|Newsletter No. 710
|Wigtown Book Festival
29 Sept to 3 October 2010
Wednesday, 29th: Get up and make appropriate
steps to depart for the Gare du Nord and the train to Belgium. Call a
taxi and am soon delivered to the station. Painlessly arrive in Brussels
and change trains and head for Gent. Call Svend Thomsen and we meet in
the station and have drinks in the café. It's a brief visit, but get his
news. Then I get back on the train and continue to Zeebrugge. Walk from
the station to a nearby police station and ask the friendly officer if
he could call me a taxi. He does and soon I arrive at the terminal building.
There will be a delay in departing, so sit and read. A fellow approaches
and asks if I am Jim Haynes. He is Tom Drake and he and his wife, Ann,
attended my Scottish Arts Club dinner my last evening in Edinburgh about
one month ago. We chat briefly and then it is time to board. I elect to
have a first serving dinner. And am surprised and pleased to discover
it is excellent. Listen to a piano-player after dinner. Then talk with
a young engineer. She lives in Aberdeen. Her name is Colette Baker. Her
father is Welsh and her mother is French. She has just driven from France
where she was visiting her mother. After a bit, excuse myself and go to
my cabin and sleep.
Thursday, 30th: Superb night's sleep. Get up
and shower and head for the breakfast room. There I encounter Tom Drake
again and suggest that he and Ann join my table for our breakfast. They
do and we have an excellent feast. This has been an extremely smooth crossing.
Very restful. It is sad to note that the service will no longer take passengers
after a date in early December. See Colette Baker again and she says she
had a nice sleep.
Go back to my cabin. Pack and get ready to disemback. Take my key to the
office and leave my bag in a corner. Watch the beautiful Scottish coastline
as we sail ever closer to Edinburgh . See the piano-player and he is from
Glasgow. We talk a bit.
Move to the front of the ship and join Tom and Ann. When we dock in Rosyth,
we are among the first off the ship and into a bus. We are delivered to
a bus station and manage to get another bus right away that takes us fairly
quickly across the Forth Bridge and into St Andrew Square. There Tom &
Ann say that if I ever need a room in Edinburgh, I am welcomed to call
them. Super nice of them. Call Claudia Monteiro on my mobile and we agree
to meet at the Polish restaurant, Pani Solinska, in Broughton Street.
She will collect me at 4:30 in her new car and we will drive to Wigtown.
In the meantime, she is still purchasing wine and other supplies. I call
Ruth and Martin and get an answering machine. Walk to 73 Broughton Street
and have a delicious bowl of bortch and a plate of pirogi. Run across
the street and add more money on my mobile phone and make a few photocopies
of the Chicago Tribune newsletter. Then Claudia arrives and we
are off. The car is superb. She purchased it from her brother. We head
out pass Toll Cross and Morningside. The sun has not set yet, and the
light is glorious. Claudia was in Wigtown last weekend, so tells me she
knows the way. She also says she had a great time there. Suddenly, as
if someone has thrown a switch, it is dark. We roll though amazing countryside.
Very few cars and little signs of life. We stop for petrol and we stop
And finally, after some three and a half hours, we arrive at the nerve
centre of the Wigtown Book Festival, Shaun Bythell's The Bookshop (17
North Main Street). Claudia leads me upstairs to the kitchen where I am
introduced to dozens. Minutes later Frances Sutton arrives in her car
from Edinburgh. She was much quicker driving because she stuck to main
roads. She has Peggy Hughes and Colin Fraser with her. I meet Shaun Bythell,
the proprietor of The Bookshop. And his lovely lady friend, Jessica Fox.
She is from Massachusetts, but she had been with NASA in California.before
coming to Scotland. How did she find her way to Wigtown?
Frances can see that I am tired, so she offers to drive me to the hotel
where I will be staying. It is called the Fordbank Country House Hotel
and it is about five minutes from The Bookshop. Peggy and Colin elect
to ride out with us. There is a fire in the entrance baroom fire place
that produces a warm glow. A woman is sitting reading the Times Literary
Supplement, so suspect she is a delegate. She and I exchange smiles
and I am led upstairs to my room. Say thanks to Frances and co as I prepare
to head straight to bed.
Friday, 1st: It's delightful to awake in a large
bed. Quickly shower and dress and go down for morning coffee, eggs, ham,
sausage and toast. Call Claudia and she drives out to collect me in spite
of the fact that she is busy preparing the dinner feast tonight in three
different kitchens. What a woman!
Attend Hugh McMillan's poetry event at 16h30 with Peggy Hughes in the
chair. Hugh's poetry is extremely enjoyable. He is an excellent performer.
Peggy is her usual fantastic self.
We start turning the Green Room into "my salon". And suddenly it is 8
pm and guests begin to arrive. Meet lots of new people. Everybody seems
ready to have a good evening. Greet old friend, Rex Pyke. He is with Finn
McCreath who once stayed in Paris in my atelier. Today is Shaun's birthday
and earlier he and a bunch of his friends went swimming in the sea. One
of them was Robert Twigger. Robert lives in Cairo. He gives me his card
and tells me that I am always welcome to visit. I tell him about the time
I went to Cairo and Luxur. Also meet Shaun's sister and brothers-in law.
Scott is married to Lou and Alex is married to Vikki. Alex is in the whisky
business and we talk about whisky. Meet Lea Harris, who was a finalist
on a televison cooking programme. She says she would like to come to Paris
and cook a Sunday dinner. I tell her she would be welcomed to do so. Claudia's
has produced a French onion soup to begin tonight's delights. Now the
room is full to over-flowing. Her boeuf Bourguignon is served next and
it is a hit. People are drinking and talking. A cream dessert ends the
festivities. Many people come up and thank me. Hell, Claudia and her team
deserve all the credit. I just smiled and talked with everyone.
Around midnight, most of our guests have departed. Anne Barclay, the Festival
Manager, and her boyfriend, Ivie, give me a ride back to my hotel. And
it is over. We have had a hit!
Saturday, 2nd: Another delightful night's sleep.
Get up and have another wonderful shower. Dress and go downstairs for
breakfast. Back to my room and pack. Back downstairs to check out and
ask if a taxi can be called. I am asked where I wish to go and I reply:
"Wigtown". A lovely woman from the hotel says it is such a short ride
that she would be pleased to run me into town. I accept and soon I am
deposited at17 North Main Street, The Bookshop front entrance. As an old
bookseller myself, I have a warm spot for bookshops. This one is very
special. In many ways it it the heart and soul of the Wigtown Book Festival.
The first floor front room is the "green room" for all the invited guests.
See Claudia Monteiro and she says we made a profit last night. Hooray!
I know everyone liked the food. Congratulate Claudia. She did a fantastic
Not sure who produces all the delicious meals, coffees and teas, snacks,
but it seems to always be available. As if by magic. I think it was Allison
Ouvry. Deposit my small bag in a corner. I see the festival director,
Adrian Turpin, and he says last night's dinner a great success. I tell
him that I agree, that I greatly enjoyed it. He tells me that my wee talk
at 11:10 is the first one this morning.
Stuart Kelly, the Literary Editor of Scotland on Sunday, is giving
his talk on Walter Scott at 10.30 in the Baillie Gifford Marquee directly
across the street from The Bookshop. I go over and listen to the first
20 minutes and greatly enjoy Stuart's talk. Then must slip out.
I walk down to the Martyrs' Cell in the County Buildings and give a talk
about my verb, to fuller. It means to spend energy joyfully, to like what
you are doing. As opposed to work, which I have limited to painful energy
spending, to not like what you are doing. I tell my small audience that
I have never worked in my life. The fifteen minutes passes quickly.
Back to The Bookshop. Have a cup of coffee and meet and talk with lots
of people. See Lee Randall and we have a good long talk. Am introduced
to Kei Miller who teaches creative writing in Glasgow University. Judy
and David Steel arrive and we embrace.Judy shows me a passage from her
new book, Tales from the Top End, that says sweet things about
yours truly. Thank you, Judy. We speak briefly of Michael and Mona Shea.
Michael died last year about this time. Far too early. Mona seems to be
coping OK. I mention to Stuart Kelly that my old History Professor at
Edinburgh University, George Shepperson, said that the American Civil
War could be blamed on Walter Scott's novels. Stuart smiles and says that
is a fair comment, that the Southern generals charged from the front.
And many were killed. The Northern generals stayed behine and mostly survived
About 1 pm begin to say my goodbyes and thank-yous to everyone. Lady Sutton
will drive me to Dunfries and continue on her way to Edinburgh. I have
survived two days in the countryside. In fact, I have enjoyed every minute.
Living in a bookshop with plenty of lovely human beings about. Always
delicious coffee and cakes in the Green Room.
Frances is a superb driver. We talk about this 12th Wigtown Book Festival
and the Edinburgh Book Festival, about another trip to Paris in the Spring
(Frances, Claudia, Peggy and Colin). Soon we arrive at the train station
in Dumfries about 14:30. Frances gets out and we embrace. What a lovely
woman she is! Another car pulls up behind us and it is someone else from
the Wigtown Book Festival. Liz Wright gave a talk at Noon yesterday. She
is also getting the train to Carlisle. Say my farewells to Frances. Liz
and I cross over to be on the correct platform. She gives me a magazine
she edits entitled Smallholder. Soon our train arrives and some
thirty minutes later we are in Carlisle. There Liz gets another train
and I board the London train. A smooth ride all the way to Euston Station.
Arrive at 19:12 and decide I will cross over to St. Pancras and try to
get the last Eurostar to Paris. I make it with about fifteen minutes to
spare. Another smooth ride to the Gare du Nord. Taxi home. Katy Masuga
is home and lets me inside. It is so good to be home. I am exhausted.
In two or three days I will be on the road again to the Frankfurt Book
Fair. Sometimes I think I am a madman.
Sunday, 3rd: I am beginning to recover. Pleased
that I managed to get the last Eurostar last night to Paris. Cathy Monnet
is cooking tonight's dinner. Cahy was the first cook all those many years
ago. And in the time from that first dinner, she has married Yves Monnet
and co-produced two superb sons, Charles and Arthur. She has also secured
a PhD in philosophy from the University of Paris at the Sorbonne. And
she still goes to dance class every day. What a lady! It was a lucky day
for me when she sat next to Colette Negrier in La Coupole and Colette
told her to call me. She did and I invited her over for tea. Then invited
her to move into my guest bedroom. She did and the rest is amazing. The
creation of the Sunday dinners resulted. Hooray for Cathy Sroufe Monnet!
Thank you, Adrian Turpin, for inviting me to produce
a "Sunday salon in Paris" in Wigtown. Thank you, Claudia Monteiro
and your team, for producing such a superb meal. Thank you, Anne Barclay,
for making the Festival run so smoothly. Thank you, Shaun Byteil, for
your wonderful bookshop. Surely the heart and saul of the festival. Thank
you, Frances Sutton, for the lovely ride to Dumfries. Thank you, Peggy
Hughes, for being you. Thank you, Colin Fraser, for providing body guard
duty. And thank you, world, for being so fantastic!
83 rue de la tombe Issoire,
75014 Paris France