Ruth Taylor wraps up her local marketing tour for The Cat and the Captain in Portsmouth, UK

March 10th, 2021

Post by Ruth Taylor

If the train had travelled any slower, I could have beaten it on foot. It must have stopped at two hundred stations. British Rail was frustrating my eagerness to get to the three museum shops in the 600-year-old Portsmouth Historic Dockyards where there must surely be interest in Matthew Flinders R.N.  R.N. don’t forget – Royal Navy. Flinders and his cat, Trim, are the subject of my children’s book, The Cat and the Captain. But the museums weren’t ‘making purchases at this time’ (during the Covid pandemic), or were completely ‘Tudor-themed’, and bored Tracey in the National Maritime Museum shop gave me a torn slip of paper inscribed with the enquiries @ the head office e-mail address, from where I’d already received a uninterested response.

The town museum advised that I e-mail their book purchaser when she returned from holiday. Who goes on holiday during a pandemic?

Trim decided this was a holiday. He insisted on ‘running down to the beach’ although I warned him it was all lumpy shingle, the tide was out, it was 12⁰ centigrade and it looked like rain. Undeterred he stubbornly sat on his deckchair in his red jumper and regarded the seagulls with carnivorous longing.

Dragging Trim away he stopped miaowing as soon as he smelled Portsmouth’s fish market where he urged me to buy fresh fish. It did look very appetizing, but the idea of taking raw fish home in a warm train with Trim scratching at it while I dozed sounded aggravating.

Suddenly it poured with rain. Bucketed down and blew a gale. We ducked into the 113 Art Café and ordered coffee and a smoked salmon bagels. At last a loo stop. The walls were covered in huge reproduction paintings of iconic figures with cups of coffee in their hands. There was the Girl with a Pearl Earring, originally by Vermeer, and an art nouveau woman with flying golden hair. Very well executed, but I wondered if it was worth the effort. The coffee and the loo certainly were.

On to our last stop: the Central Library. The manager, Clare, was in and took the time to see me. ‘Is this your first book? … Well done! …The History Group will be interested in this – oh, and the Writing Group. … I’ll show the senior manager, David, he’s responsible for all nine libraries in Portsmouth ...’ Nine libraries just in Portsmouth! I doubt if there are nine libraries in the whole of Lincolnshire where Matthew Flinders was born. ‘The Leader of Lincolnshire Council is a pig farmer’ was the explanation I was given for Lincolnshire’s parlous library situation. ‘… and all the school libraries.’ Now we’re talking. I showed her the teaching notes. Clare was impressed and delighted. 

‘Can you leave the book? … It will go straight onto our shelves.’ Absolutely.

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