Tea with Flora MacLachlan


That is not the first word you’d associate with the Edinburgh Festival season.

Almost too warm. That’s another unlikely description. (Meg Rosoff; it may not be NYC hot, but then we can’t all be over there.)

Nice day. No rain. Warm. Sunny.

No events either, so although we had to crawl out of bed to get to Edinburgh for the morning of Day 6, it was purely pleasure. Not that the other days weren’t pleasure, I hasten to add.

Gillian Philip, of Crossing the Line and Bad Faith fame, had an educational encounter with 96 school visitors and survived. I knew she would, because we had agreed to meet up afterwards, and I didn’t want to just mop up the remains.

First, however, we had an assignation with Nicola Morgan outside the children’s bookshop. Not too busy there on a Monday morning, but I still took Donna’s Tim’s advice and looked for interesting shoes. They were. Lime green suedy things, beautifully set off with purple shirt and green scarf. That’s my kind of dressing. Nicola being a capable sort of woman determinedly smuggled us into the authors’ yurt, so we hastily hid the red neck ribbons and exchanged them for green ones.

Nicola Morgan

Did I mention the sunshine? We sat out on the authors’ deck area and talked and gossiped for an hour. Nicola does a lot of events at the festival, and was halfway through this year’s talks. She also seems to know everyone. Bali Rai turned up briefly before his school event, and Kevin Brooks sat at the next table with Mary Byrne. We talked about Tim Bowler (did your ears burn, Tim?) while we were on the Swedish connection. And as Nicola knows everyone, she came with us to help identify Gillian Philip, as there is always a possibility that someone doesn’t quite look like their Facebook photo.

Gillian Philip

Gillian was in the bookshop, just finishing chatting to some young admirers, along with Keith Charters, who wore an author badge, but seemed to be more of an enthusiastic publishing person. We trotted back to the deck and the sunshine, for Gillian to relax and for a chat. Daughter admired her ear-rings, which apparently were purchased in a very recent panic buy. Have to say that Gillian looked stunning with matching jewellery and top. (I know it shouldn’t matter, but I enjoy matching-ness and strong colours. But it probably doesn’t make anyone’s books better.) Keith did some good business moves, handing out his card, and handing out a booklet with chapter one of a book called Bree McCready and the Half-Heart Locket by Hazel Allan.

Keith Charters

Paul Dowswell

At the next table we had Melvin Burgess and Paul Dowswell of Ausländer fame, and I kicked myself for not having checked out the schools programme, in order to pack a more suitable selection of books to be signed… I could get used to this part of Charlotte Square. How do I become an author for next time? Preferably one who is allowed in without having to ‘pay’ by doing a public talk.

We skulked back to the wifi in the press yurt to sort out the case of Monday’s missing photos, and let me tell you that I may have a laptop, but my lap does not have a top suited to balancing anything like that for any length of time. Did get the photos on, with minutes to spare before we had to rush down to Waverley. We had an invitation to have afternoon tea with Flora MacLachlan, aka Debi Gliori.

Debi is so wonderfully kind that she had volunteered to have the witch and her witch baby round for tea. She collected us from the train and drove us home to her beautiful garden, and then she plonked us down in the shade in a corner and brought out a groaning tea tray. I apologise to the world for the day of book-writing that has been lost through so much baking and general kindness. But fluffy scones and the most lemony cake and shortbread in a sunny garden is beyond good.

Before we left, we got to have a very early look at the artwork for a new book. I love it already. Picture books often look very attractive, but that’s nothing compared with what they’re made from.

Just a thought; am I turning into a cross between Cheshire Life and Hello magazine?

(All photos H Giles)

7 responses to “Tea with Flora MacLachlan

  1. More of a marriage betwixt Country Living and The Scottish Field with a faint dusting of the Grauniad.

    Next time, Flora promises raspberry muffins. Thank you both for trekking all the way out to the sticks on a perfect August day – and doesn’t the baby witch take astonishingly insightful photos?

  2. The weather’s always like that in Edinburgh, Ann! 😉 Thank you for mopping me up, and it was lovely to meet you both. Please tell babywitch the earrings are from Accessorize – I meant to tell her at the time but my brain was cold porridge after my event. (The whole darn outfit was a panic buy.)
    The babywitch takes terrific photos – please will she do my next author ones?!

  3. Definitely!! I shall now consider that a contract… 😛

  4. I think to rival Cheshire Life or Hello you would have to post dozens of photos of the homes and gardens (and cake), as well as telling us about them…

  5. Very interesting. But can I say that these are the best pictures I have ever seen, all of them so bright and perfect. Doesnt you hand ever shake.

  6. Hello Ann and helen! It was lovely to meet you both and chat in the sunshine. Very relieved I wore shoes and matchy things that got your approval – I didn’t know there were going to be photos and I must say that this shoe reputation is starting to stretch my budget and imagination (and hurt my toes) … Maybe I can justify buying more if it’s really become part of my image? As Gillian says, it’s always sunny like that. (The pools of mud are just put there for effect.)

    Anyway, I’d be delighted to smuggle you in again next year. Just keep your “Hello!” press pass hidden and we’ll be fine.

    And Helen, they were great pics – you were right not to make us pose.

  7. Sheila – my hands shake all the time. That’s why I use child labour.

    Nicola – sorry, but colours are important to me. You’ll just have to keep shopping and rearranging the wardrobe. I’m sure it can be tax deductible.

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