Last year, I had the pleasure of going to the Edinburgh International Book Festival for the first time as an adult. I used to go every year with my primary school, which I loved because I was a little blonde bookworm! I hadn’t really been on the ball with the book festival when it came to tickets – which sell out FAST – as I am with the Fringe Festival. Luckily for me, one of my author friends, Nicola, was coming up to Edinburgh for the book festival and gave me the orders to get tickets for an event I’d missed out on 2 years in a row because of working at the Momentum conference.
An evening with Alexander McCall Smith.
As huge fans of his books, we LOVED it. I think Nicola’s friend Fiona was a bit bemused by our true McCall Smith geekdom as we laughed with him as he chatted with Jamie Jauncey about Mma Ramotswe, Mma Makutsi, Phuti Radiphuti, Isabel Dalhousie, and of course the poor suffering forever 6 year old Bertie and his very overbearing mother…! This year, I was ready and waiting and when the tickets went on sale, and my friend Vicky (another huge fan) was able to come with me on the first night of the book festival.
We enjoyed the evening so much, especially the reading from one of the 44 Scotland Street books where Bertie and his Dad meet a Weegie ‘businessman’ (read: gangster). The contrast between the rather well spoken Bertie and Lard’s weegie tones was fabulous. Seeing the portrait commissioned of Olivia Giles, founder of a charity called 500 miles which supplies prosthetic limbs to amputees in Zambia and Malawi. The portrait is hoped to be part of a public collection of people who have done great things to make a positive difference in the world. What an honour for Olivia, and how lovely to see her work recognised.
I laughed a lot when Alexander (or ‘Sandy’ as he seems to be known to his friends) talked about overbearing mothers, and how Edinburgh has a high concentration of them – particularly in Stockbridge. It has indeed been my own observation living in Edinburgh for so many of my 28 years! And I told him so, as I’d met a few ‘Irenes’ whose children went to the same dance school as me in Stockbridge.
How did I tell him so? Because we got the pleasure of meeting him briefly afterwards in the signing tent. He signed our books, shook our hands and even got someone to take a photo of us together on our camera.
Thank you Mr McCall Smith – for your kindness, infectious laughter, sharing your wisdom, cultivating arts and philanthropy and of course…your books which make such enjoyable reading.
And if you’re in Edinburgh – do check out the Book Festival in Charlotte Square. It makes for a pleasant calmness in the midst of the Fringe and tram chaos!