Sunday, 28 September 2008

Living with Caligula

Just got back from bonnie Galloway and the Wigtown Book Festival and what a great weekend it was. Wigtown's a tiny place but it comes alive for the book festival and the atmosphere was fantastic. We joined about four hundred other people to hear actor Bill Paterson talk about his childhood in the east end Glasgow enclave of Dennistoun, living in the shadow of the nuclear bomb and the characters he grew up with. Bill has a wonderful voice, huge charm and a great sense of humour and deserved the ovation he got at the end. It was a bit strange, though, to hear about the genesis of Tales from the Back Green. He cheerfully confesses that it was never intended as a book, just a series of radio scripts, and that the only reason it was published was because a firm approached him. For someone who has heard hundreds of hard-luck stories from talented writers desperate to get into print that was a bit surreal.
I had a nice chat with Stuart Kelly from Scotland on Sunday, who are media sponsors this year, and I met up with Lee Randall, the Scotsman's features supremo who was there to chair a couple of events and interview some of the authors.
One of the biggest highlights of the weekend was the house we stayed in at Newton Stewart. The Brewery Pool of the River Cree flowed as dark as Guinness about four feet below the balcony of our bedroom, full of salmon and sea trout on their way to spawn upriver. In two days I saw a kingfisher, a mink, a cormorant and was treated to an impromptu flypast by a pair of herons skidding along just above the water. Our alarm call on Saturday morning came courtesy of about twenty mallards and three geese who gathered under the window demanding breakfast. Idyllic doesn't quite describe it, glorious is closer.
Dumfries and Galloway is off the beaten track, but it's full of history and beautiful wild countryside and stunning coastal views. If you get a chance to visit it, don't miss it!

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