Bring-Your-Own Library

Despite being cunningly hidden between the Literature/Art marquee and the bookshop, Greenbelt‘s do-it-yourself library-in-a-tent attracted a steady flow of visitors over the Bank Holiday weekend.

Armchair in the Greenbelt bring-your-own Library

There didn’t however, seem to be a huge number of books. Still, since it worked on the principle of ‘bring one and take one away’, I guess there were never going to be a whole lot there at any one time.

Offerings included Jane Austen (Emma), Terry Pratchett, Jung Chang (Wild Swans), PD James, Lynda Page, ‘The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists’, Mervyn Peake, ‘Modern Art and the Death of a Culture’, and lots of other mind-improving works I was too lazy to try because –

Oh, thank you, thank you whoever left this – there was a copy of ‘CENTURION’! Excellent! I’d planned to buy it last week when Simon Scarrow visited the local Waterstones, but the event was cancelled and now I have it for free! (Apologies to Mr Scarrow, but I’m guessing he can live without the £1 or so he’d have made on the sale.) Here it is:

Copy of 'Centurion' adorning the entrance to the library

Write about what you care about!

Sage advice from Michael Morpurgo, speaking to a packed audience at the Greenbelt Festival yesterday afternoon. He told us how he grew up enjoying the bedtime stories read to him by his mother, and how that love survived his schooldays to re-emerge when he became a teacher himself. Faced with the challenge of keeping 35 children sufficiently engaged to learn something, he began to write his own tales to read at the end of the school day.

It was the sort of talk you don’t want to end – funny, warm, and encouraging. Sooner or later it should be available to download from the Greenbelt website for a small-ish fee, but not yet… we’re all still here camping in the wet grass, for goodness’ sake…

LATER… aargh, no it won’t be, because they didn’t record it. So you won’t be able to hear him explaining to the vast number of assembled children that he is 122 years old. You’ll have to use your imagination – or better still, grab the chance to hear him if he’s ever passing your way.

Incidentally, whilst the marquee seated over 600 and they were STILL queueing outside…

Queue outside marquee to hear Michael Morpurgo

… it was possible to get a quiet and private seat as long as you didn’t mind not being able to see a thing. You’ll have to take my word for it, but this luxury location really was only about six feet away from him…

Rucksack, seat pad and sunglasses on the grass behind the marquee.

The Great British Summer continues…

Phew! Book 3 has finally gone off to the editors. With luck, they’ll take several weeks to ponder it while I recharge the mental batteries and try not to think about all the things that will need reworking. These, of course, become glaringly obvious the minute you’ve pressed ‘send’ on the email.

Anyway, by the end of the week there will be plenty else to think about. So far it’s rained every day for weeks, so Cheltenham Racecourse will be nicely soggy for the 19,000 or so of us planning to enjoy the Greenbelt Festival. (Wet weather is especially exciting in our tent as part of the roof collects water instead of shedding it.)

Star attractions in the small-but-perfectly-formed Literature section this year are Michael Morpurgo and Salley Vickers, along with a DIY library where you bring a copy of your favourite book and kindly leave it to be taken away and enjoyed by somebody else.  That’ll be interesting. How many of us will be prepared to part with our favourite book? Indeed, how many of us will be able to decide what it is?

I’ll report back when I’ve washed the mud off.

Modern times

Yesterday’s visit to the local branch of Waterstones revealed that they now have whole sections devoted to books on ‘Painful Lives’, ‘Promiscuous Lives’, and – for those not famously painful or promiscuous – ‘Interesting Lives’. No doubt the Romans would have understood the current fascination with the last two, but I doubt they’d have wanted to read about other people’s suffering. Why bother, when they could (and did) go and watch it live at the local Amphitheatre? So I guess we’ve made some kind of progress over the centuries…

…although in other respects we’ve definitely gone backwards. It’s hard to think of an ancient equivalent to the recently-overheard, ‘Sorry I didn’t turn up. I don’t know what I’m doing because my Blackberry isn’t talking to my laptop.’

For a truly wondrous meeting of ancient and modern, however, ‘Geoffrey Chaucer Hath a Blog’ is hard to beat. It’s been around for a while but I only found it recently via Sarah’s Bookarama – thanks, Sarah! These days it’s no longer being written by Geoffrey himself. After a long silence it’s been taken over by a group of his contemporaries who are intent on bringing it up to date, and have rebranded it as ‘Geoffrey Chaucer Hath An Extreme Blog: Go England! It Ys Rad!’

Rad indeed. Also very funny.

D-day minus 14

Book Three is due to be with the editors in exactly two weeks’ time. I’m writing this while leaving the manuscript to stew for a day or two before another read-through. I’m not sure whether this indicates laziness, desperation or just a blind faith that the subconscious will work out what needs revising while the rest of me goes shopping.

In the meantime I’ve wiped clean all the scrawly writing on the whiteboards. The plot points and dates and multicoloured arrows and question marks have all gone. If it isn’t in the book now, it’s too late. The only thing that can be done at this stage is to work with the words that are there – until the editors’ comments come back and we start Round Two.

As a little light relief, here’s part of a photo taken in the museum at Nimes. The thing held in the girl’s right hand is a mirror. Goodness knows what the official title is, but it ought to be something like, ‘Bad Hair Day in Ancient Gaul’. *

Painting of girl holding tress of hair up to the mirror

*Turns out the original picture is from the Villa Arianna at Stabiae (near Pompeii). ‘Bad Hair Day in Ancient Italy’, then.