Tag Archives: Tom Conti

Tom, George and the others

A long time ago, when the New Librarian had just left school, she came and stayed with us, doing some unpaid work in the local bookshop. One day she came home and mentioned she’d been out on a school visit with some actor who’d written a book. I asked who. She’d clearly not had a lot of interest in an older man she’d never heard of, so the name was some time coming, but once I’d established it was George Layton – and I’d had no idea he was visiting! – I turned green [with envy].

It was so unfair that she’d met him, when I’d ‘always loved him’ and I wanted to stomp my foot.

Luckily, George came back, and more than once. So I did get to meet him (see about lunch here), and I bought his short story collections and got his autograph, and… Well, at the time I liked the stories. I don’t know if I still would.

Same bookshop, slightly later, another of my younger days’ favourites turned up. Tom Conti, who’s even more handsome than George. I know that in book terms this is irrelevant, but I thought I’d mention it anyway. He came because he’d written a novel, and I bought a copy. Obviously.

I sort of wish I hadn’t. It wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t good. These days I’d start by assuming it to be just another celebrity book, but then I was more naïve. Besides, it had been written [I hope it had, anyway] by my kind of celebrity. But yeah, I wouldn’t mind if I’d not read it.

The celebrity avalanche is just getting worse and worse. Someone on social media was saying how the latest announcement of a celebrity book [by someone I don’t know] was so welcome, because it had to have been at least 48 hours since the one before it.

The most recent one I received in the post I put to the side immediately. I felt slightly rotten doing it, but if someone is already famous – even when I don’t have any idea who they are – and are getting a good financial deal from the publisher, then they don’t need a review from me. I can’t help them on their way to greater greatness.

I’m very happy to have met Tom Conti and only slightly annoyed that he didn’t sign the book I then went on to not like (there is a farcical story about the non-signing of his books, involving a train). But I got closer than the 20-year-old me would ever have thought possible.

Likewise with George Layton. As I watched Doctor in the House in pre-historic times, I simply didn’t believe that one day I’d meet him. Or that the first thing he’d say was that he needed to pee.

Friday the 15th

‘As usual’ I had a quick rest on Willie Johnston on my way to Charlotte Square. I can see that he – or more accurately his bench – and I will be seeing more of each other.

Zeraffa Giraffa

I had a carefully compiled list for Friday, in order to fit as much as I could in. Finding a mutually convenient time to have a spot of lunch with wonderful publicist Nicky proved just about possible. Her charges were busy all day, and first I went to find Jane Ray – who is very good with giraffes – at her signing. She had been making giraffe masks at her event, and the shop was full of tiny human giraffes. Very nice to meet publisher Janetta Otter-Barry (hers was a regal sort of presence…) who was there to oversee the proceedings.

Jane Ray

Nicky gave me lunch in the authors’ yurt, and we had a little chat about families as well as about books. I came away with two new books, and having surprised her with my weird interests, there might be more. (I now have a flag sticker book!) In return I tipped her off that Craig Pomranz (of Raffi knitting fame) was due a photocall session after lunch.

Debi Gliori, who was next on my list, popped in for a cuppa before her event, and was slightly disturbed to find I’d be there to heckle from the back. But as long as I vote the right way in the referendum we are fine…

Speaking of politics, by the time I’d decided I could tug on Peter Guttridge’s sleeve (as instructed by himself), Paddy Ashdown ‘got in the way’ and there was Ming Campbell and many others whose names could be dropped. So, no sleeve-tugging. Yet.

Ever the involved publicist, Nicky has taken up knitting to join in with Craig’s and Raffi’s scarf making. But the biggest help had been a very, very young girl in the audience who spontaneously organised Craig’s event for him.

Debi Gliori

I went off to get to Debi’s event on time (more of which in separate post), and after it I trailed her to the bookshop where she doodled for her fans for about an hour and a half. One of her talented picture book colleagues, Jackie Morris, was busy painting in the grown-ups’ bookshop all afternoon.

Jackie Morris

Then it was time for Craig Pomranz to sign after his second knitting event, and he unravelled (no, I don’t mean that… he got out) Raffi’s actual scarf and proceeded to wind it round a couple of small fans.

Craig Pomranz and Raffi's scarf

Me, I went back to the yurt and waited for Gordon Brown. There was some discussion between two people as to whether we were about to get the former PM or the Scottish crime writer. I knew it was the politician, and they rather hoped it would be.

We were lined up at the front of the yurt long before the ’round-the-square’ queue for Gordon Brown’s event with Alistair Moffat had even begun to move into the main theatre. Authors and others who actually had to pass us looked disconcerted, apart from the ice cream man and Tom Conti. And that other Scottish Italian, Debi Gliori.

Debi Gliori

This time it wasn’t the police so much as Men In Black who milled about. James Naughtie was there. So was insect repellant. There were also midges. Even after the spraying.

Alistair Moffat and Gordon Brown

And at last he came. Mr Brown, as they addressed him. He went on to his event, and I waved to Willie Johnston on my way home. It’s nice this. I’ve never gone home from the book festival before.