Friday, 4 July 2014

Literary festivals and family reunions

Today is day one of the annual Ways With Words festival held here at Dartington. Many years ago (longer than either of us care to remember) it was at this festival that Marcia gave her first talk. She was then one of the unknowns – or so the organisers judged. She was booked into the smallest venue available, the tickets sold out and then Marcia was advised that she would be moved to another, bigger hall. This should have given her more confidence but it actually increased her terror.

To this day, Marcia hates speaking in public (and especially about herself) but she is so incredibly good at it that nobody who has been to one of her talks really believes that to be true but I can assure you it is.

Anyway, since that first time she has appeared at a number of other Ways With Words and at festivals as prestigious as the Oxford Literary Festival and as local as the one held at Tavistock. Each one evinces the same response.

‘Why do they want me? I’m a writer not a speaker,’ she wails. ‘Don’t they understand that it’s the books that matter. Anyway, when novelists stand on their hind legs and start talking about themselves, nine times out of ten they intrude between the reader and the books and that is always a bad thing.’

Well, this year I bought her a Rover Ticket for this festival which means she can go to everything she wants to. It was by way of a birthday present but I had to give it to her a month early (you can’t wrap a festival in pretty paper and keep it until the day). She has gone off to listen to Jonathan Miller speaking in the Great Hall which I am sure she will thoroughly enjoy. I walked over with her so that I could take some pictures. It was, would you believe, raining.

Somewhere in the middle under an umbrella is Marcia.
This year there is also an exhibition of sculpture here, small pieces some of which, as you can see, are pretty weird.

Head Above Water, Body and Soul Together
This and the two below by Tati Dennehy (stoneware ceramic)

Lie Dee Down

Ghost Dog

Woman with Mandolin by Anne-Marie Moss (French Limestone)
 On Sunday we are off to Dartmouth for a family reunion lunch. Working out who is who in the family is not one of my things but it certainly is for Hugh, the eldest son of Josephine, daughter of my mother’s elder sister. We all lived together during most of the war years and, as a result, Jo and I were very close: she is more like a sister than a cousin.

Jo, Ken and baby Hugh moved to Canada (an exchange posting for Ken who was a helicopter designer working for Bristol Aeroplane Company) and then, at the end of that contract, down into the US where Ken moved to Boeing. In time they were all granted US citizenship – Hugh’s three siblings being born there were Americans from the first yell.

Hugh is passionate about the family. He has spent many hours working out who is who and, starting tomorrow, various members will descend on Dartmouth from the US, from Canada, from Switzerland and, of course, various parts of the UK. It will be good to catch up with people I haven’t seen for a long time and to meet some for the first time. My main sadness is that Jo and her husband Ken will not be there although Jo’s brother (another Ken which has led to confusion in the past) emailed me the other day to say that he and his wife Patsy would be coming.

It will either be great fun or a terrible disaster. Let us hope it is the first.
Look at those paws!
This is a superb example of a Bernese Mountain Dog