Well, he did. Last week he received the Medal of Freedom from President Obama, accompanied by his daughter whose ‘charm is no substitute for hard work.’ I’ll get back to this father-daughter team later.
I will never ever get teenagers. Ever. Given the choice between seeing Jacqueline Wilson or Steve Cole on Sunday morning, Daughter went for Steve’s talk about his Astrosaurs. She enjoyed it a lot, although she felt she was the oldest child there. Wrong thinking I said; she was the youngest adult. Steve was so noisy I heard him through the walls. The press people apparently wondered what was going on next door to their yoghurt pod.
Meanwhile, the witch went to see Jacqueline, along with a vast number of girls and mums, and a sprinkling of dads. Jacqueline wore black jeans and a black and turquoise top, and the famous rings shone along with the bangles on her arms. She talked mainly about her teens, because the subject for the day was My Secret Diary which was out in the spring. And she did say that she might write a third autobiographical book about her time in Dundee, writing fake horoscopes and readers’ letters, as long as she can censor her diary notes a little. Sounds good to me.
As I raced along to the talk by the ‘lazy’ girl from paragraph one, Daughter was anything but lazy. Her task was to shoot Per Wästberg, part of the Meeting Sweden programme (How did they know I was going to be there this year?), when he emerged for his photo call. Except he didn’t, so when she saw a likely Swede she inquired, in Swedish, if he was Per. The poor man said he wasn’t, but took her all the way into the authors’ yurt ( a real no-no) and put her in front of this famous Swedish writer, who was even more confused with the idea of the Bookwitch blog, but posed anyway.
When the witch goes back to school, she wants to have Lucy Hawking for her science teacher. I can’t think of anyone who can talk so well and so sensibly on physics and space and anything else related. Lucy kept the attention of her roomful of children, while explaining dad Stephen’s ideas, which they have turned into two books for children. George’s Cosmic Treasure Hunt is new this year, and there will eventually be a third book about George. Lucy and Stephen are, of course, the people mentioned above. I think they turned out OK in the end.
We got to see how (not) to gargle in space. Asparagus will be a suitable crop on Mars, when the time comes. Comet’s go ‘very fast’. Robots don’t get homesick in space. The questions from the children were really very good, but not many people can say what went before the Big Bang or why it happened. Not even Lucy. And look out for the toothbrush in orbit round earth, if you happen to be up there. I asked Lucy if she wants to travel in space, and she does. Preferably to the moon. I was too shy to ask for the phone number for her co-writer for book one.
Lunch was gulped down fast, in order to catch Henning Mankell’s little publicised signing in the childrens’ bookshop. In fact, there was hardly a soul there, but I don’t think that was why he was pleased to see me. (Anyone would be pleased to see me, wouldn’t they?) He looked so morose that I addressed him in his own language, though his English is very good. The ‘mini interview’ went something like this:
‘Hello, we’ve met a few times in Gothenburg.’ ‘ Yes, I remember you.’ ‘Uh-oh, that sounds ominous’, said Daughter. ‘What do you mean?’ asked Henning. ‘Only that you may remember me for all the wrong reasons. I could be one of those bl***y old women you get everywhere.’ ‘I don’t think so. I’d have remembered. But there are a few of them around.’ ‘Yes, and I’m often one of them.’ He looked remarkably happy after this exchange. But you would, wouldn’t you, when ‘one of those’ leaves him in peace.
Next victim for a photo shoot was Klas Östergren, except he didn’t show, initially. Just as we were leaving for our next rendez vous he turned up in the rain, and as we departed he had someone’s lens half an inch from his nose. The man’s quite good looking, but that’s ridiculous.
The two witches had been invited to afternoon tea at the Roxburghe Hotel by the very, very kind Theresa Breslin, so the road was crossed, and the comfortable lounge was found. Daughter has clearly been deprived, and was very excited by the posh surroundings. Thank you Theresa, it was wonderful. The perfect respite to a busy day. And I’m not averse to similar offers, if anyone is feeling generous. Not all at once, though.
Back across the road to see Adèle Geras, and photograph her. We enticed her round the back, where all the big names get shot. As she left again, Theresa turned up, so we all trotted back to the ‘studio’, whereupon the paparazzi fell out of their little pod and descended on Theresa big time.
Resting in the yurt, Klas Östergren appeared, looking for a place to be interviewed, so we offered our seats. He was also quite grateful to be encountering Swedes in a Mongolian tent in the middle of Edinburgh. He’s been brought up properly, so we shook hands.
In case nobody has noticed, my social calendar for Day 5 was quite full, really. We met up with Clare from Random (a really Randomy weekend), and apart from the fact I thought she’d have blond hair, it was as good to meet her as I’d thought. Clare brought out Bali Rai for a short chat. And more photos round the back. Predictably the paparazzi emerged again, just needing reassurance that Bali was indeed a real writer and a little famous. Even my copy of his book, City of Ghosts, was photographed. Don’t think Bali knew what hit him.
We breathed for a few minutes before trotting off to the talk by Adèle Geras and Jonathan Stroud. Really liked the way the two of them had planned it, with short introductions, followed by a reading, and ending with them asking each other questions, before letting the audience loose. Good way of doing it.
Our final port of call for the day was back in the same tent again, for the much awaited discussion with Rachel Ward, Melvin Burgess and Anne Fine. Daughter said she didn’t want to miss the Anne-Melvin encounter for anything. I wanted to see if they’d both survive it, and I think Melvin had wondered the same thing. There were one or two references made to the blasting Anne did of Melvin’s Doing It some years ago.
They were all alive and well when we left for the day. And the discussion was good.
(Photos by H Giles)