes about McIntyre’s hat.)
As if meeting one legend of children’s lit wasn’t enough, my second appointment of the week was at the W Hotel in Leicester Square, where I was part of a discussion with Geraldine McCaughrean and Nicolette Jones to celebrate the launch of Geraldine’s latest novel The Middle of Nowhere. Geraldine has been my favourite writer since long before I was published, and I’m still in awe of the way in which she turns out so many books, all on very different subjects, but each perfect, and very much her own. She’s also one of my favourite people, and I still can’t quite believe it when I’m asked to share a stage with her. I shall try to put a full review of The Middle of Nowhere here soon, but don’t wait for that – run out and buy it NOW, it’s flippin’ brilliant.