One really fun period of my life was working at the late, great Adyar Bookshop under the management of Peter Smith. He was (is) a gentle, adventurous soul and he managed us all with great good humour and indulgence. I well remember a quite mad woman lodging a complaint about me ("I don't like that fat man! He is sarcastic!") on my first day working for him, and he defended me gallantly, thereby assuring my undying loyalty.
He was an inveterate traveller (doing a Mongolia trip while I worked for him) and a committed cyclist, having undergone lunatic feats of physical endurance like cycling around Vietnam at the height of Summer!
Little did I know that he was also a poet! Peter has just released his first children's book, Monsieur Albert Rides to Glory, illustrated by no less a luminary than Bob Graham, one of the most celebrated and beloved children's book illustrators in the world.
What's even more extraordinary is that the book was written no less than 30 years ago. It was shelved while both men pursued their separate careers but, recognising the growing popularity of cycling as a sport, they dusted off their old manuscript about the Tour de France and have released it to a delighted public.
Of course, some changes had to be made. M. Albert is a little older, but a little sleeker than in the original drawings. He has also dropped a couple of unfortunate habits, notably smoking and drinking. But he remains an unlikely hero, and one that children between 6 and 8 will relate to with great pleasure.
So, congratulations my old friend, and if you are looking for a delightful, inspiring and utterly unique Christmas gift for the children in your llife, look no further than Monsieur Albert Rides to Glory.
Oh, and if you live in Sydney and want an autographed copy, here's a tip - head to Abbey's Bookshop in the City.
3 hours ago