• Bentalls has a lot to answer for!

    09 January 2022

    Before COVID, the Shans used to be bouncing back and forth between Limerick and London like pinballs being smashed by giants across the Irish sea! Although I'm most assuredely Irish (despite my strong cockney accent), I also feel very much a Londoner. I visited it regularly as I was growing up, to see my grandparents and other family... I went to university there... I continued visiting as often as I could when I was a penniless, wannabe writer... and once my books started to get published, I was there more often than ever. I've kept a flat in London for more than two decades (though it's currently rented out to a friend), and it's my second home -- my family's too.


    But COVID put a sharp halt to our travels, and we had to redraw the lines of our lives, as so many people around the world have had to do. But last October, during our son Dante's half-term break, we slotted in a short visit to London, and stayed with Mrs Shan's mother in the suburbs close to Kingston, where she lives. It was a hugely enjoyable stay -- we loved being back in the big city, even if we weren't staying as centrally as normal, and we fitted in loads of activities. The kids had a ball, and so did Mrs Shan and I.


    As you can see from the first photo, on one of the days we went to see The Smeds And The Smoos at Kingston's charming Rose Theatre (I did an event there myself some years ago, back when I was in tour mode). We weren't sure how Gaia would react, as it was her first real trip to the theatre (not counting a few visits we made when she was a baby), but to our relief she loved it.


    Now, the next three photos require a bit more of an explanation, since they were all taken in Bentalls Shopping Centre. It might seem strange, me sharing photos taken in a mall, but there's a reason why we got the camera out! One reason was that we really like the futuristic walkway between the car park and the shops -- it made for a cool snap, and we probably would have taken a photo of Dante and Gaia there regardless.


    And Gaia on the submarine ride... she's very wary of any little rides like this in shopping malls or funfairs, and this was the first that she went on voluntarily.


    But the REAL reason we deemed Bentalls photo-worthy is the fourth photo here, where Mrs Shan and I are posing next to a map of the stores. If you look closely, you'll see that Mrs Shan is pointing at the Waterstones shop. Twenty years ago next month (i.e. February 2002) I did a couple of school events in that store, to promote the release of The Vampire Prince, the sixth book in my vampire series. At the time, the future Mrs Shan was working for the charity organisation WarChild, and had started to put together a book of short stories by children's authors (it was eventually released as Kids Night In). She was living with her parents near Kingston, and when she saw that I was doing events on her back doorstep, she came along to one of them, introduced herself to me at the end, when I'd finished signing for the students, and asked me if I'd like to contribute a story.


    I said no, because I don't really write many short stories, but I did say I'd give her something for the book, maybe a fun recipe for bat broth, or something like that. Well, I won't go into all the ins and outs, but during the course of our negotiations, I ended up giving WarChild a story for book (the sweet little Hagurosan tale), while at the same time taking one of their staff members off their hands -- and almost twenty years later, here we were, back at the scene of our first ever meeting, only this time with a couple of small, noisy gate-crashing Shan kids in tow!!! :-)





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