Tag Archives: Shirley Williams

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.

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)