The abstract world of Jasper Fforde

Good day book lovers!

It is a common knowledge that Rita and Mal are real book worms. Since the early childhood (or at least as long as we can remember), we have been surrounded by books and greatly enjoyed reading. At one point during our teen days, we even have been members of 8 different libraries and read several books per week. Not much has changed, believe us. If we are not busy planning and scheming, painting, taking pictures and admiring the cats, you can find us sitting comfortably with a book in our hands.

Reading a book is one thing, but meeting the person who wrote it, is quite different. Being introduced to authors is a completely new experience for us, but we have to admit, it is absolutely delightful. In November 2011, we have met one of the best new British teen adult/fantasy writers, Helen Stringer and we had a real blast travelling all around Hereford with her. You can read the review of the meeting here: https://cocamidemea.wordpress.com/2012/04/27/a-day-with-helen-stringer

This year, we had a true pleasure of becoming acquainted with another bestselling author – Jasper Fforde, a real genius behind the Thursday Next novels and Nursery Crimes series. Mr Fforde visited the local library in Hereford to promote his newest books written especially for younger audience. His visit to the cathedral town was not accidental as the city plays a huge role in the Dragonslayer saga. If you want to know more, you need to read the books. You will laugh, cry and love every sentence written – just like we do!

Two books released so far in the Dragonslayer trilogy

Two books released so far in the Dragonslayer trilogy

We have no idea what spells, charms or favours the library workers have called in to convince Mr Fforde to come, but the public was really ecstatic. Over 70 free ticket were issued for the meeting and they were gone within several days. Rita reserved her tickets a week in advance and she was one of the last people to do so. The author’s visit was a part of The National Libraries Day celebration and took place on Saturday, the 9th of February. The lecture started exactly at 2 o’clock and lasted for full two hours. Having a lot of time on our hands, we showed up an hour before the meeting was about to start. Thanks to this strategic move, we witnessed the author’s arrival with a big box filled with books and even took part in the photo session organized by the library. Being fashionably late works like magic, but the road to success is always to come early and leave last, remember about that!

National Libraries Day poster displayed in the exhibition window

National Libraries Day poster displayed in the exhibition window

Ticket given to the audience befire the meeting

Ticket given to the audience befire the meeting

Mr Fforde didn’t lose any time and he quickly set up his stand in the historic Woolhope lecture room.  Once the impressive collection of books was displayed, he immediately started greeting and introducing himself to the public. It turned out that just handful of people have met him before, the majority only knew him from TV or by reading his books. One of the visitors named Noah (originally from Atlanta, Georgia!) travelled all the way to Hereford from London where he was studying. Mr Fforde spent a longer while talking to him, reminiscing his trip to USA the year before. Noah was given autographs on each of his books and also a set of unique postcards printed especially for The Dragon slayer saga premiere.

Jasper Fforde's book stand

Jasper Fforde’s book stand

Public gathered in Woolhope Room just before the meeting

Public gathered in Woolhope Room just before the meeting

After the meet and greet, the time came for the meeting to begin. The author was invited to a small stage erected in the middle of the room and… There was a complete silence. No, Mr Fforde didn’t forget what he was about to say – the microphone refused to cooperate! Giving up on technology, the talk was done in a traditional way. Rita had to admit that Jasper Fforde is not only an excellent writer, but also a talented speaker. He quickly broke the ice (if you have ever spoken publicly, you know that the beginnings can be a real pain!), officially greeted the crowd again and made them laugh with personal stories and jokes. A bad speaker can turn two hour session into nightmare, but a skilled orator makes the time fly by quickly. Mr Fforde talked mostly about his training as a writer and his work in movie industry, his Polish roots (his grandfather Joseph Retinger was born and raised in Krakow) and extended family members. He confessed that his siblings chose a career in education and are very successful in that field. Each of them earned PhD degrees and it made the family life a bit harder (especially at official gatherings) as they are all now referred to as “Doctor Fforde”.

Jasper Foorde during the meeting

Jasper Foorde during the meeting

Jasper and the audience

Jasper and the audience

The largest part of the discussion has been dedicated to Mr Fforde’s books. His novels have been rejected more than 70 times before his third manuscript entitled “The Eyre Affair” has been published to universal acclaim in 2001. However, before the success, nobody wanted to risk publishing a cross-genre piece incorporating elements of alternative history, fantasy, science fiction, murder mystery, satire and romance. Mr Fforde joked that his book could not be labelled as no previous author had ever written a similar thing and the publishers had no name for the newly created genre! This and other anecdotes revealed a very sad true state of the publishing world – being innovative or imaginative is generally looked down upon. Young writers have to knock on many doors before they are offered a chance to show their potential. Publishers prefer to take a good care of the well established authors as their novels are universally known and the risk of financial loss is minimal. On the other hand, nothing should discourage the writers from trying. Rejections are not pleasant, but in the long run, the persistence and belief in one’s ability will always pay off. When Mr Fforde asked the crowd, how many authors (published or not) attended the meeting, several hands were raised. He gave the hopeful writers a one good piece of advice – never give up; if you cannot find anybody willing to publish you, publish the book yourself!

Jasper Fforde signing book at the end of the meeting

Jasper Fforde signing book at the end of the meeting

Jasper Fforde also found the time to answer questions from the fans while signing the books

Jasper Fforde also found the time to answer questions from the fans while signing the books

If you have never read any of Jasper Fforde’s books, we recommend you start with the Dragonslayer saga. There are two books available on the market now (“The Last Dragonslayer” and “The Song of the Quarkbeast”), a third and final part will be released later this year under the title  “The return of Shandar”. We couldn’t help ourselves and we prepared a short summary of the saga. And it goes like this:

Despite her surname, Jennifer Strange is a true oasis of normality and logic in a world where magic is real, nothing looks as it seems, nothing works as it should and the people are utterly and hopelessly mad. When we meet her for the first time, Jenn is the 15 year old orphan and acting manager of Kazam – an employment agency for magicians, wizards, seers and other magical professionals. After the previous manager disappeared in shady circumstances, Jennifer not only takes care of the day-to-day activities of the agency, answers the phones or meets the guests at the reception. She is also a baby sitter to the large group of highly dysfunctional mages, psychologist, secretary, legal adviser (you have to fill out forms for every spell!), warden and chauffeur. That’s a lot of worries for one single lady, especially if the magic is weakening and the jobs are few. Economic woes or losing the council’s lucrative contract to magically clean city’s drains to somebody else are just the beginning. There is something else in the air and everybody can feel it. The last dragon is about to die at the hand of the dragon slayer and all the lands and riches will be available for grab. Journalists, press, sorcerers and general public are waiting impatiently for the race to start – the sooner you enter the famed Dragonlands, the richer you will become. And when the rumour spreads out that Jennifer is destined to kill the dragon, a real madness begins. But Miss Strange is not going to let the magic disappear for ever. With the help from her newest assistant, Tiger Prawns and a quarkbeast, she is going to use all her skills and intellect to save the day.

Don’t ask us to tell you what’s going to happen next. We have no mercy and we shall reveil no secret. Just remember, trust no men and no dragon and beware of the singing knight!

The Last Dragonslayer book has been released in 2010

The Last Dragonslayer book has been released in 2010

Jennifer strange as seen in "The last dragon slayer"

Jennifer Strange as seen in “The Last dragonslayer”

Book number 2 "The Song of the Quarkbeast" was published in 2011 to rave reviews

Book number 2 “The Song of the Quarkbeast” was published in 2011 to rave reviews

After the meeting, we spoke to Mr Fforde for several minutes about history and his travels to Poland. He was also very kind to sign our books and promised to wait patiently for the review to be published on the blog. We are sorry that it took us so long but 2013 is a bit hectic and our day jobs are quite demanding at the moment. Nonetheless, it was a great pleasure to meet him and we will definitely visit him again if he returns to Hereford. Rita would also like to thank Jon, Anne-Marie and all library workers for their hard work and great organization skills. Let it be said loud and clear, Hereford has the best libraries in the world! A tiny bit of local pride hasn’t killed anyone yet, right?

Malicia's signed book - a perfect souvenir!

Malicia’s signed book – a perfect souvenir!

The author is watching you. You will read more and that's is an order, soldier!

The author is watching you. You will read more and that’s is an order, soldier!

“Libraries gave us power
Then work came and made us free”

Have a great Easter Holiday weekend everybody!

XXXX
Rita and Malicia Dabrowicz

The cat collector or Kat-a-log part 12

Buenos dias!

It’s mid-March already! Spring is in the air, days are longer and warmer, flowers begin to bloom and all felines suddenly become vocal. In other words: here comes the March madness to serenade the neighbourhood and to pick up fights. Olympia was recently busy as a bee preparing another action packed edition of Kat-a-log (and combating a nasty bout of flu). Just in time for this edition, new addition to the collection arrived from Azores islands (talking about a truly exotic location). Also, we have taken our cats outside and let them pose among the flowers and we will prove that a cat and mouse can be best buddies (or a collector`s dream set). So read on!

If you have missed the previous editions of Kat-a-log, please click on the following links to see all the cats featured on our blog so far. The list is getting longer but the collection is huge! Have fun browsing through the entries and don’t forget to let us know which cat is your favourite one!

Kat-a-log Part 1: https://cocamidemea.wordpress.com/2012/08/27/the-cat-collector-or-kat-a-log-part-1/
Kat-a-log Part 2: https://cocamidemea.wordpress.com/2012/09/07/the-cat-collector-or-kat-a-log-part-2/
Kat-a-log Part 3: https://cocamidemea.wordpress.com/2012/09/10/the-cat-collector-or-kat-a-log-part-3/
Kat-a-log Part 4: https://cocamidemea.wordpress.com/2012/11/14/the-cat-collector-or-kat-a-log-part-4/
Kat-a-log Part 5: https://cocamidemea.wordpress.com/2012/11/16/the-cat-collector-or-kat-a-log-part-5/
Kat-a-log Part 6: https://cocamidemea.wordpress.com/2012/12/03/the-cat-collector-or-kat-a-log-part-6/
Kat-a-log Part 7: https://cocamidemea.wordpress.com/2012/12/19/the-cat-collector-or-kat-a-log-part-7/
Kat-a-log Part 8: https://cocamidemea.wordpress.com/2013/01/02/the-cat-collector-or-kat-a-log-part-8/
Kat-a-log Part 9: https://cocamidemea.wordpress.com/2013/01/06/the-cat-collector-or-kat-a-log-part-9/
Kat-a-log Part 10: https://cocamidemea.wordpress.com/2013/02/14/the-cat-collector-or-kat-a-log-part-10/
Kat-a-log Part 11: https://cocamidemea.wordpress.com/2013/02/28/the-cat-collector-or-kat-a-log-part-11/

If you plan a Spring-break this year, why not take Azores Islands as a possible destination? The Archipelago of nine volcanic islands in the heart of North Atlantic Ocean sounds as exotic as it is beautiful. It is also home to some amazing hand-crafted cat figurines. We mean what else a cat collector would need?

Kat-a-log Feline no. 43
Official name: Gêmeos (Gemini or Twins)
Three sides of a cat: Tea selection, Mind the date and Product placement
Country of origin: São Miguel Island , Azores, Portugal bought in February, 2013

Last year Malicia`s friend from work – Annika – got married and moved from Malta to Azores. Before she departed, she has promised to send something in the post from her new home. Few weeks went by and a small parcel arrived at the office addressed with a hand writing that resembled hieroglyphs. Annika may have a terrible hand writing (she admits to it!) but her taste in picking up hand-craft figurines is divine. When we opened the letter, we fell in love instantly. Olympia had been sent a set of metal and silver –paint coated kittens with long tails. The duo known as “Gêmeos” (Gemini) was purchased on São MiguelIsland (the largest island of the Archipelago) during weekly Artisan market. Known on the Portuguese mainland as “artesão em ferro e metal” (the art of handcraft from metal and iron), the cats have been produced by a technique that dates back to 1600s. However, it is hardly practiced in Azores, where clay and basket – making take most of percentage of the traditional crafts.  Annika said that she’s only seen a handful of artists that had something different on their stalls during the fair. These small creatures were only felines for grabs that day. She didn’t think twice and we can’t blame her.

If you want to learn more about Azores (and perhaps plan yourself a fantastic Spring-break), here is the link for you to visit: http://www.azores.com/

Tea selection

Tea selection

Mind the date

Mind the date

Product placement

Product placement

Kat-a-log Feline no. 44
Three sides of a cat: Just the two of us, Staring contest and Pretty in pink
Country of origin: made in Kenya, bought in Berlin in February 2013

Do you remember the travelling garden gnome from the movie “Amélie” with Audrey Tautou in the eponymous role? The cat and mouse you see below on the pictures (they are a part of the set), have been all around the world in a similar fashion, before they were given to Rita by her colleague from work. Let’s us start from the beginning as this is a lovely story! Both figurines have been carved from a pink soap stone in Kenya as part of the fair trade movement. They have been acquired by Polish company Betterware that imports African ornaments to Europe. From Poland, the duo went to Russia to company’s main warehouse and then travelled to Germany where they have been spotted by Amy in a gift shop. Believing the pair to be a German sculpture, Amy proudly took them to the UK and handled to a very surprised Rita (who is Polish!). Once she opened the package and noticed the parcel’s travel log on a receipt, she had a good, long laugh! Now the cat and mouse will travel back to Poland to Olympia to join the rest of the Kat-a-log collection. Anybody wants to write a script?

Just the two of us

Just the two of us

Staring contest

Staring contest

Pretty in pink

Pretty in pink

Kat-a-log Feline no. 45
Three sides of a cat: Disguised as a flower, The Watcher and Look what I have found
Country of origin: not known, given as a gift in March 2013

Almost nothing is known about this beautiful and graceful kitten with a Kat-A-Log number 45. It has been given as a gift over 30 years ago to Agnes, the mother of Rita’s colleague from work. It is the second of three kittens that Gill offered to Olympia after the death of her mom earlier this year. The first one has a number 31 and can be found here: https://cocamidemea.wordpress.com/2013/01/06/the-cat-collector-or-kat-a-log-part-9/

The figurine is very unique: this is the first lusterware piece in Olympia’s Collection and the porcelain the cat is made of is extremely light. We had an antique specialist to look at the cat and he is sure it has been made in the UK in 1960’s. The pose and decorative bow around the cat’s neck suggest it is heavily inspired by Art deco art. A similar figurine was found on antiques online store at: http://www.theantiquetrade.co.uk/vintage-art-deco-lustre-ceramic-blue-cat-figurine-1796-p.asp

Disguised as a flower

Disguised as a flower

The watcher

The watcher

Look what I have found

Look what I have found

Kat-a-log Feline no. 46
Three sides of a cat: Standing still, Guard duty and Something’s out there
Country of origin:
UK, bought in the Caribbean in February 2013

There are some things in this world that nobody of us would have believed in if we haven’t seen them with our eyes (or at least heard from reliable witnesses). One of those things would be: British tourists travelling to Caribbean are ignoring locally made souvenirs, instead choosing things made in (and widely available) in the UK. This lovely Old Tupton ceramic cat has been bought by Rita’s colleague in her hotel souvenir store. The store has been filled with ceramics, cups, mugs, shirts and everything else with British flag on it! While other nationalities were more local-friendly, Brits kept mostly to themselves. Rita’s friend (also named Amy) wasn’t able to find a locally made cat figurine so she brought Old Tupton cat home from exile 🙂 This is an exclusive (limited) edition of Jeanne McDougall’s design called “Red Dawn”. It measures approx. 18cm (7″) x 5cm (2″) x 6cm (2.5″) and comes in beautiful velvet gift box.

You can visit the maker’s website: http://www.oldtuptonware.co

Standing still

Standing still

Guard duty

Guard duty

Something's out there

Something’s out there

We hope you have enjoyed this early spring edition of Kat-a-log. Please remember that calendar spring starts just in two days’ time – that calls for a celebration! Rita and Mal soon will be doing a big spring cleaning and who knows what we will find in our archives!
Olympia is sending her followers lots of warm greetings – there is still snow in Poland and the weather is not spring-like at all.

Keeping our fingers crossed all snow will soon melt away!

Have a great time and lots of sunshine, that’s what cats like the most 🙂

Best regards,
Rita, Mal and Olympia Dabrowicz