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FELICITY’S BOOK FROM THE SOUTH!


As I write this, a


big day is approaching for me but thanks to the wibbly-wobbly timey-wimey nature of Time, as you read this column, it will already have been and gone. No, I haven't got ‘An Important Birthday’ coming up - I'm having no more of those, I've decided, and a major life change is not looming on the horizon. On October 8th, my new book will be published and I'm quite chuffed about that as you can imagine. It took the best part of a year to write and its production wasn't without... challenges, shall we say... but we got there in the end and finally it is being released into the wild in just over a week's time as I sit here tapping out these words on my laptop.


This will be my ninth book, which isn't bad going, is it? Someone once said that if I was a writer of historical fiction, or some other serious form of literature, instead of books about astronomy and science, I'd be seen as something of a major Cumbrian author, probably with my own page in Cumbria Life, sandwiched between one of those features on how a Penrith garden was inspired by a life-changing trip to Tibet and a profile of a ‘game changing’ bad boy Cumbrian chef who cooks with powdered unicorn horn, fairy dust and Gruffalo eyelashes to create meals that only the Kardashians or Beckhams can afford. I don't know about that, but I think nine books is pretty good going.


My first book was published back in the mists of time, in 1988, when the world was a much more innocent and optimistic place. We had space shuttles flying regularly, the threat of nuclear war was receding, and my heart belonged to Kim Wilde and Jenny Powell off ‘No Limits’. More followed and I began editing science books for publishers too. Now here we are in 2018 and in the thirty years that have flown past, the world has changed a lot. The space shuttles are all gathering dust in museums, a dribbling Tribble- haired lunatic in the White House seems to think a nuclear war would be not only winnable but fun and Jenny Powell is a regular presenter on ‘Loose Women’, a smiling Snow White amongst the cackling Witches of Eastwick.


INFO@THECOCKERMOUTHPOST.CO.UK


This ninth book is probably my most personal book yet. It's another children's astronomy book - you're all shocked, I know - and it takes its young readers on a guided tour of the night sky, explaining all about stars, constellations, Moon phases, the usual stuff. There's a big clue about what makes it different to other books in its title: ‘A Cat's Guide To The Night Sky’ is narrated by a cat, called Felicity, who features on every page of the book, sometimes in a space helmet as she soars amongst the stars; sometimes wrapped up in woolly hat and scarf as she watches shooting stars from a roof on a frosty winter's night.


Felicity isn't real, of course but she is based on a real cat - our previous Cat, Peggy, who I wrote about in several ‘Letters’ while she was with us. ‘Cat's Guide’ was born up at Kielder Starcamp one autumn, when I was asked by Stella to take Peggy outside our folding camper one night, so she could get on with some tidying-up. I duly picked Pegs up and carried her out into the stygian darkness of a clear Kielder night, just to get her out of the way for a while. Usually she would fall asleep in my arms, but this time I soon became aware that Peggy was wide awake and looking around her - not at the trees rustling in the breeze, but at the stars flashing and twinkling above us. At first, I thought I was imagining it but no, she was definitely taking in the view, eyes scanning the sky, star-gazing with me...


And that was it, a genuine ‘lightbulb moment’. What if other cats looked at the stars? I wondered. It made sense: after the novelty of chasing mice had worn off, what else would there be to but find a quiet spot and look at the stars glimmering above? That very night I scribbled down the idea and eventually a publisher, Laurence King, was impressed enough to want to make a book out of it... and a year- and-a-half later, that book will be on bookshop shelves as you read this.


I hope you'll go take a look.


Ok, let's see if we can make it ten... Stuart Atkinson


Eddington Astronomical Society of Kendal http://cumbriansky.wordpress.com


ISSUE 430 | 18 OCTOBER 2018 | 10


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