Good news and bad news

The good news is that the staff in Pret a Manger have finally learned to understand what I mean when I say ‘Bakewell’. They’ve been selling Bakewell tarts for over a year now, but – until today – whenever I asked for one the person serving me (in my Pret, they’re almost exclusively girls from South America) would always just smile or giggle in a confused and polite way, as though I were making a joke that she didn’t understand, and then not give me a Bakewell tart. I got used to just pointing at what I wanted and maybe doing a small mime. But then today I was too far away to point, so I had to ask for it by name. I got it on only the second asking. Perhaps it was because it was a man serving me. I don’t know. Whatever the reason, this is good news.

The bad news is that yesterday’s good review of my book has unaccountably disappeared from Amazon. At least I have been able to console myself with a legitimately ordered Bakewell tart.


On the 19th of May, I launched the Kindle edition of Perpetual Astonishment with an apologetic message on Facebook. On the 1st of June, I celebrated the paperback launch with an embarrassed line on Facebook. Since then, I have sold seven paperback copies and sixteen Kindle copies. I’ve also had two of my five Kindle giveaway days, which have led to 212 downloads. Oh, and I’ve given away about seven paperback copies, for diverse reasons.

This is far from being a runaway success, but – more importantly – it’s also quite far from no one reading it. And of the people who are reading it or have read it, I would say that about ten have unequivocally convinced me that they like it. This is ten more than I feared.

All in all: a mixed bag, but one containing some plums and no rotten apples.

And I have the approval of a stranger, which is strangely important and moving.

The first review from someone I don’t know

I’ve been made ridiculously happy this afternoon by someone I don’t know giving Perpetual Astonishment a five-star review on Amazon. It has increased my determination to rate every book I like from now on: I had never realised the huge pleasure it gives. It is at least as nice as getting that Lego spaceship when I was six, or taking ecstasy that time when I was twenty.

Next time you see me, I’ll have given English Weather by Neil Ferguson a five-star review, because that’s what I’m reading at the moment.

This is it here:

In the middle of reading and already recommending… 11 Jun 2012

Format:Kindle Edition
I have been ambushed by The Perpetual Astonishment. It was lying around our house waiting for my husband to read it, and I was in that unnerving state of being ‘between books’ so I picked it up, loved the cover, started reading and have since resented any interruptions like sleep or work or children complaining of being hungry. In fact I’m enjoying it so much I’m leaving work an hour early just so that I can read it in bed.It is very funny, well written, charming, intelligent and although it could, if it wanted to, swagger about being blatantly cool it has chosen to do it in a modest unassuming way (which, of course, is way cooler).If you need cheering up or just need entertaining then I recommend it 100%. And no, I don’t know the author.


What looks like a bunch of bananas but isn’t?

Over the last few days there has been a mini-epidemic of people coming to this site because they Googled “What looks like a bunch of bananas but isn’t?” (WordPress tells me some of the search terms people use to come here – and they were all getting to a piece of flim-flam I wrote called Labour-Schmaving.) Perhaps only the first of them was genuinely looking for the answer. The rest have probably come because I mentioned the search on FaceBook.

Anyway, if you were that first person and you come here again, I’m afraid that the answer to your question is “nothing”. It’s disappointing I know, but there it is.

To make you feel better, here is a link to a BBC news story about a group of students who have turned some bananas into a piano:

MIT students’ invention turns bananas into keyboard

N.B. You might be tempted to think that this banana piano is something that looks like a bunch of bananas but isn’t. Unfortunately, it’s something that looks like a bunch of bananas but is a bunch of bananas but also (apparently) functions as a piano. If that’s what you were looking for then you need to be more specific with your search terms.


At Tower Bridge


The surly-polite crowd

With flags and anoraks

With bunting and occasional grins

Entirely hides the fleet


A whispered fanfare

Rumours of the Queen

The bitter, hard-driving June rain

This is Britain

The first review

My book has been reviewed by Sarah Castell (an improviser with Red Lorry Yellow Lorry, among much else) on Amazon and on her lovely blog, here:

It’s pretty much exactly how I hoped people would respond to the book:

This book is, in a way, a manifesto for us all to recapture our childlike state of astonishment with the world.  Which is good. It comes from a happy place and made me laugh. I liked it.

This is a relief, since I haven’t shown the book to anyone in ages, and the good feeling I got when people liked it then (and particularly when it got me an agent) has largely worn off, especially since it was rejected by publishers. Their categorising it as “black comedy” always seemed a bit odd to me. I know that someone’s murdered in the first chapter, but I’ve always seen it as being quite a sunny, innocent book.

I’m very glad that’s how it seemed to Sarah too.

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