Narberth is a pretty little town in the southern, mostly English-speaking part of Pembrokeshire. Founded around a Welsh court and later a Norman stronghold, it is now a shopping destination and tourist centre, and Narberth Museum – housed since 2012 in the Bonded Stores – is key to the tourist offering.
The Bonded Stores, the museum’s website says, is ‘a building with a purpose – to keep people out. Stored inside would have been hundreds of kegs full of valuable but duty-free whisky, brandy and rum. Only when the Revenue Officer and the Stores Manager were both present with their keys could the double locks be opened.’ As a consequence, Narberth Museum has chosen the symbol of the two keys as its logo but, on Wednesday evening, the doors were wide open to #IndyBookTourCymru2019 as I’d been invited to speak to readers at the museum’s Chapter One bookshop.
My eldest son, Sam, had popped down to join me for the event and he kindly chauffeured me and his grandmother to Narberth from the family home near Newcastle Emlyn which was a pleasant change from all the solo driving which I’ve been doing. (Thanks also to him for the photos J) When we arrived at the museum we found that the interior of the Bonded Stores has been fitted out in a light, bright and modern style that is as welcoming as the museum is informative. The book-lined café is no exception and it was there that the event was held.
I’ve done so many blog posts, guest blogs, Q&As and talks, recently, on both None So Blind and In Two Minds that choosing exactly what to say wasn’t easy. There’s enough information in my head to allow me to talk for hours but half an hour had to suffice so that there would be plenty of time for questions and discussion so I’d written some notes and produced a crib sheet. Inevitably, as tends to happen when I’m writing the books, I diverged from even such a vague plan almost immediately, but hey, at least I had something to refer to if I suddenly ground to a halt.
The reception to my talk which eventually consisted of how to make nineteenth century characters palatable to today’s readers, the modern-day resonance with the political situation in mid-nineteenth century Cardiganshire, the rise of autopsy and why people were vehemently against their loved ones being cut up went down very well. The audience laughed at my jokes (always gratifying), seemed very interested in what I had to say (ditto), took photos of me (which in at least one case were later posted on Facebook with very complimentary comments – many thanks to Pippa Davies) and, when I’d stopped speaking, asked interesting questions and made flattering comments on None So Blind which most of them had already read.
Then there was the signing of books and chatting over a glass of wine which I took ages to drink as I was talking so much and needed my hands to sign books. (It did get consumed eventually, I hasten to add.) I always love talking to people about the books – I spend so long sequestered away with my characters and the world I’m creating for them that when they’re finally let loose into the world, it’s wonderful to find that other people are as taken with them as I am.
Huge thanks to manager, Daniel, and events manager, Emma, for inviting me to speak at Chapter One bookshop – it was very much a night to remember.