Category Archives: Travel

The long day

You can’t get into Charlotte Square before 9.30. I’d do well to remember that, and I could – and should – stay in bed for longer. But a witch can always read, so on Tuesday morning time was killed with Theresa Breslin’s Ghost Soldier.

Thanks to Theresa’s generosity I was able to be her husband for the morning. Not as nice a one as her regular Mr B, but I did my best. And I can confirm that while I was in the authors’ events prep area, I didn’t hear anything. At all.

Theresa Breslin, The School Librarian and Mary Hooper

Then I went along to Theresa’s school event with Mary Hooper, and afterwards in the bookshop I listened in amazement as Theresa asked a female fan (obviously in her upper teens) if she was the school librarian  – from one of the visiting schools. It was quite clear that she was a mature upper secondary school student. No. Apparently she was the head teacher. (The librarian was the greyhaired ponytailed gent next to her.)

Eating a sandwich very fast before my next event, I ended up letting four Swedes share my table. I didn’t share my Swedish-ness with them, however. I listened as they speculated on the nature of Charlotte Square. Apparently it’s a bookfair of some kind. ‘But where are the books?’ one of them asked. Quite. The book festival as a mere coffeeshop for tourists.

Ran into Keith Charters, who was clutching 60 copies of  David MacPhail’s Yeti On the Loose. Did some heavy hinting, which resulted in Keith handing over 59 copies to the bookshop. I mean, he had promised me one ages ago.

After school event no.2 I chatted a little with Linda Newbery, Tony Bradman and Paul Dowswell, getting my anthology signed by all three, each in the right places. Then went in search of Cathy MacPhail’s son David, and found him where I thought he’d be but not where Keith had said, along with his mother and a lovely baby. I’d been told he’d be a slightly taller version of his mum, which as Cathy drily pointed out wasn’t hard to achieve. I forgot to take a picture, but got my Yeti signed with an extra generous RAAAAAR! Then I admired the baby.

Wrote yesterday’s onsite blog post, before learning that Son and Dodo were coming over to entertain me, and to have coffee. It had got unexpectedly warm and sunny, and Son complained. We chatted, saw Ian Rankin arrive, noticed the longbearded gent from earlier years, and came to the conclusion that the scones which used to be of almost home made quality, were just dry and boring.

Son and Dodo went off to search for more Maisie books, and I had my Dyslexia event to go to. Glimpsed Nicola Morgan and Val McDermid (not together) and then it rained and got unexpectedly cold. I repaired to the yurt for a restorative sandwich and an even more restorative sip of cola to keep me awake, as well as find that cardigan I suddenly needed.

Arne Dahl

Anne Cassidy

Waited for Arne Dahl to turn up for his photocall, and did the best I could when he did, considering how dark and wet it was. He seemed bemused by the attention. While waiting for Arne’s event with John Harvey (whom I’d have snapped too, had I known who he was…) I walked over to the children’s bookshop and caught Anne Cassidy and Emma Haughton (who does not have long brown hair, after all) signing post-event.

Emma Haughton

And after a much longer day than someone my age should attempt, I limped along Princes Street for my late train home. Someone at Waverley told me to smile. He’s lucky I’m a peaceful sort of witch.

There will be a singing

That’s not just my continued mis-reading of the promised signing after every event. As I got off the tram on Saturday, I found myself struggling to avoid becoming part of a happy group of singers from the something or other gospel. I let them sway on ahead, but they gospelled so slowly that I ended up joining them, eventually overtaking whenever a more spacially aware singer prodded one of the others out of the way. And finally I led the procession, but I speeded up so I’d be out of there completely.

Tram? I hear you ask. Yes, I let the Resident IT Consultant drive me (us) to the Park & Ride and the tram conveyed me into Edinburgh. (It was Saturday. I wanted to make sure I didn’t suffer a repeat of the Saturday in 2012 when the train home was simply too full to join.)

I cased the joint for a while, coming to the conclusion the bookshop doesn’t stock Into A Raging Blaze. Found that the photographers’ background carpet was a more mellow green than it has been. Checked the price of cake – as you do – in case the Resident IT Consultant would need some later. And I, erm, rearranged some books in the bookshop. Although it is hard to put books face out when it is at the expense of other top books. Where is Dan Brown when you need him?

Michelle Harrison and Charlie Fletcher

Joined the proper photographers to snap Charlie Fletcher and Michelle Harrison. Not unsurprisingly they were keenest on the beautiful Michelle (who reminded me of a black haired J K Rowling). Me, I sort of stood behind the dustbins. Which isn’t necessarily a bad place to be. Being short, I’d already come to the conclusion I might have to take photographs between the legs of the others who have this unwritten shooting order I will never ever be able to join.

Michelle Harrison

After Charlie’s and Michelle’s event I repaired to the press yurt and most serendipitously came face to face with the newlyweds. I had more or less given up hope of fitting Philip and Lady Caveney into our respective schedules this week. So we had all of several minutes before Philip’s interview (for television, he claims) and I dashed on to The Siobhan Dowd Trust Memorial Lecture, where I was unable to avoid the Resident IT Consultant. Former children’s laureate Anthony Browne was there too.

The Caveneys

I had asked permission to bring the Resident IT Consultant to the yurt, so we went there for our dinner sandwiches, and the life saving coffee. Sat opposite a woman I slowly worked out must be a Swedish journalist, and even more slowly I worked out that she the man she was interviewing was Bernardo Atxaga (whose book Shola miraculously appeared in my Swedish letterbox over the winter).

Being on translating grounds here, I wasn’t altogether surprised to see Daniel Hahn, but I didn’t tug at his sleeve either, as he was intent on Bernardo. I trawled the square for some action and found I arrived just in time for the signing by Anne Plichota and Cendrine Wolf, who write the Oksa Pollock books.

Anne Plichota and Cendrine Wolf

Sara Paretsky

After some killing of time had taken place (it rained…) we finally got to the evening’s long awaited photocall with Sara Paretsky. She jumped straight into her star role, saying the attention she got from the photographers made her feel as though she’s important. Murdo Macleod pointed out she is important. I hung back by the dustbins again, knowing my camera would never totally overcome the fact that it was eight o’clock and a little dark, and that I couldn’t hope to achieve what Murdo and Co did. Meanwhile the Resident IT Consultant chatted to one of the photographers about why they all wear black. (I had no idea he was so into fashion!)

Sara Paretsky

We went straight to Sara’s event with Tom Rob Smith who – it turns out – is half Swedish. Naturally. Not knowing what he looked like before last night, I did miss his photocall on the green carpet. Apologies. (He looks sort of Swedish, if that helps.)

My skills for getting to near the front of the singing, I mean signing, queue had not deserted me, and I had my two minutes with Sara before too long. We agreed that facebook is the way to keep track of house moves and dogs. And stuff.

The light was far too bad for pictures, so I led the Resident IT Consultant back to the tram stop with no more singing, and from there it was a smooth trip home, without any need to get too close to any fellow passengers.

(In the small hours leading up to Saturday I had dreamed an alternate Sara Paretsky signing. She and her many (?) publicists, as well as a large group of fans, turned up outside my – old – house, to do the signing. I invited them in for soup and sandwiches. Her and the PRs, not the fans, obviously. Once inside it became my new house and that was so not good, because of its unfinished state. Also, my freezer isn’t that well stocked yet, and I was busy working out how to make the small amount of soup I had stretch between so many. But other than that, it was a fine signing.)

Friday the 15th

‘As usual’ I had a quick rest on Willie Johnston on my way to Charlotte Square. I can see that he – or more accurately his bench – and I will be seeing more of each other.

Zeraffa Giraffa

I had a carefully compiled list for Friday, in order to fit as much as I could in. Finding a mutually convenient time to have a spot of lunch with wonderful publicist Nicky proved just about possible. Her charges were busy all day, and first I went to find Jane Ray – who is very good with giraffes – at her signing. She had been making giraffe masks at her event, and the shop was full of tiny human giraffes. Very nice to meet publisher Janetta Otter-Barry (hers was a regal sort of presence…) who was there to oversee the proceedings.

Jane Ray

Nicky gave me lunch in the authors’ yurt, and we had a little chat about families as well as about books. I came away with two new books, and having surprised her with my weird interests, there might be more. (I now have a flag sticker book!) In return I tipped her off that Craig Pomranz (of Raffi knitting fame) was due a photocall session after lunch.

Debi Gliori, who was next on my list, popped in for a cuppa before her event, and was slightly disturbed to find I’d be there to heckle from the back. But as long as I vote the right way in the referendum we are fine…

Speaking of politics, by the time I’d decided I could tug on Peter Guttridge’s sleeve (as instructed by himself), Paddy Ashdown ‘got in the way’ and there was Ming Campbell and many others whose names could be dropped. So, no sleeve-tugging. Yet.

Ever the involved publicist, Nicky has taken up knitting to join in with Craig’s and Raffi’s scarf making. But the biggest help had been a very, very young girl in the audience who spontaneously organised Craig’s event for him.

Debi Gliori

I went off to get to Debi’s event on time (more of which in separate post), and after it I trailed her to the bookshop where she doodled for her fans for about an hour and a half. One of her talented picture book colleagues, Jackie Morris, was busy painting in the grown-ups’ bookshop all afternoon.

Jackie Morris

Then it was time for Craig Pomranz to sign after his second knitting event, and he unravelled (no, I don’t mean that… he got out) Raffi’s actual scarf and proceeded to wind it round a couple of small fans.

Craig Pomranz and Raffi's scarf

Me, I went back to the yurt and waited for Gordon Brown. There was some discussion between two people as to whether we were about to get the former PM or the Scottish crime writer. I knew it was the politician, and they rather hoped it would be.

We were lined up at the front of the yurt long before the ’round-the-square’ queue for Gordon Brown’s event with Alistair Moffat had even begun to move into the main theatre. Authors and others who actually had to pass us looked disconcerted, apart from the ice cream man and Tom Conti. And that other Scottish Italian, Debi Gliori.

Debi Gliori

This time it wasn’t the police so much as Men In Black who milled about. James Naughtie was there. So was insect repellant. There were also midges. Even after the spraying.

Alistair Moffat and Gordon Brown

And at last he came. Mr Brown, as they addressed him. He went on to his event, and I waved to Willie Johnston on my way home. It’s nice this. I’ve never gone home from the book festival before.

Incidentally

You know how it is. You decide to be a little more sociable, and what better time and place than in Edinburgh? Before getting on that train to Edinburgh on Monday, I made plans to see a few people. So I’ve got a couple of meetings arranged for later.

I knew Philip Caveney would be up here. Again. (A witch moves away from Stockport, and Stockport follows her here.) I asked if we might meet up. He’d be busy Monday, he said, but later in the week perhaps?

On Facebook I’d seen a photo from the Charlotte Square children’s bookshop, of Philip, standing next to his books. Secretly I thought the photo was a bit orange, so when I came across the same books myself, I took a picture to show how it’s done.

Philip Caveney books at EIBF

Actually, orange seems to be the way. Something to do with the light.

Oh well.

And then I found out why he was ‘busy’ that day. There’s no need to get married just to escape a meeting with the witch. Really. But it’s lovely news that Lady Caveney has made an honest man of Philip.

First Monday

Inverness was cut off from the rest of the world, and for a fleeting moment I believed that this would have no implications for me. The ‘big’ train was cancelled and ScotRail generously let its passengers travel to Edinburgh on the small one. Mine. Whereas my two coach train didn’t have to accommodate every single passenger off the 12 coach train, it was still too full. I did the best I could and hogged the fold-down seat on the non-platform side of the train and read my book and pretended to be really old and didn’t move for 50 minutes.

Haymarket station has been totally transformed! And for the better, even. Very nice. The trams, on the other hand, have added another five minutes of waiting for the green man at crossings – if you are the waiting type – and if you count all the way to Charlotte Square.

Which is where I was greeted by the so aptly named press-Charlotte and given my press pass, before I found a sturdy (-ish) looking chair in the square on which to sit and eat my sandwiches. Before that I had picked up some tickets I’d bought online. I managed to get them despite not remembering which card I’d paid with, nor what my postcode is. Was. I mean, I do, but having used three different ones in the last few months, I was unsure which one I’d told them. Talk about senior moments!

There was a huge police presence. I wondered whether they had suddenly developed a passion for books, or if the festival had begun to attract the wrong kind of customer. (I later learned that Alex Salmond had been. I knew that, actually, but failed to connect the two.)

Edinburgh International Book Festival

The weather was cool and grey, but clothes worn by visitors included anything from sundress and sandals to double jumpers with jacket on top. (I was sort of medium.)

I think I spied the back of Vivian French, and as I ‘ran’ to get to my event on time, I couldn’t help noticing Philip Ardagh tying up his signing in the children’s bookshop, so popped in at super speed and said hello and goodbye, and he even shook my hand before I was completely gone. I wonder who he thought I was?

Change. You know how I feel about change. They had only gone and changed the layout of the RBS Garden Theatre!! I was so shocked I almost backed out again.

Misplaced

I can’t remember a thing. After the two months at the temporary Bookwitch Towers, when I had everything worked out just so, and it even worked, I do not have a clue.

Two weeks in the new house, followed by three weeks not in the new house, is playing havoc with all that I know and hold dear. Where are the books? And which books? I know most ‘past’ books are still packed in boxes. But more recent working material? How and where?

I discovered one small shelf with some unread books. Later on I discovered a whole bag full of the stuff, too. But which category? I have looked for lists. Those that tell me what I might blog about and those that list publication dates. There is a list of books connected to the Edinburgh International Book Festival. Some I already have, some I am stupid enough to consider asking for. (Like, when would I read any of them?)

Today I intend to do a first foray into Charlotte Square, to see if I’ve got what it takes. For one hairy moment the Resident IT Consultant offered to drive me. My heart nearly stopped. If I can’t read for two hours on the train there and back, whatever system I still have in operation will fail.

The nicest thing he can do would be to heat up the haggis for dinner as I return home.

Even the three weeks away worked better than this past weekend has done (admittedly, I did use it to rearrange the kitchen). And then as you try to organise things, there is a request to find out if the 181 bus in Los Angeles is running…

(It was.)

And it’s raining. I have no wellies, so will have to decide which pair of shoes to sacrifice to the Charlotte Square mud puddles. (Better than tar pits in LA, obviously, but still destructive.)

Edinburgh International Book Festival

OK, here goes!

Bookwitch bites #125

You know how interested you are in things I’ve not done? (You are! I know you are.)

Well, anyway, the other week I could have gone to Norröra. ‘Where?’ I hear you ask. Saltkråkan. The summer island Astrid Lindgren wrote about. The place that is summer to many Swedes, especially people my age.

For once I was in the right part of the country, right time of year and with time to spare. Well, I had, but then plans changed and the Norröra idea was no more. My free day disappeared. It was especially galling as people I know had just been and it sounded rather nice. Apparently they have kept the house from the television series intact and you can go back in time.

Sigh.

But let’s look on the bright side! I’m back home. The other home. I’m always home. Mostly.

And the Edinburgh International Book Festival starts today! I’m here for the duration, except I don’t think I can go straight off the plane to Charlotte Square, even though the Resident IT Consultant pointed out it would deal with the taxi issue. He’s right. Again. But older witches need rest, too.

So I’ll be in soon. Raring to go.