Cambo Estate was the destination, the road long and winding. But I’d forgotten what a beautiful corner the East Neuk is, especially when the sun shines. It was a day that promised much; delivered far more.
You may remember that I mentioned the Littoral festival a few weeks back. There had been events across the area for the previous few days, and a final flourish on the morrow, forever now known as MurrayDay. But it was Cambo Day that drew me in, and as I drove through the gates and was marshalled, smilingly, through the policies to the car park, the house appearing in the trees, I couldn’t help but wonder if it were my ancestors that tended those grounds in years gone by.
Lord & Lady Erskine, having given over their home for the day, were on hand, but I think I’ll set The Genealogist a task or two first. I know that my long line of farm servants spread out from their base around Kilrenny and Cellardyke, the farms of Ceres and Carnbee, towards the east coast. And the parishes of Leuchars and Kingsbarns feature on the family tree. So, time to dig a bit deeper, and perhaps to access the Cambo archives. My blood may have ploughed or milked, or tended those magnificent gardens, even waited on those massive tables.
But it was my turn to wander, to sit and to listen. The Urchins had a great day out, with the storytellers and the face-painting, beach foraging and nibbles of seaweed, wild garlic, and birds crafted from card and feathers.
My angst over which event to attend and which to miss was alleviated when I heard that Miriam Darlington was sadly unwell, and absent. But her slot was filled by Sir John Lister-Kaye OBE, and who better to talk of Otter Country. Still, there was a writing workshop to attend, new tricks, new exercises, and new friends.
I’d had the pleasure of John Lister-Kaye at his morning session, talking of his life and his books. He read from several, and tales of his daughter, age 9, wandering off in the Kalahari as the lions roared all around, brought back forgotten passages of some wonderful writing. He’s a new one coming out next year, as yet untitled, and he read from it, wonderfully.
It’s that authorial voice that makes the difference, brings a book event to life. And when the words are as good as JLK’s, the tales as rich from his days with Maxwell to the magic of Aigas, then the voice spoke and the room hushed. It’s the first time I’ve listened at a book event spread across a 19th century settee; but there was no chance of drifting off to sleep, for it was mesmerising.
I was back in the Drawing Room for Esther Woolfson and Conor Jameson, talking birds; his goshawks predating on her crows and magpies; and rich tales and fine words.
Authors love to talk about books, especially those written by others. One book cropped up time and again. I’d read J A Baker’s The Peregrine, on recommendation for another fine writer, Mark Charlton. The Gold Standard it is, according to Lister-Kaye. I couldn’t possibly disagree.
I’ve a fine list of books on the list now, written by, or talked about, by our hosts. I blethered with David Robinson of The Scotsman’s recent folly, and browsed Lord Eskine’s bookcases with Gavin Francis. Alexander Burnes appeared on the shelves, Cabool no less, and Arctic exploration that had young Dr Francis drooling. He’s working on his Himalayan travels, another one to look for in a year or three.
And there’s more……