Tis the season

to go to Book Festivals.

Over at Edinburgh there are still a few days to go.  I haven’t been through yet, and probably won’t make it.  One of the problems I have with Edinburgh is it’s just too big, the BookFest that is, not the fine city.  Once upon a time you could pick up a copy of the programme, browse through at leisure and plan an afternoon or two out.  Not now.

For the only catalogue of events is the one you can bring to your screen.  Browsing at leisure then becomes more problematic, for printing is ruled out at close on one hundred pages.  So for those precious few minutes of peace, when the homework’s done and the tatties are boiling, to consider what’s on and when, you then need to crank up the old computer and remove yourself from the dinner preparations.  Ditto browsing later in the evening when the gogglebox fails to grab your attention.

Now it might just be me but reading 96 pages onscreen, all that scrolling and clicking and trying to get back to where you started, is just not fun.  And for those of us travelling from afar a day in Edinburgh needs a bit of planning.  There may well be several hundred events at EdBookFest, but the chances of finding even a couple of talks that grab the attention on the same afternoon, maye not be easy.  And I’m not making the trip for only a single event.

But another catalogue arrives in the post.  A real one, on paper.  There’s a website too and an online booking facility.  But for Wigtown Book Festival I can browse when the tatties are boiling, even take it to bed, or anywhere else I feel I may have a few spare minutes.  And suddenly a day out can take shape.

Mind you Wigtown, being in the armpit of beyond, does take a bit of planning.  For a one day trip it is exhausting, needing an early start and dictating a late finish.  Overnight would be better, though that brings other issues and life makes it less easy to fit in.

However I see a number of names that draw me closer, two on the one day at that.  Anthony Sattin is on at the end of the day, talking on his latest work, on Lawrence of Arabia.  It’s been a while but I’d love to say hello once again, to reminisce about people and places, and blether about books and writers.  He’s an expert on North Africa, all of it.  The lure of antiquity, I can hear him now, velvet tones.  If he could sing he’d be like Nat.

That same day begins with Linda Cracknell, another to say hello to again, a book to have signed.  Splendid writer.  And between the two there’s a discussion on Kidnapped, one of RLS’ finest, Erraid and Alan Breck, one of The great adventures.  Looks like a good day to me.

Earlier in the event there’s a visit from Rory Maclean, talking of his recent book on Berlin.  I’m still waiting on his work on Transnistria, with Nick Danziger, from Unbound, though that should arrive before Wigtown in a month’s time.  He’s another I’d like to catch up with again, paths having crossed in Dublin and under Lloyd George’s roof.  Good times.

Being Wigtown there’s always some Gavin Maxwell related activity, and this year is no exception, with Ring of Bright Water Unbound and some promised unseen archive material from the Eilan Ban Trust.  Chris Stewart’s along as well, a born raconteur in any company.  Then there’s Laurie Lee, his 100th anniversary, and a chat on his life.  Oh and I see John Sessions is on that day too.  I’m drooling now, and tatties aren’t done yet.

Hmm, Wigtown’s looking good this year.  If only Edinburgh could have sent a catalogue.  Oh and in Wigtown there’s a town full of bookshops to browse too; as well as the tent of the speakers’ works for that day.  Now where’s that diary?


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  1. Pingback: Vanilla | laidbackviews

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