Tag Archives: Alan Davies

Dead hamsters and other horrors

Joan Lennon has no business looking like the Resident IT Consultant’s cousin. But other than that, it was lovely to meet Joan on Friday morning. It was Lindsey Fraser who led her up to me and made the introductions, which was kind of her. As to the misguidedness in believing I’d be worth speaking to, I won’t make any more comments. Joan has a new website, which has been sworn over a great deal. That is often the case with such things.

Joan Lennon

Lindsey Fraser

Loitering with the intent of catching Keith Charters as he set off for Gillian Philip’s school event, was really what I was doing, of course. He’d promised me I could be Graham, which was an interesting experience. When I located Keith, he said that my photographer could be Alison, so she was. It seems Strident Publishing had a ‘Ten little what’s-its’ kind of  morning, with only Keith left standing. A real ‘shame’, that.

Gillian Philip

Gillian claimed to be nervous, but she had the tentful of teenagers gagging happily over all her gory gruesomeness. (Photographer looked slightly green, however.) She detailed, in a most detailed manner, the things done to witches in the olden days, and I almost changed persuasion there and then. Gillian read several well chosen excerpts from Firebrand, and told us how she had gone about writing it.

Backwards, by the sound of things. She loves her bad guy (knew it!) and is fond of kelpies. Of course. And did you know that the people who went round doing horrible things to witches back then, billed for travel expenses?

Gillian Philip

Keith Charters

Successful signing session over, we trooped back to the authors’ decking area where we snuck in. Again. We were there for our interview with Gillian of the witch hunt, and it ended up being half an interview with Keith as well. The more the merrier.

Philip Ardagh came up to say hello, and when he heard I didn’t have a ticket for Katie Davies later on, he went off to perform magic. Meanwhile the photographer appeared to be oblivious to the fact that Alan, Mr Katie Davies, was standing right behind her. Me not having an inkling that it was relevant, said nothing. Seems she wasn’t unaware as much as star struck and paralysed. Oh well.

Shirley Williams

Back to the press yurt for some actual work, and to do something about a late lunch. Shirley Williams was scheduled to do a photo call, but didn’t appear at the given time. Instead she came and sat down about a metre away from me, finishing off an interview she’d been doing. I have to say politicians do interview differently from authors.

I went off to hear Katie Davies on The Great Hamster Massacre, with the half of Philip Ardagh that remains as chair. Mr Davies came too, complete with baby in sling. They were the only ones to leave when baby Davies got noisy. Though there were an worrying number of bluefaced children in the audience.

Katie Davies

This was Katie’s first ever event, and she talked about selling baby hamsters for sweets as a child, which was probably less gruesome than it sounded at first. She read a number of passages selected, I suspect, by Philip, who did a good job as chair. He’s read 130 funny books recently and was slightly less keen on funny books right now, but had enjoyed Katie’s first two books. Though he protested when Katie pondered ‘working her way up’ to writing an adult book that there is no such thing, because children’s books are not lower than any other books.

But she does know how to kill off hamsters with green cashmere, even if only fictionally. I hope. The number of dead hamsters in her book had been kept artificially low to prevent upsetting readers.

As for me, I had to rush on to another dead hamster event on the fringe. These things just happen.

(Photos by Helen Giles)

David and me

The young ones headed for Cathy Cassidy and the oldies went for David Rintoul. I had great plans and intended to do both, however technically difficult it’d turn out. And I’d have managed it, too, because I’m a great witch. (And not just in that way.)

David Rintoul

But, my photographer went a little missing to begin with, and plans changed. I’d have to skip Cathy. She seemed to think this was just as well, as I told her when she swished past on her way to the young ones.

Instead I took up position to do David’s photocall with my size-challenged camera. All by myself. I just didn’t imagine doing it quite as much by myself, seeing as when David turned round he found only me there. ‘Looks like it’s just you and me’ is what I managed to say, frantically wondering how to do this.

Eventually one more photographer, equipped with somewhat better stuff than I had, was found. But David was very polite and made sure I’d got what I needed. (What I need is the ability to take proper pictures. That ability vanishes in the presence of those lenses on steroids. Doctor?)

David’s fans had waited for up to an hour to secure good seats, and considering the place was heaving, that was wise. A J Cronin’s biographer Alan Davies was there to talk about the passion of his life, and he pleaded for the Scottish people to remember their great author and raise statues of Cronin, and to read his books. I like a bit of enthusiasm, and it’s a shame that the book wasn’t quite ready to be sold at the book festival.

David read to us from Doctor Finlay’s Casebook until sweat poured down his face. That’s what I call reading! We enjoyed it, and we had fun with his reminiscing over the filming of Doctor Finlay, especially the poisoning of the baby, when they tried too hard for authenticity.

Aminatta Forna

Kat Banyard

While we were busy with all this, the late photographer made up for his near miss by taking photos of just about everyone he found, including someone I don’t know who they are. We were rather hoping for Cathy to appear for her photocall, but she was too popular in her signing, so was another one who ran late. We kept hanging around for the delayed Cathy, but had to give up in the end.

Cathy Cassidy

We had lunch with the next-door neighbour from home. As you do. Very nice to catch up, although maybe a little weird. Had previously missed Alex Scarrow as he marched past, but came to the conclusion he could be found signing in the bookshop after his talk. Alex Scarrow

Met up with Linda Strachan in the bookshop. Again. Our chat kept getting interrupted by people buying her Hamish books, who on having it pointed out to them by staff that the author herself was standing over there, wanted them signed.

It’s nice. I’d like that to happen to me a lot more often than it does.

Having given up on Cathy’s official photo, we went home, forgetting all about Ian Rankin. Which. Is. Annoying. Especially since I’d noticed him just before, but with a mind like a sieve you have to accept that a few things escape when you’re not watching.

John Banville