Monday, 25 February 2013

Book Event at Westbury Manor Museum, Fareham

What an interesting time that was!

I arrived at Westbury Manor slightly stressed following the drive through that bizarre roundabout which was designed and built at the same time as the new Tesco.  I sat in a queue waiting for the lights to change to green.  They finally did but the traffic remained static because the lights a few yards ahead were red.  Eventually after the lights changing four times to and fro, the queue started to move.  I felt relieved for a moment only to find that the next set were also red.  Got through these only to find myself stuck behind a bus which was also at the next lights which were also red.  By the time I got the the museum I was breaking out into a sweat.  Having allowed myself half an hour to set up - this was now down to 20 minutes.  I swung into the gateway only to find that the way was blocked by a post.  I then had to park in the disabled spot outside the gates, run in and dump my first box of books.  The volunteer in the reception apologised to me saying that she was on her own that morning and the people who were meant to be there to help me weren't going to be there after all.  Eventually I parked the car and got everything in ready to set up.

I was kindly given a coffee and rushed about setting things up whilst hoping that the rush we were expecting didn't all turn up too early.  I needn't have worried.  Despite my publicising on twitter and facebook and telling everyone I could think of about the event, it was a little disappointing as far as numbers were concerned.  However, never being one to be pessimistic, I put on my best smile and got on with it.

The local News photographer turned up and took several photos of me signing a copy of Caught in the Web for a lovely lady who had come along to hear my talk and buy a book.  Once he'd finished with the pictures I started the talk which was really just a bunch of my memories of growing up with parents who worked in Knowle Hospital and my reminiscences of working there in the 1970s and 1980s.  The small audience was great, interacting and chatting about their own memories.

I also met some old friends and spent quite a time sharing news with them about people we'd not seen or heard from for years.  I have to say that publishing Caught in the Web had brought some unexpected things into my life.  When I was writing it I had no idea that so much interest would be generated about life in mental hospitals in the last century and I certainly didn't think I'd be revisiting the past as I have.

Although there was only a handful of people at the event on Saturday, I think it was a success and would recommend anyone who is interested in Knowle Hospital history to drop into the museum over the next few days and have a look at the display.  Don't go today though, as the museum is closed on Mondays.

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