A Very Special Birthday
Posted on March 3, 2014. More from Pip’s Blog
It’s been an exciting few weeks. Not only because Squishy McFluff has been receiving some super reviews since its launch (it was even Children’s Book of the Week in The Times!) but also because we’ve been celebrating, as a family, a very special birthday indeed.
I’ve made no secret of the fact that Squishy McFluff: The Invisible Cat! was quite strongly influenced by real events and the characters are somewhat (ahem) based on my real family. For good reason though. I have an inspiring family.
Back in late 2012, when I got the book deal with Faber & Faber, I learned that I’d need to add quite significantly to the manuscript of the first book. I also noticed that Faber had scheduled publication for exactly one week before my wonderful Grandad’s 100th birthday.
And that was that. I knew straightaway that Ava and Ruby’s Great Grandad Bill would make an appearance in the longer story. Having lived for an entire century, it made perfect sense to me that he would be the hero, the chap who would come up with a perfectly clever plan to get Ava and Squishy back on the straight and narrow (for now at least. You don’t think they’re going to stay well-behaved for long, do you?!).
My Grandad (who has been signing books for people since publication day!) is fabulous. He doesn’t really wear a monocle, but he often wears a lovely tweed jacket, and he really does have the happiest smile ever. For the last several years, when I’ve seen him and he’s been having a bit of trouble with his back or whatever, he’ll say to me: “I’m getting old, you see.” And I always reply: “You’re not OLD!” It always makes us both chuckle.
Anyway, despite being a bit poorly in the weeks leading up to his birthday, Grandad enjoyed a huge party the weekend before last, with lots of family and friends.
He received his birthday card from Her Majesty The Queen (which Ava and Ruby pawed over in complete and utter awe), and his telegram from Iain Duncan Smith, the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions.
And from me, he received an incredibly elaborate birthday card, one which had been more than two years in the making – my book, which I dedicated to him, along with my daughters.
I wrote a message for him inside. I thanked him for the writing genes because he, too, is a writer (four years ago, Grandad was featured on BBC Radio Gloucestershire, talking for an entire hour about the 200 or so memoirs he has written about living in the county). He writes because he loves it, and a man who has lived for 100 years has a lot to say!
It made me think about how, as a little girl, I’d spend hours sitting at the desk in Grandad’s living room, just writing and writing and writing. Almost as soon as I could form letters on a page, I began writing rhyming stories. I remember one about a very small frog, and one about a spider. There were so many. Grandad kept them all in a drawer for more than 20 years – I have them now (there might be some good ideas in that bundle to go back to!).
Watching Ava and Ruby giving my Grandad birthday cuddles (and mauling his cakes), I marvelled at how fantastic it is that they know him and that we could all celebrate together, four generations of us.
I wonder what gifts will emerge in my children that have come from Great Grandad Bill’s remarkable gene pool. Longevity aside, he brings rather a lot to the table: he’s warm, gentle, funny, kind, brave, sociable, a fantastic storyteller and, of course, incredibly wise.
Well, obviously, I have inherited all those traits. So I’m pretty confident they will have done too.
Photo credit: Sarah Wood