As a strange and difficult year draws to a close, the CVP/MM team are trying to think positive by reflecting on what they’re most looking forward to this Christmas.
This year Christmas will no doubt feel very different to normal in many ways, but for me the most important part of Christmas will not have changed. Our family has always celebrated Christmas eve with a sauna and a nice meal of typical Finnish Christmas foods, and spending the evening quietly and peacefully together with those closest to us. It’s a really lovely opportunity to slow down for a while and just be together with no distractions.
Despite, or perhaps because of, the challenges 2020 has brought, I am particularly looking forward to Christmas. It will be a time to stop and take stock, and really appreciate what we have managed to achieve… primarily buying and moving into our first family home (and all during a lockdown!). As an Army family, we have moved A LOT, so, this year, watching our children hanging their stockings in the fireplace, choosing the perfect spot for the tree and decorating their bedrooms feels even more special, knowing this is the first of many Merry Christmases in our own home.
I’m usually fairly militant about Christmas and its traditions – everything has to be the same as it’s always been. So it’s strangely freeing this year to just accept that it’s not going to be! Roast dinner is my absolute favourite meal so I’m looking forward to a really good one after weeks (maybe even months) without. Otherwise it’ll just be lovely to spend a couple of days with my family (inside – how novel!) and see the back of 2020…
I am looking forward to spending my Christmas matching my decorations to those on telly! Not really (but for all those non-His Dark Materials fans this is Hester the hare meeting Hester the daemon hare, such is lockdown entertainment) – I am most grateful and thankful that my family and friends are healthy and happy this Christmas. And I’m always very excited about turkey and bread sauce sandwiches – bring on all the Christmas food! 🎄✨🍗
As with everything this year, my Christmas will be much more Somerset-focused than usual. This December, Cheddar (it’s a real place!) is participating in Window Wanderland, for which people decorate their windows and light them up during the evening. My daughters wanted a Harry Potter theme, so here are our windows and our Christmas lights. We’ll be going on lots of evening walks to enjoy the window displays and the thousands of Christmas lights that have appeared this year.
I’m most looking forward to seeing my children’s excitement. They are at the age when Christmas is very magical and love all the lights and decorations. It’s also lovely to have a break from the usual routine and spend time as a family.
I’m most looking forward to being back in Dorset with my family and doing lots of baking, Christmas crafting, and playing ridiculous games.
We moved house last month and I am looking forward to having some time to spend working on it – for we have great plans for how we’ll make it our own. I shall enjoy learning new skills and taking out all the frustrations of 2020 on some walls which we’ll knock down! Our little Christmas tree is likely to get a dusting of debris rather than snow this year! And of course, I shall be doing plenty of Christmas baking to make sure we are well fuelled for all of this hard work.
We wish you all a very merry Christmas and a happier and healthier 2021.
In this post Tommi reflects on the unprecedented events of 2020 and how they have affected us as a business and as a team.
Well, what a strange year this has been! As England starts its new month-long series of restrictions, it’s a good time to look back on how this year has been for Multilingual Matters and Channel View Publications.
At the beginning of 2020, Multilingual Matters and Channel View Publications were looking at a good year of publications and a very healthy production pipeline of new materials. Following on from a year where sales had been quite depressed, we were seeing really good financial figures and the business was looking very healthy. We had two members of staff away on parental leave, but we were looking forward to welcoming them back in the summer and to really forging bravely into the future. Brexit loomed as a potential difficulty, and we were thinking about what steps we could take to make the business more environmentally friendly.
During a February vacation taking some friends to visit my home in Finland we had started to see an increased number of reports of coronavirus spreading, and the seemingly drastic measures taken in Wuhan to contain the virus as much as possible. It seemed like a sad situation, but such a long way away from us. I returned to my desk in early March and discussed with Anna Roderick whether we should start to consider our work-related travel to conferences, not really so much from a health perspective, but more because we felt it might just not be worth flying to the conferences if few people would attend. Then slowly the conference cancellations started coming in, and before long there was talk of what would happen if the UK government announced a lockdown. Every day brought different announcements, and it was getting very difficult to believe that anyone had any sensible plan at all. I found it almost impossible to concentrate on actual work, and we all speculated on when we might be told to work from home.
One evening while giving blood at my local blood donor centre, I sat and watched the news on the TV. Since our national government clearly wasn’t going to make a decision anytime soon, I typed a message out with one hand to my colleagues saying that “from tomorrow, we’ll work from home”. We all took our laptops home, and that was it. I expected it to be six weeks, or maybe two months. I did not expect that in November, eight months later, I would still be working from home and that I would have only seen my colleagues face-to-face a handful of times during that period. Had I known it would last this long, I would probably have suggested that we work in the office one last day, all have lunch together, and then go home, but at the time it seemed more sensible to break as many chains of contact as quickly as possible.
Fortunately, over the years our systems have been designed to allow homeworking and remote working while travelling, so the switch to working from home was technically not too difficult, and our team was pretty quickly coming up with strategies to make home working seem less lonely, including a shared 2.30pm break to listen to the same song, with each member of staff choosing the song on rotating days. We definitely have an eclectic taste in music across the whole team! Some of us had been working from home for a long time already, and so Sarah Williams and Anna Roderick were able to give us “newcomers” some tips and advice on how to organise ourselves, and enjoyed a more social atmosphere than before, now that us office workers began to understand the importance of regular contact!
The CVP/MM team working from home
About 10 days after we had decided to work from home, the government made a national announcement that we should all work from home and not leave our houses unless shopping for food, or for essential exercise once per day. All non-essential shops were to close, as were all workplaces that could not operate in a COVID-safe manner. Amazon stopped ordering books to focus on other product lines, and our two biggest wholesale customers closed their doors for an indefinite period. It was clear that this was not going to be a short, sharp shock and then back to business as usual. Together with the senior management team at Multilingual Matters and Channel View Publications, we took the decision that the two most important things that we could do were to focus on staff wellbeing, and to conserve as much cash as possible. We immediately stopped all longer print runs and switched to digital printing, and decided that we would delay sending the usual complimentary copies of the books. We also wrote to all of our authors asking for patience with our annual royalties payments. We asked that authors who were either self-employed, in precarious employment or otherwise in a financial situation where the money would make a difference to their daily lives identify themselves to us so that we could prioritise payments to them, and that otherwise we would delay payments to a time when cashflow would allow. Our authors and editors responded with such warm and supportive messages. Many people wrote to offer words of encouragement and support, to insist that others were prioritised, and a good number even offered to donate their royalties to us this year. To all of you, I would like to extend a very heartfelt thank you from the whole Multilingual Matters and Channel View Publications team. The financial breathing room that this gave us was vital. But even more vital was the psychological boost that we got from feeling that we were genuinely valued as part of the community.
As the weeks went by, the news was mixed. One of our biggest wholesale customers declared bankruptcy, leaving us with a considerable bad debt. Fortunately, around that time the other wholesale customer started to re-open their warehouse, and orders began to come in, albeit at a much reduced volume. At the same time we started to see the sales of ebooks to libraries increase, which gave us some confidence that we weren’t going to be facing a complete halt in income. We were able to start sending out complimentary copies again, and we started to pay royalties. By the end of July we had caught up and paid all outstanding royalties where we knew we had payment preferences recorded. We also saw an increase in the number of manuscript submissions and so we felt that the decision to keep working rather than to go on furlough was definitely the right one. We have been innovative, arranging webinars and events on Zoom to promote the books from authors who have not been able to show off their work at conferences. Expect to see more of this over the coming months as we plan to introduce more of our publications in this manner.
We arranged a few social events, including the ubiquitous Zoom “pub quiz” that has been a lockdown experience for most Brits, afternoon drinks, and even a shared Devon cream tea, which Sarah Williams organised for us one week. In the summer we managed to meet face-to-face on one occasion, with seven of us sitting around a large pub table at a time when social restrictions had been lifted temporarily. I still hold onto that lunch as one of my favourite lunches of the year! Although I certainly miss seeing my colleagues every day in the office, I think we have managed as well as is possible to keep a sense of togetherness going, which will prove vital as we now head towards a more difficult winter lockdown.
What will the coming months bring? I think February 2020 shows that we cannot take anything for granted, but equally so does March, April and May. It has been a much tougher year so far than I could ever have imagined when it started, but it has not been as bleak as we thought it would be at some times during April and May. We still expect that Brexit will cause some headaches for us as trade regulations and rules around exporting change. We do not yet know how bad the winter spread of coronavirus will be, or when we might be able to have more normal interactions with each other. Conference travel and bookfair travel seem a very long way away still. We can only imagine that with the levels of financial intervention that many countries have had to take over the past year, budgets of all publicly funded institutions will be strained, and this will no doubt have an impact on us in the future. But we are financially much more stable today than we were in February, and I believe that we are also more resilient as a team.
I could not be prouder of how my colleagues have responded to the difficulties and challenges this year has produced, and how we have still managed to find positives and celebrate successes. I strongly believe that this year has shown that we can overcome some really difficult situations when we, both in-house and as a wider community, work together to make sure that we look after each other’s interests.
Today is World Book Day! Inspired by this year’s theme, Share A Million Stories, in this post we talk about our favourite stories from childhood.
One of my favourite stories as a child was There’s No Such Thing As A Dragon. It’s a story about a little boy called Billy who wakes up to find a dragon in his bedroom, but when he tells his mum, she doesn’t believe him. The dragon, who is a rather rebellious character, gets bigger and bigger and harder and harder to ignore, yet the mum still tells Billy that the dragon doesn’t exist. It’s a funny story and a great reminder that sometimes children are right and adults are wrong. Plus, it has some really tasty looking pancakes in it, which I was always desperate for my mum to make for breakfast (she never did!).
One of my favourite childhood stories was a book read to me in Finnish when I was laid up in bed with pneumonia. It was called Kuinka Kum-Maa on Kaikkialla and tells of a little boy called Pau who is bored and ill in bed. All of a sudden a shape in the flowery wallpaper comes to life, and princess Lilaloo takes little Pau to ‘Kum-Maa’ (a play on the Finnish word kummaa meaning strange) where all of the inhabitants are two dimensional like pictures and so eat only two dimensional foods like gingerbread and pancake. Princess Lilaloo and Pau have a number of adventures in ‘Kum-Maa’, and I vividly remember staring at the wallpaper and the various paintings at my grandparent’s house imagining my own exciting adventures. After all, as the Finnish title promises, “Kum-Maa” is everywhere…
I was considering writing about something a little less obvious, but I would be lying if I didn’t say that the Harry Potter books were hands down my favourites as a child. I distinctly remember the release of new books and the pain at these times of being the youngest in my family – this meant having to wait for every other family member to read it before I could. When it was finally mine, I would read it cover to cover without much stopping, before turning back to the beginning and starting again. So exciting!
I had a lot of favourite books when I was a child (I still do!) but what really stands out for me is the Malory Towers books by Enid Blyton. Sharing them now with my daughters (who love them as much as I did), I’m surprised at how modern they are in some ways – the girls are expected and encouraged to do great things, and to be clever and brave as well as kind. I suspect when I was a child it was the midnight feasts and the absence of parents that I enjoyed most though.
Like Anna, it’s really difficult for me to choose, but one that stands out is Dick King Smith’s Sophie Stories. I loved (and still do!) the character of Sophie – ‘small but very determined’ and no-nonsense, she loves animals and her greatest ambition is to be a ‘lady farmer’. At the beginning of the books her parents think she’s too young to have a pet, so in preparation for her future career she keeps ‘flocks and herds’ of woodlice, earwigs and snails in the garden shed, which she conscientiously tends to. As the series goes on and she grows older, she accumulates a cat (Tomboy), a rabbit (Beano), a puppy (Puddle) and eventually a pony (Lucky). My sister and I were big animal lovers and our ultimate wish was to have a pony (spoiler – it never happened), so the idea of all those pets was very appealing (less so to our parents, who had agreed to a cat and nothing more).
One of my favourite bedtime stories (and one that has always stuck with me!) when I was young was from Enid Blyton’s Goodnight Stories. It is called Polly’s Ps and Qs. It was about an ill-mannered girl who always forgot to say please and thank you. Her mother decided that she would pin a big ‘P’ or ‘Q’ to her dress every time she forgot. I lived in horror of my parents starting this trend if I didn’t remember my manners! 😃
2020 has well and truly begun and we’re looking forward to the arrival of spring, not only for the (hopefully) slightly warmer weather, but also because it marks the beginning of our busy annual conference season.
In fact, Sarah has already been flying the flag for CVP at the CAUTHE conference in Auckland, New Zealand earlier this month, where she was able to have her yearly catch-up with our tourism contacts down under. Laura will be the next to head off, beginning our season of US conference travel with NABE in Las Vegas next week. Next on the schedule is GURT in Washington DC, which Anna will be attending in March. Following hot on her heels Tommi and Laura will be off to the back-to-back AAAL and TESOL conferences held this year in Denver. Then as April rolls around, it will be time for Laura to set off again (although not so far afield this time) for IATEFL in Manchester, our first UK conference of 2020.
As we head into summer, Sarah will be making the trip up north to attend the TEFI conference in York in June. Unfortunately the Sociolinguistics Symposium planned to take place in Hong Kong in June has had to be postponed until 2021, due to the coronavirus outbreak. We’re looking forward to catching up with everyone there next year instead. We then continue our summer travel with EuroSLA in Barcelona, Spain in July, followed by AILA in Groningen, Netherlands the following month.
As well as all these major conferences, we sometimes pop to smaller, more local meets and book launches, and send unattended displays far and wide, so wherever you’re heading this year, look out for our books!
This month we will be publishing The Future Past of Tourism edited by Ian Yeoman and Una McMahon-Beattie, which looks at how the history of tourism will shape its future. Inspired by this, in this post the CVP team reflect on their favourite past trips and dream future ones…
I still remember the first holiday I ever went on, to stay in a holiday cottage in West Wales with my cousins when I was nine. I had a new suitcase especially for the occasion, which I filled with all sorts of things from my bedroom at home…none useful for a holiday! The holiday itself was very simple: days spent on the beach or playing in the garden, and I’m sure it wasn’t as sunny as I remember but in my mind it was a perfect week. My cousins and I still talk about some of the in-jokes and sayings from the holiday and it’s those shared memories which make it my favourite past holiday.
There are a zillion places I’d love to visit, some close to home and some further afield. Inching its way up my list is the North Coast 500, Scotland’s 516 mile long tour of its northernmost roads. The appeal is the stunning scenery, isolation and Scottish hospitality. I’m yet to decide if I want to drive or cycle it, but either way, I’ll need to be prepared for all weathers!
My favourite travel has always involved trains and ferries. Childhood journeys to Finland for Christmas always involved a train ride first across the UK, then a ferry to Hamburg, Esbjerg or Gothenburg, and either an overnight sleeper train to Stockholm followed by the Viking Line to Turku or Helsinki, or the Finnjet direct from Travemünde. The excitement of travelling over several days to get to “Mummola” in the winter with the dark scenery passing mysteriously by the train window. Stopping off in Copenhagen to see the Tivoli, or spending a night in Lübeck and visiting the German Christmas markets, before the final ferry ride across the Baltic. Would the sea be frozen? Would we spot any seals on the ice? Having a proper sauna in the bowels of the exciting Finnjet ferry with a swimming pool that had a swell in it as the ship rocked on the waves…all the while knowing that as we got closer to Grandma the sweets started tasting nicer…. First we got Skipper liquorice pipes on the ferries to Europe, then Marabou chocolate if we went via Sweden or Haribo in Germany, and finally as we hit the Finnish boats – Fazer! And proper liquorice! As our ferry sailed into Helsinki we would be met by an uncle waving to us from the terminal building and they would drive us the last leg to where “mummi” and “vaari” were waiting, having filled the garden with ice lanterns and we would catch the scent of “pulla” and “makaroonilaatikko” drifting out of the door…it’s no wonder I’ve grown up to love travelling!
When I was a child we would often travel overland partly due to cost of flying a family of four to Finland in the early 1980s and partly due to the feeling that by flying over everything we were missing out on so much. My Dad always looked forward to the adventure and the endless planning to find a “new” route…although I have tended to travel more by air in the last few years, I definitely feel like I have missed out on a lot, so I hope to get back to a more exciting, and relaxing, way of getting around.
Tommi with his brother Sami and their dad, Mike, on the Finnjet
Viking Line ferry
Tommi with Sami and their mum, Marjukka on the ferry
Tommi, Marjukka and Sami hiking in Austria
Sami, Tommi and Marjukka on the train
In the immediate future we are planning to travel by train to Anterselva in Italy for New Year, with an overnight stop in Munich and a ride over the Brenner pass before spending a week cross country skiing, and catching the overnight train from Milan to Paris and back to the UK.
One day I would dearly love to travel all the way to Japan by train. Japan is a country that I have always loved spending time in, and if I can travel overland I feel like I will better understand where it is, and hopefully arrive for once without any hint of jetlag! I would hope to travel via the Trans-Siberian either to Beijing or Vladivostok, and then take a ferry with a few days in South Korea on the way…I personally hope that the future of my own travel will come full circle to my past travels, and that more and more of my journeys will once again be taken by train and ferry.
I’ve been lucky enough to go on some amazing trips over the years, but maybe the one that stands out the most is a trip I took to Ghana in 2015. I went with my friend to visit her family in Accra, Kumasi and Abetifi. I loved everything about it – the people, the language, the colours, the tropical heat, the food, the landscape… We stayed with my friend’s parents on the compound of the school they run, so we were always surrounded by kids, which was fun (and very noisy). We spent our days visiting family friends, markets, local villages, museums, the cultural centre, a cocoa farm, a Kente cloth workshop, a lake and a waterfall, and our evenings at the local ‘spot’ which was a tiny neighbourhood kiosk/bar with really loud speakers. A highlight of the trip was a very long drive (with one, and later two babies on our laps) to stay with my friend’s grandmother up in the mountains. She was still working the land in her 80s!
The central market in Kumasi
Ashanti dancers at Kumasi Cultural Centre
On the way to Abetifi
Tending the crops
There are so many places I’d love to go in the future, but I think Sri Lanka’s probably top of my list. Apart from how beautiful and diverse it looks, my grandparents, who were in the army and navy, met there during the war at a dance in Kandy, and so I’ve got a bit of a sentimental reason to visit too! It might be a little while yet though, as I’ve decided to have a ‘no-fly year’ in 2020, so I’ll be keeping any travel to countries I can get to by train.
In 2015 my sister and I went to the US to embark on as many different kinds of tourisms as we could – sport, literary, film, tv and music! We started in Boston where we saw the Red Sox play and spent a bookish day in Concord, then to New York where we took in a Giants game, an Islanders game and a Red Bulls game! We bussed next to Washington, DC. After much sightseeing there we flew down to Orlando to go to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter – and also managed some relaxing by the pool. Our last stop was Nashville, where we visited the Opry and Ryman before spending our last night watching Foo Fighters at Bridgestone. It was a pretty tiring holiday but every day was very exciting! 🙂
Orchard House, Concord
NY Islanders, Brooklyn
Sarah with her sister, Cath, at The Bluebird, Nashville
Grand Ole Opry
It would be amazing to have a whole year off and pack it with as many sporting events as possible. January and February in Australia to watch the Big Bash (and be warm!) then back to the UK touring round the country for the rest of the football season and cricket season, maybe taking in an England cricket tour at some point to the West Indies 🙂
For more information about The Future Past of Tourism please see our website.
This month we are publishing Heritage and Sportby Gregory Ramshaw. In this post, some of the CVP team tell tales of their own sport heritage.
My parents met at a hockey match in which they squared off against each other (my mum was a kickass goalie) so I have always felt that sport is important in relation to my own heritage!
Aside from that, my sister and I were brought up constantly watching football and cricket; our mum is a fervent and dedicated Man Utd and England cricket fan. We were treated to replays of the 1981 and 1986/7 Ashes series at a young age (the latter of which Daddles the Duck was an exciting feature) and a subconscious impression that Australians-when-playing-cricket should not be liked – cue deep disapproval when we pretended to be the Waugh twins while playing in the garden.
My dad is still playing hockey at 75 – I hope I am as active at his age!
Sarah’s mum playing in goal for Devon in the early 80s
Sarah’s dad on the pitch
I’ve always been fascinated by Finland’s heritage in long-distance running and other Nordic endurance sports. In particular the exploits of Paavo Nurmi, Ville Ritola, Hannes Kolehmainen and the other “flying Finns” has always been of interest, all the way up to Lasse Viren who famously fell during the 10,000m at the 1972 Munich Olympics, picked himself calmly up, chased down David Bedford to not just win the gold medal but also break the world record in the process. Although I haven’t visited many historic sites, the one place I did feel worth a visit was the Eläintarha athletics track in Helsinki, where on June 19th 1924 Paavo Nurmi tested whether it would be possible to run both 1500m and 5000m races in the same hour, since this was going to be the schedule at the Olympics that year. He set new world records for both distances…. Finnish long-distance running has had a glorious past, and as a child I dreamed of matching the exploits of these incredible athletes. Although I have lately conceded that I probably will never run at the Olympics, or break many world records, I do still feel a sense of pride whenever reminded of these events.
I’ve often found myself by chance or intention at the sites of previous Olympic Games. I find it fascinating to see how some sites have been put to good use and regenerated into something benefiting the local area, while others have become slightly eerie abandoned shells of their former glories. Here I am with some friends at the Olympic Rings in Portland, Dorset, which is where the sailing events were held during the London 2012 Olympics. It was a very cold and blustery day…perfect sailing conditions!
For more information about Heritage and Sport please see our website.
The Frankfurt Book Fair is one of our most important events each year to promote our publications, meet with our bookselling and distribution contacts, learn about the future trends in publishing, and generally take the pulse of the industry for the next year. It is always an exhausting week, with back-to-back meetings set every 30 minutes for three days, and socialising and networking opportunities in the evenings.
With such a punishing schedule at the fair, we have always felt that we should make the travel as pleasant and as relaxing as possible, and so in recent years we have taken a scenic drive with an overnight ferry trip and lunch stops in the beautiful Rhine valley to enjoy. Following a car accident that left my car unusable just weeks before the fair this year, we were left with a decision to make. Should we fly to the fair? In the 22 years that I’ve been visiting the fair, I have only flown twice, and the memory of Frankfurt airport full of tens of thousands of book trade contacts trying to leave the city after the fair is firmly etched on my memory, so we decided to return to travelling by train. In the five years since I last travelled by train, connections and frequency of trains along the route have improved, and as such we were easily able to leave Bristol in the early morning, and with just one cross-London underground trip and a change of trains in Brussels, we arrived in Frankfurt by the mid-afternoon to set up our stand. During this time we were able to sit back and relax, eat at our seats in the train, and spread our work out and prepare for our meetings in a very civilised manner. We were even lucky enough to have our own compartment on the Brussels-Frankfurt leg of the journey, which felt very like a step back to the age of Agatha Christie. Thankfully though there were no mysteries to be solved!
After three days of successful meetings at the fair, we again boarded the train at Frankfurt Hauptbahnhof, and were able to write up all of our post-book fair reports during the first leg of the journey, before a quick lunch at Brussels Midi. The train connections worked seamlessly, and we were back in Bristol in time for dinner on the Saturday evening.
We may have saved a few hours had we travelled by air, but by taking the train we saved ourselves the trouble of first travelling to the airport, then the hassle of check-in, security, and then waiting in departures, before a cramped flight and another wait for bags. Coupled with the environmental benefit of travelling by train, it really wasn’t a difficult choice and it’s one that we will most likely choose to make again in the future!
Ever wondered what the Frankfurt Book Fair is like? In 2017 Laura and Tommi filmed every aisle of every hall! You can watch the video here.
It’s that time of year again – the CVP/MM summer holiday round up! Take a look at what the team got up to at home and away over the already distant-seeming summer months…
The main event of this summer was celebrating Mum’s 70th birthday. My partner Sara and I travelled to Finland where my brother Sami and his family, along with mum’s brothers and their families joined us for a lovely summer party under the old apple trees that my great-grandparents planted. As well as the party we enjoyed a family boat trip to Stockholm and took part in a fell-orienteering race at Kilpisjärvi. The summer could not have been better and so lovely to have all the members of the three generations of our family all in the same place for the first time ever.
In June I went to Cala Blanca in Menorca with my sister and some friends to collectively celebrate us all turning 40 within the year! Much fun was had 😊 I don’t know what this says about me but my biggest take away from Menorca was how lovely the gates are.
After Laura raved about Slovenia following her trip there last summer, I decided I had to see it for myself… (heavily inspired by her itinerary) we started off in Piran on the southwest coast and ended up in mountainous Bovec, near the Austrian border. It was beautiful weather and we swam almost every day of our trip, in the sea, river, lakes and waterfalls. This photo was taken from the top of St George’s Bell Tower in Piran, where you get a beautiful 360 degree view of the town, the sea and the coast of Italy.
On holiday in Italy this year, we ventured up high into the mountains to what is known as ‘The Balcony of Italy’. The view from the top is actually of Lake Lugano in Switzerland and the Alps beyond, and is absolutely stunning. What better place to sit for a couple of hours with a book?
This year I spent a week walking the Dorset coast path (my home county) with my mum and dog. I spent much of my childhood walking sections of this coast path, as well as on the beaches, so it was lovely to connect everything up in one week. The walk also happily coincided with the hottest week of the year, so there was plenty of time spent in the sea cooling off!
A sunrise swim on our last day in Kefalonia, with the beach entirely to ourselves. We had a lovely, very lazy and very hot, holiday with lots of Greek food and beer.
This month Tommi had his 20 year anniversary working for the company. In this post we ask him a few questions about the past two decades(!) of loyal service…
What was your first role at the company and what did it involve?
My first role at the company was working in subscriptions processing. In 1998 the Y2K bug was on everyone’s mind, and it became apparent that the programme that my father had developed to process subscriptions and maintain our mailing list was not Y2K compliant, and so my job was to make sure that all addresses and subscriptions were transferred to the new system.
How has the company changed over the last 20 years?
Wow, well it has changed and it hasn’t. The most obvious change perhaps is that we no longer publish journals, and we publish over twice as many books per year as we did in 1998. In 1998 we had only just started publishing our journals online, and although we were using email to communicate, it was through a dial up modem that only connected to the internet once per hour. Much of our correspondence was letters delivered by our local postman, and our filing was all in paper files in filing cabinets. In 2018 all of our books are published simultaneously in print and ebook formats, we are able to work from home and connect into our files online, and there are many days in which nobody has the need to go to the post office. Although the faces have changed and I no longer work with my parents, we are still very true to the original values of the company that they started. We are committed to being a supportive company, whether that is to new authors, established senior academics, or to ourselves and our colleagues. We still all fit around a restaurant table and we remain faithful to our goal of publishing high quality books, whether they be research monographs about language acquisition, edited volumes about sustainable tourism, or guidance for parents and teachers about bringing up their children multilingually.
Do you remember your first Frankfurt Book Fair?
Yes! I visited Frankfurt first in 1998. My immediate impression was sheer incredulity as we travelled down the never-ending “via mobile” from the main entrance to Halle 8.0 where the Anglophone publishers had their exhibits. I have now been to the bookfair 21 times, and whilst it has compacted a little since my first visit, I still remain awestruck by the sheer number and range of books that are published around the world, and enthused by the number of German teenagers that choose the bookfair as their place to come and hang out, dress up in outlandish costumes, and share their love of literature.
What has been your biggest achievement/success?
There have been many achievements and successes over the years and it is hard to single them out, but amongst the many hundreds of books we have published I remember commissioning Kate Menken’s “English Learners Left Behind” on the spot as she talked to me about her fascinating thesis. But really the achievement I am most proud of is that in an age of consolidation where the larger corporate publishers are working to hoover up the lion’s share of library budgets with the effect of homogenising research outputs into somewhat stale prescriptive formats, we are still managing to carve out our own little niche where we can continue to publish interesting work in a nurturing manner. Whilst I sometimes wonder what problems I might have on my desk when I come into the office I have never had a day when I’ve woken up and thought “I wish I didn’t have to go to work today”. I’ve worked with some of my colleagues for well over 15 years, and we have a very low staff turnover, which says to me that together we’ve succeeded in creating an environment where people feel comfortable and happy to work, and if that isn’t an achievement to be proud of then I don’t know what is!
What’s your favourite part of the job?
Oddly, these days it could very well be paying royalties. Although our royalties bill to our authors is one of the larger expense items on our accounts, and I always complain loudly to friends, colleagues, and passers-by in the street before having to sit down and manually sign cheques, it was strangely satisfying to work through the list of 478 authors that we owed royalties to in 2018, ticking them off methodically as each one was paid. As I have taken more of a managerial and finance role in the business in the last few years I feel a bit more detached from the regular contact with series editors and authors that I used to have, so paying the royalties each year reminds me of projects that I worked on years ago!
What’s your favourite place you’ve travelled to for work?
I have been lucky to travel to a good number of wonderful places, but two stand out in my memory. In second place is the Stanley Hotel in Estes Park, Colorado where I attended a publishers summit organised by NetLibrary in the early days of ebook publishing. This is the hotel that Stephen King took for his inspiration for the Overlook hotel in the Shining, and the hotel took great delight in dedicating one channel on the TV to 24hr looped broadcasting of the movie. The chairs and tables in the corridors were often found in different and strange places in the morning, although whether this was a shrewd marketing ploy of the staff or something more sinister, I never found out…..
But my stand out favourite place to travel has got to be Japan. I really enjoy the ease of moving around both the country and the major cities, the food is always outstanding, the countryside beautiful, and the cities of Tokyo and Kyoto which I visit most often are so different that the contrast itself is fascinating. Our contacts at the major booksellers and importers are both friendly and professional, and so meetings are always productive.
What’s your favourite memory?
Oh crikey, what to choose from? I have worked with so many nice people over the past 20 years, both inside and outside of our office, and have a great number of happy memories of all of those people. I can’t pin down what my favourite memory is in a moment, but generally the memory of working successfully and (mostly) harmoniously with both of my parents has got to be the favourite. They taught me most of what I now know, and gave me the space and time to learn the rest myself, letting me make my own mistakes when they felt that was necessary. If I had to pick a moment it might very well be the evening when I sat with Dad in a pub in London and he tentatively suggested that perhaps I should consider coming to work with him and Mum…
Is it really mid-October already? The UK saw an unusually long, hot summer this year so autumn has come as quite a shock! Before we resign ourselves to gloves and scarves, here’s what we all got up to on our summer holidays this year…
This summer we travelled to Oulu, where we bathed in a sauna on a raft at Tuira beach, before spending a week in the south of Finland enjoying the peace and quiet of village life and the beautiful lakes and forests of Nuuksio Forest. We then took a week to drive back to the UK, visiting the beautiful cities of Riga, Vilnius, Gdansk and Lübeck. All were very beautiful in different ways, although the Hanseatic connection meant there were certainly some similarities. I can most definitely recommend the pierogi in Gdansk!
This summer I went to St Malo in Brittany with my family. This photo was taken on the day we took a boat trip across the river to Dinard. It was our first foreign holiday with my 1-and-a-half year old son and we all enjoyed spending our days at the beach in the sunshine and eating delicious French food!
This summer I went to Slovenia for the first time…wow! We hiked, swam, rafted, paddle-boarded and drove through the most beautiful wildflower meadows, dramatic mountains and the bluest rivers and lakes imaginable. I haven’t stopped raving about it and Slovenia has since shot to the top of my most recommended countries list!
I didn’t go on holiday this year as I was buying a house in Dawlish! Here it is – so relieved to have the buying process completed 🙂
A week after moving to Bristol from Northumberland we took a much-needed break from unpacking, heading to our holiday house in Mallorca. This is Cala Figuera – a pretty little fishing port in the South East of the island.
Despite it being one of the sunniest summers ever in the UK, my poor timing meant that my holiday this year consisted of a rainy trip to New Zealand and a very rainy week in Wales. A lot of our time this summer has been spent gardening, either in the garden of our new house or on our allotment. The council cleared the plot for us, and then I carted 75 wheelbarrows’ worth of horse manure the 100m from the road to the plot. This is the allotment when we took it over (girls foraging for gooseberries) and this is as it looked a few weeks ago, with winter crops going in. The allotment comes with a view of Cheddar Gorge, and it’s already one of my favourite places in the world.
I had a very late “summer” holiday this year – I’ve just come back from a week in Corfu! It wasn’t my usual sort of holiday – I usually get bored with too much relaxing, but the weather was beautiful (except for one very dramatic storm) and I spent a lot of time in the sea, reading and eating way too much!