Tag Archives: Edinburgh International Book Festival

With the big ones

For one reason or another, I was tempted to visit the press page for the Edinburgh International Book Festival this morning. (Keen to procrastinate, I’m afraid.)

And there was a photo of the press photographers in full flow, so to speak. They are photographing someone important, judging by where they are crouching. Perhaps the First Minister?

Not sure which year, but would guess two years ago, maybe three. Tried to tie it down by looking carefully at the plastic ducks outside the yurt (because I take their picture every year), but didn’t reach a definite conclusion.

If you look carefully among all those big guns, I mean camera lens thingies, you’ll eventually locate a fat old witch, who is making up for lack of camera lens with an extra chin or two. But she’s there. With the big guys.

The new Edinburgh International Book Festival

I miss the live programme launches in Edinburgh. But there is plenty of information online for this year’s book festival, and whereas they can’t guarantee that everything will happen as it says in the programme, I feel they are more confident. This has been planned, in a fashion that takes in all the different ways of attending, both for the authors and the audience.

Some events will actually – fingers crossed! – have both live authors and a live audience. But you can still sit at home and watch it either live or a bit later. Or there are recorded events. Or the authors are there but the audiences are at home. And many other configurations.

It’s still free to watch online, but they would obviously appreciate some financial help, and there is a Pay What You Can system in place.

As you may remember, they have left Charlotte Square and will now be at the Edinburgh College of Art, on Lauriston Place in the heart of Edinburgh’s Old Town. From what I can see, this will be just as good, only different. But maybe the same. Less mud, perhaps?

They will have a physical presence, with not only a couple of theatres, but a bookshop and a café, and I’m sure that between us we will be able to make it as cosy, in a new way. And you know about new ways don’t you? Soon they feel like the old way, how it always was.

I haven’t yet got my head round the whole programme, but I see they have a lot of local talent, with many Scottish authors. I have worked out how to tell if there can be a live audience, and I will see if I can get a grip on where the author will be; in Edinburgh, or in their own kitchen.

If you don’t plan to be in your kitchen, tickets can be fought over on July 22nd. Read the programme. Plan. And go!

Looking back

This. This is what I need. Charlotte Square, all lit up, nice and balmy, and late enough that it’s not ‘terribly busy’. I know. Not good for business. But good for me. Will anyone sit down for a chat?

Happy memories

I’ve been looking for nice memories from the past. Well, I suppose memories of necessity tend to be from the past.

Anyway, here is a photo of Jon Mayhew in Edinburgh in August 2013. It was a special day. I believe it was Jon’s first at the book festival. And I wasn’t there!

‘You weren’t?’, I hear you say. No. But I sent my Photographer. Hence the picture of Jon laughing in front of Bookwitch’s favourite London Plane tree, our very own photo backdrop for when the blue or green carpet was less available. You can’t beat a good plane tree.

As I – almost – said, I have fond memories of that day. My Photographer was all grown up and able to go on her own, allowing herself one day when she could leave her brown dwarfs on their own in St Andrews, and frolic in Charlotte Square instead.

And thanks to generous people like Jon, she got tickets for events. Or so I believe. I wasn’t there. But she sent ‘home’ lots of photos of all the authors she caught that day, and it was almost as if I had been there. That’s proof of how it is in the children’s books world. You feel included, and you can send your child to them.

Having had a quick look to see how I was suffering at home, I discovered I had invited Hilary McKay round for scones. So that was all right, too.

The pen

This is the pen I dropped on the floor during Tim Bowler’s event in Edinburgh, 24th August 2015.

Yes, I know. That’s very precise. But I remember it well, because my backup pen also failed, and that was one pen problem too much for what was already a trying evening.

The good news is I found it again, and I have continued carrying it round with me ever since. It always works really well, especially considering it was a freebie. Most likely given to me by the Resident IT Consultant, a long time ago. At a guess, 1986. Because it says so on the pen.

I often look at it, wondering how the ink can keep going for what has now been 35 years. But as luck would have it, the ink appeared to run dry a few days ago, and I prepared to say goodbye to my freebie friend.

But I decided to take a look, to see if it was old enough that maybe I could actually change the ink ‘thing’, and found to my surprise that there was a Parker refill inside it. Hardly surprising that it had kept going so well. Decided to take another look and discovered it is an actual Parker pen.

Who’d have thought they gave away Parker pens for advertising purposes like that?

I’m guessing it’s not goodbye after all.

Shirley Williams

When I read Vera Brittain’s Testament of Youth, I had no idea of her relationship to Shirley Williams, the politician. I mainly concentrated on the fact that Vera had actually travelled past the bottom of our garden, on her way to go shopping with her mother in Manchester. That was enough of a connection. Never mind that the shopping happened before our house was built.

And then I found out that Vera was the mother of Shirley Williams. And after that, one day at Charlotte Square, during the Edinburgh International Book Festival, I looked around the yurt and discovered I was sitting next to Shirley Williams, being interviewed by someone.

That was exciting enough for me. A more or less direct link to the woman who wrote Testament of Youth.

And now Shirley Williams has died. But I’m grateful for that fleeting connection, which would never have been possible without you.

Down Memory Lane

I’ve been concerned with getting too grumpy. And I don’t want to be. So I thought I’d look out photos from the past; pictures that make me happy remembering what I was doing and who I was with.

In our first year of the Edinburgh International Book Festival we met lots of people, old [to us] and new. One event I was simply not going to miss was Anne Fine and Melvin Burgess, and those of you with good memories will know why I thought this could be especially interesting. The third author with them was going to be newbie Rachel Ward, whom I didn’t know anything about. I just felt a bit sorry for anyone caught in the crossfire.

Well, Melvin was Melvin and Anne was dignified and calm and they didn’t fight. And Rachel was all right. Both from the crossfire aspect, but also because she was a rewarding new author to meet. With good taste in necklaces.

Almost twelve years on and Rachel is someone  I ‘see’ just about every day – on social media – and she keeps us going with her photographs and her art. Lovely pictures from near her home, adorable dogs, and fun photos of her grandkittens.

And her art! I have a couple of Rachel’s paintings on my walls, and if I were to be miraculously furnished with plenty more walls, I know exactly what I’d hang on them. You can see some of her stuff on Instagram if you like (rachelwardart).

So that is a sunny memory.

A new home for the Edinburgh International Book Festival

‘What sort of place is this meant to be?’ said one Swede to the other, as the four of them settled down with coffees at my table in Charlotte Square one August. ‘I think it’s some sort of book fair’, said the second person. They all looked around and seemed to find it wanting (because it wasn’t exactly the Gothenburg Book Fair, was it?). I refrained from letting on that I could understand what they were saying and didn’t rise in defence of the Edinburgh International Book Festival. I suspected they wouldn’t get it.

I have had ten lovely years in Charlotte Square, missing it badly last August, but certain we’d all be back one day. And we will be. Though from summer 2021 it will be a togetherness somewhere else. They are moving house, so to speak. From the open square to an actual building; the Edinburgh College of Art.

We discussed this at Bookwitch Towers when the news reached us yesterday, and I believe we are all in favour. I carefully went over every book festival or fair I’ve frequented over the years, and came to the conclusion that indoors is good. At least if there can be a little bit of outdoors when you are overcome by the beautiful, balmy evening and want to sit out under the string lights and talk about literature with nice people. (Daughter says I am crazy, but I will request the lights specially.)

There will be less need to worry about one’s outfit; will it rain, or will it be too hot? Less need for wellies. I imagine the seats in a building will be somewhat comfier than in the tents, and there will be fewer screeching buses going round and round. The toilets may be of the more permanent kind.

But then, where will I be? And where will the authors be? We’ll find out. Will there be a good photo corner for the paparazzi? And can the ducks come?

It will be different. It will be fine. I just have to find out which bus I need to get there.

If there is to be any getting this year. I hope so. But if there isn’t, they will broadcast online events from their new home, which is better equipped to do that sort of stuff. After which it will be the next year again. I hope.

Bookwitch bites #150

Kindle-sharing is the new thing at Bookwitch Towers. With me actually paying £1.99 for ebooks that the Resident IT Consultant might also enjoy, I can’t just suggest he doesn’t drop my [paper] book in the bath. So, what’s his is mine, and the other way round.

The Resident IT Consultant has had the benefit of reading some of J D Kirk’s crime novels. If someone reads more than one, it is an indication the book wasn’t too bad. Or so I believe. But recently I gathered J D had put in an Ofsted inspection where none ought to be. When I told J D he was so upset he stopped talking to me. Until I woke up and discovered he and the Resident IT Consultant were on such friendly terms that they had balanced a tankard of beer on my head.

😳

The Edinburgh International Book Festival are planning some December Winter Warmer events. On Saturday 12th there is a full programme of book events for you. Free to access.

It’s Advent. Daughter requested I get out the Jostein Gaarder advent book for her daily read. The thing that always strikes me is how his book sits right next to Cornelia Funke’s advent book. It’s almost as if it had been planned.

We also have a real, live – well, you know what I mean – advent calendar. We take turns opening the doors. This was sent to us by a very kind author, who ‘lives’ a little bit along from Jostein on the shelf.

I have been asked for a wish-list. The Resident IT Consultant wants help with ideas for me. Daughter does not want a list. She will come up with her own ideas. Which are usually very good. My list had only books on it. I know. This is crazy. I don’t need books. But I need other stuff even less. Except when Daughter has come up with the perfect thing. I’ve still to read my way through the books from last Christmas. And the ones I bought myself in August. Also the books I bought the Resident IT Consultant last Christmas…

But books still make sense.

Revenge of the Andes

‘Someone in Chile is holding Rosetta Girl’s parcel hostage’, Daughter announced last week. While not exactly the last thing I’d ever expected to hear, it was low on my list.

She had sent her friend Rosetta a parcel, containing nothing terribly exciting. A small item for Rosetta’s – by now – past birthday, and something for Christmas. It’s the thought that counts, and all that, and the shipping costs probably outran anything Daughter had spent on the gifts. She sent it FedEx, and we’d both been pleasantly surprised by the speed with which it took off from Scotland to Chile. Before we knew it, the parcel had got to Rosetta Girl’s apartment block.

Except then, it turned out to be like something from a thriller; ‘pay the ransom or the socks get it’ kind of situation. They tried to call it a fee, or even import duty, and it had to be paid in cash. Which Rosetta didn’t have.

It was clear that someone in the delivery chain, someone in the town, well past customs, was hoping to make a bit of money. Because most people are so excited by parcels arriving that they will do anything, even quite unreasonable things, to discover what they have been sent. Daughter tried to insist to her shipping company, that the fee was unreasonable, but if it was to be paid, she would pay it, thank you very much, and she’d do it cash free, with a receipt.

It’s a shame that some countries, and some companies, have this kind of bad reputation. And it’s probably not even the neediest people who are attempting to make some money on the side, which would have been almost all right. And I was under the impression FedEx was a proper company.

We can all be wrong.

Another of the items being held to ransom is Michelle Paver’s Thin Air. The paperback version. It’s set in the Himalayas, but as Michelle said at the Edinburgh Book Festival, she had intended to write about the mountains next to where Rosetta lives. I suspect this to be a case of Revenge of the Andes.

I’m hoping the parcel-napper understands quite how modest the contents are. You’d never pay that much for anything like this. But you might pay because getting the parcel means something to you.