Thursday 20.08.2009

Another early start in order to avoid the rush hour chaos of driving into Edinburgh.  Arrive at Charlotte Square at 9:30 and head straight to the book shop.  Find some signed Ian Rankins on the shelf and snap two titles.  A novella entitled A Cool Head and a full length non-Rebus novel set in the art world Doors Open.  These are my first impulse purchases of the festival.  I wasn’t going to buy anything that wasn’t on the list but I really enjoyed Rankin’s short story in the “One City” anthology and am in the mood for more. (Lizzy 2 : Bookshops 3)

Joseph Boyden
Joseph Boyden

At 10:15 settle down to complementary coffee and pastries at the Wake Up to Words session.  Giller-winning Joseph Boyden is appearing with Jeremy Page.  Both novels Through Black Spruce and The Wake deal with man’s survival in the natural wilderness, in Boyden’s case  the Canadian wilderness and in Page’s the wilderness encountered on a barge in the North Sea.  Talking of his research for that novel, Page described his research going crab-fishing.  Dangerous.  The boat he went on rolled over the day after his trip!

Attended the event with My-Spy-in-Edinburgh and Wonderang.  At the book-signing, My Spy-from-Edinburgh produced a British proof-copy which prompted Joseph Boyden to tell the tale of why the UK book cover changed from proof to real thing.  The picturesque and highly atmospheric snow-bound log cabin nestled in between the trees and moutains is actually a public toilet!  (Note to self – get a photo of this.) 

No further events until 16:00 but plenty of rain so we three tootled off to my favourite restaurant for a long lunch and lots of book related chat.  From there we decided to go to Rebus’s pub where I had the bright idea of doing a who-drinks-in-a-pub-like-this competition with one of my signed Rankins as a prize.  So pictures were promptly taken.  Facts were checked on the way out with a poor waitress who, in response, to my “Does Inspector Rebus drink here?”, replied in all earnestness “I’ve never heard of him.  What does he look like?”  By this time slight doubts beginning to emerge about the quality of intelligence received from My-Spy-In-Edinburgh.  Surely if this was the right place, there’d be some mention of it.  Oh course we were in the wrong place.  The irony of just how wrong a place it was can only be understood if you understand the rivalry between the top  English universities.  We should have been in The Oxford Bar.   Instead we were in the Cambridge Bar.  It’s a bit like asking me, a Lancastrian, whether I hale from Yorkshire! 

However, as fellow blogger KevinfromCanada recently requested pictures of Edinburgh and specifically pubs, let’s not waste the photo opportunity which presented itself.

Not Inspector Rebus's watering hole
Not Inspector Rebus's watering hole

Glad to say that there were no further mishaps that day.  Those experienced to-date, however, foreshadows of the mishap to follow.

Friday 21.08.09

No events until 16:00 – plenty of time to get through to Edinburgh  … Made it by the skin of my teeth to Esther Woolfson and John Aberdein’s event.   (More on that at a later date.)  As we walked to the book signing the sun was shining.  People were sun-bathing and enjoying their beverages on a lovely summer’s afternoon.   Suddenly, from nowhere, the bookshop roof almost blew away and the rain began to pour.  A storm of almost tropical intensity.  A flicker, crack and fizzle later and the two power generators are out.   Charlotte Square is  in darkness and there is  no amplification. 

Richard Holloway ensuring that the show went on
The Show Must Go On

As the Edinburgh Book Festival business continuity plan extends no further than having a backup power generator, the chairman of my next event has to beg, borrow and steal torches from the audience.  Now that is not an item I carry in my bookbag but there are people who do!  Thanks to them the show , which must go on, went on.  The Dunkirk spirit they said – entirely appropriate for a history event.  Three authors including award-winning John Lanchester discussed writing family history and the investigations into their own pasts.  A fascinating discussion, the darkness entirely in keeping with the theme of digging up secrets.  The chairman  (whose name I did not catch) probably blessing the hours he spent in preparation as he stepped in to discuss Mary-Kay Wilmers forthcoming book.  Her vocal projection non-existent.  His service above and beyond the call of duty and I’d be grateful if someone could tell me his name as he is likely to be Lizzy’s Chairman of the Book Festival.