Tag Archives: Seamus Heaney

Isol and Victoria

If I rant about the lack of television coverage of the Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award ceremony in the UK, someone is bound to tell me it was on somewhere. (Was it?) I was lucky several years running in that I went to Sweden for half term and there it was, right on time. Big celebration with royalty and everything.

Music. Speeches. Foreign award winners shivering under blankets. With so much rubbish readily available, why not broadcast a little ceremony and very little pomp, even if it is rather foreign?

Argentinian winner Isol even danced the tango. Apparently. I bet Seamus Heaney didn’t do Riverdance for the Nobel prize.

She’s short, Isol. Although that sounds both too personal as well as rude (nothing wrong with being short). What I probably mean is I had no idea Crown Princess Victoria is quite so tall. We’ve not yet had cause to meet up, so I didn’t know. Taller than the minister for culture.

Isol and Crown Princess Victoria, by Stefan Tell

You see, if I’d been able to watch, I’d not have to resort to going on about what people looked like in the official photographs.

I expect there was less shivering, and possibly no blankets this year. They appear to have moved the whole shindig indoors. It doesn’t matter about the Swedish royals. They have practised sitting out of doors – totally umbrella-less – and smiling through almost anything. But foreigners, they are a more tender species.

As well as short. I can think of several non-tall winners. Philip Pullman, on the other hand, turned out to be taller than I had expected, so he probably beat Victoria.

And I still worry about the sheer amount of money. Is it right to give that much to one individual? I’d almost decided it wasn’t, but then I thought about people winning the lottery. All they’ve done is buy a ticket. At least these winners are professional writers and artists; one of whom is chosen every year.

Perhaps it is OK. Especially for someone who tangoes.

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A day of politics

I’m afraid we swapped allegiance by going to the Scottish Parliament on Saturday morning, instead of to our intended event in Charlotte Square. (It was sold out, anyway, so we weren’t missed.) Theresa Breslin was talking in Parliament about The Importance of Reading to Children and to Society, along with a few others, and had invited us along.

So down to Holyrood we went, subjecting ourselves to airport style security to be allowed in. Found Mr B in the foyer, and he wished he’d stayed in bed an hour longer. I think we all did, but this was a good cause. As we lined up to go in, Daughter asked me who the people behind us were. She could recognise their voices. I turned round to look (why didn’t she do it herself?) in order to tell her she was hallucinating and why would she know anyone in Edinburgh?

The voices turned out to belong to Linda Strachan and Julie Bertagna, so she was right and I am an idiot. Sigh.

There is a convenient bus between Parliament and Charlotte Square, and we got back fairly painlessly for an afternoon with Lee Weatherly on the subject of Angels. After her signing, and before she rushed off home, Lee posed for photos for us.

Lee Weatherly

We had intended to go ‘home’ after Lee’s event, but when we found that both Steve Cole and Joanna Nadin were taking part in the Amnesty International reading, we went and got tickets and joined them.

Afterwards it struck me that it’d be a good thing to take some photos of Jo (Steve very wisely disappeared…), so we walked over to the yurt area. It turned out to be covered with photographers taking pictures of Seamus Heaney, and there was simply no room for us.

Joanna Nadin

My bright solution was to invite Jo round the back, as it would be empty. Which it was, and we got started. The famous Irish poet must have been quick though, because soon the full set of paparazzi were upon us, and more specifically, on Jo. They wanted in as well. (They do have a soft spot for a pretty woman.) So through no fault of her own, Jo turned this way and that way, and posed like crazy.

Once the mayhem we’d caused was over, we hotfooted it out of there. If I’m lucky, Jo will even remain on speaking terms with me.

VTAs and VTBs

Outside the hotel where we were meeting with one author, we ran into another. Jeanne Willis arrived at the same time as we did, and it was all I could do not to ask her to pose for a photo there and then. Managed to contain myself.

Simmone Howell

Ever since reading that Simmone Howell was coming to the Edinburgh International Book Festival, I’d been wanting to meet up. So I’ve probably stalked her a little by email for a few months, but Simmone of the two Ms gamely turned up at the suggested spot for some tea on Tuesday afternoon. Well, not much of a tea, seeing as we could probably have sat there for hours having a good time, but not much to drink. Service wasn’t slow so much as not really there. At all.

She’s been in the UK for a few months, but is going back to Melbourne later this week. We talked Melbourne a little (not that I know it, you understand), and sex in Y A books, and how the Australian school year is arranged. She doesn’t know Adrian McKinty (yet), nor Sonya Hartnett, though they share a teacher in their pasts. Simmone was getting ready to do an event on making zines, which we didn’t have tickets for. Will see her this morning instead.

Had been going to see Andrew Sachs talking to Alexander McCall Smith, but Manuel cancelled, so I did too. At this rate my events with Mma Ramotswe’s author aren’t going too well.

Marcus Sedgwick

So in the event the day’s only event was this VTB hearing a VTA talk about ravens. And rabbits and de-iced squirrels. (Barry Hutchison should look out.) Marcus Sedgwick did a talk on the Raven Mysteries, and he explained he was a VTA, very tired author. Courtesy of Ry****r he had flown over from Sweden where he’s been busy writing a book, and what the maneater* jellyfish didn’t manage to do, the airline did. Marcus had had two hours of sleep, he was having a bad hair day (or so he claimed), and he’d allowed himself wine with lunch, which resulted in the purchase of new boots. (Footwear purchases do happen so easily…)

Marcus proceeded to perform literary cruelty to an amphibian. He read a bit, and talked some nonsense about peanut butter, and then he made some of the assembled children take part in a short play on the stage. He even had a raven glove-puppet which had passed muster as handluggage. It seems that we are able to enjoy the Raven Mysteries, which are great fun, due to a very early graveyard encounter for young Marcus.

Sarah McIntyre

Sarah McIntyre, of cartoons fame, was signing at the table next to Marcus, and then the photographer persuaded Marcus to jump into the Charlotte Square mud with his new boots. Never mind. He can always buy new new boots.

Attempted to wait around for Seamus Heaney, but this photo-shy man took his time to turn up, so we sloped off to another poet. Jeanne Willis and Tony Ross had finished their event and were signing books until we took them out and asked them (reasonably politely) to pose. I suspect Tony missed the lesson on not sticking his tongue out at people.

Tony Ross

I feel we got the better looking poet. Jeanne had warned me she’d be the one covered in tomatoes. Some tomatoes…

Jeanne Willis

*Jellyfish in Swedish is maneter, and Marcus’s pun was very bad. But then, the jellyfish probably did something not very nice to him first.

(Photos by Helen Giles)