One month on and I was back in Edinburgh. More on that later but yesterday confirmed my worst suspicions. I discovered why the book festival is in the second half of August. It is deliberately timed to coincide with monsoon season (or has been for the last 3 years) when it is wet and windy. Visitors are forced into places where their wallets are not safe.
It is not always so. It was glorious on Princes Street Gardens on the first Sunday in August this year when the castle’s former moat played host to the annual free jazz festival. Look! Rolled-up shirt sleeves, smiling faces, people are dancing in the streets and brollies are in use to prevent sunstroke!
End of September and another glorious day.
During the festival, however, the elements conspired to shepherd visitors into a specially erected edifice, pleasure dome or den of iniquity depending on the state of your bank balance, the Charlotte Square bookshop.
Tell me what chance does a bookworm have?
You may remember that the first week of the EIBF, Lizzy had held the match to a respectable draw. The second half began with a mini-crime festival and Lizzy took her eye off the ball long enough for the opposition to score two quick goals. (Lizzy 8: Bookshops 10). It was the beginning of the end. The EIBF had been saving the best, the big shots, until last.
Enter Sebastian Barry. His, the reading I had been anticipating the most. Barry, perhaps the only author who could have read for the whole hour, and I would not have murmered the slightest protest. I’m convinced that the designer of the packaging for the EIBF exclusive chocolate bar had this event in mind. For the 30 minutes of Barry’s reading was
*** Sigh *** The chocolate wasn’t bad either.
This event no threat on the book buying front (I already own everything Barry has written) but a definite softening tactic. As was this pile of pre-releases ever so casually stacked on the bookshop floor for the full-fortnight, radiating subliminal “you know you want to” messages during every shower/downpour.
No wonder then that when William Boyd, Douglas Coupland and Margaret Atwood appeared during the final weekend at the festival, Lizzy’s defence was no more. The wing backs had flown, the full backs were empty and the sweeper had been run ragged. The goalie never stood a chance. There was to be no giant killing in this match. The final score Lizzy 8: Bookshops 13. It could so easily have been much worse.