Day one saw me head north to Kingsley, to Creaney Independent Primary School. I had the most wonderful welcome with the librarian Karen and her library assistant, Ivana both dressed as Alice-Miranda. They had planned a delicious high tea with the staff at morning tea time too. I have a few very ardent fans in the school and meeting these children was a highlight for sure. I spoke with the entire school over the course of the day and it was great to see the students engaged in their own writing activities too. The school has a great warmth too it and the Principal, Trevor Mitchell is obviously a man with vision for his school.
Laurie Smith, the Random House Rep in the west picked me up that afternoon and we travelled across to the other side of the river to Brack's Library in Melville for a public event, hosted by Dymocks Garden City. I was overwhelmed by the number of children and parents who came along (that photo was taken as the group was still arriving) and it was a fabulous afternoon. One little girl, Erin who came to see me had recently moved from Sunderland UK to Perth and is a great friend of Lily's who I met in Newcastle earlier in the year. It was wonderful to meet her and her mother (who had driven a long way to come and say hello). I also met another huge fan, Olivia, who came along with her whole family. I was thrilled to meet them both.
On Wednesday Laurie picked me up at the hotel and we spent the day 'Random House touring', visiting three schools in quite close proximity. Bicton Primary, Booragoon Primary and Mel Maria Catholic Primary. All were fantastic and I enjoyed meeting the staff and students. Laurie is the most darling man - and it turned out that between the two of us we were a pretty good 'ideas team' too. Look out WA when next I head west!
The flight to Albany is just on an hour and I was met at the airport by Karen Bradbury, the librarian at Great Southern Grammar. She is a lovely lady - warm and enthusiastic and keen to show me the delights of this gorgeous town. Albany is very pretty, with a lovely old town hall and a wide main street. I was staying in a motel called My Place (which got a little confusing when Elinor, the other librarian called in the morning to say that she was at 'my place' and where was I? I thought she was at 'her place' as I'd forgotten the name of where I was staying but of course she was out the front!).
Great Southern Grammar School is a bit of a drive from town - about 20 minutes or so. Elinor is a bit of a caffeine addict too and so we headed to a café before driving out to the school. The school goes from Preschool through to Year 12 and quite a lot of the students board too. It's a great alternative for locals on the land instead of sending their children up to Perth. The school is on a big block, right on the water, so they have a great program of rowing and other water sports.
I worked with the Infants and Primary students over the next two days and also met local writers including Diane Wolfer, whose work I have oft admired. I also had the pleasure of spending an afternoon with the Yalari students at the school. Abbie was one of the children I looked after in my camp group a few years ago and it was great to meet her again and the other students. They are all doing so well, despite in some cases being thousands of kilometres from home. They enjoyed hamming it up for the camera too! An unexpected highlight of my visit was meeting the girls below - I saw the one on the left borrowing those three books and couldn't help asking her who they were for. She said, 'Me. I love Alice-Miranda' I thought that was very cool. Alice-Miranda's readers don't have to be primary aged - this girl was 14.
On the Friday evening a group of us had a lovely dinner out, starting with drinks at one of the local hotels which has a very elegant 'saloon' style bar, very much in the vein of the Victoria Room in Darlinghurst. It was most unexpected.
Last time I was in Perth, about 6 years ago, it was relatively sleepy place and the old adage that 'it only takes 20 minutes to get anywhere' definitely rang true. Not anymore! I think the traffic in the city on some mornings rivalled Sydney and it was certainly much busier than I remembered.
I do love the west though - there is something about the light, the air, the red dirt and the notion that you're still in Australia but so many miles from home.
I'm currently hatching a plan to get back to Perth in mid October on my way to Singapore and the UK. Watch this space for more details.