A visit to the island of Alderney has been on my bucket list ever since we saw our friends’ holiday photos, so there was dancing and singing here at Downie Towers when an invitation to the Alderney Literary Festival arrived. Below are a few photos of my own, along with some random thoughts about the festival – which was fabulous.
Alderney is a small island, so obviously the ‘new, big’ plane was never going to be terribly big. It’s super-comfortable, though, and nearly everybody gets a window seat.
Here’s the Island Hall, where most of the festival happened – one of many beautiful buildings in the town of St Anne. Something I sadly failed to photograph was the modern finale to the Bayeux Tapestry, created by islanders and on display in the Library around the corner. It’s so good that it’s been displayed in the Bayeux Tapestry Museum, where they’ve kept a replica.
Most of my photos of the festival itself are blurry shots of speakers in the distance and lots of backs of heads in between. However… please welcome some of Joyce Meader‘s highly entertaining display of military knitting through the ages. Here’s Joyce demonstrating an adjustable knitted dressing-cover for keeping bandages clean. The lady next to me is examining what I think was a knitted eye-patch.
The picture of the WW2 WAAF knitted knickers (3-stitch rib, with gusset and proper elastic) has been removed by the censor and I failed to get a decent shot of the green woolly long-johns or the one-size, shrink-to-fit socks, so here is a pair of military knee-warmers instead.
Obviously not every festival speaker offered handcrafted goods, but all offered memorable moments. These included:
Imogen Robertson‘s description of the process of creating a novel as making lots of very small decisions – very cheering to those of us who are strangers to the “flash of inspiration”.
Jason Monaghan‘s account of the battle of Cambrai: the Royal Guernsey Light Infantry suffered terrible losses and the news reached home during Christmas week.
Rachel Abbott, the 14th most successful ebook author on Kindle, revealing part of the secret of her success: working 14 hours a day, 7 days a week for months.
Andrew Lownie stressing the importance of a good title – Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey, does indeed sound a lot more enticing as Henry VIII’s Last Victim.
Simon Turney illustrating a creature described by Julius Caesar, which appeared to have the head of a cow, the horn of a unicorn and the antlers of a reindeer.
Simon Scarrow describing the complicated mess of World War Two that led to mass starvation in Greece.
I have a feeling the display of a Roman cataract needle in my own talk may have been memorable for some, though possibly they’re now wishing they could forget. Anyway, here’s the moment when, having delivered the ‘author talk’, the author tries to remember what her own name is to sign the book.
I bet TH White never had that problem. Readers of “The Once and Future King” – or “H is for Hawk” – might like to know that this was his house:
Just like the UK, only… not.
There are people on the island, honestly.
Lovely to look at, terrifying to sail around.
One of many defences left behind by previous occupiers, and an unlikely location for a Countryside Interpretation Centre.
Looking even less likely now:
But yes, it really is! A modern photo of the view the German defenders would have enjoyed on a sunny day.
Speaking of occupying forces, here’s Simon Turney (left) defending Rome in the Saturday night dinner debate: “Overpaid, Oversexed and Over Here: what did the Romans do for us?” while Simon Scarrow weighs up the evidence…
…and a nervous Briton keeps smiling while she tries to think what to say in return. (And yes, that torc is completely fake. The instructions for how to make something similar are here. If that link doesn’t work, try Googling “dtorc_obj11236”)
Alderney’s tumultuous history (it lies on a strategic cross-channel route) has left it crammed with interesting sites to visit. This is The Nunnery, a Roman fortlet which has seen many different uses over the years, although none of them appears to have involved nuns. Real Romans built the wall on the right, but not on the left. Don’t ask me how you tell.
With the man who knows: standing on a Roman rampart with Jason Monaghan, writer and archaeologist, and Simon (SJA) Turney: part-time Roman, full-time writer.
The chaps discuss defence tactics while Simon tries out the Roman wall walk. We felt very privileged to be given a tour by Jason as the interior of the Nunnery isn’t currently open to the public.
I think we can all agree this isn’t Roman. It’s next door to the Nunnery…
…and this is the landing-point they were both built to defend.
Peace has now returned to Alderney…
…and I can vouch for the fact that the islanders are incredibly welcoming and hospitable. It was an honour and a delight to spend time with many of them last weekend, and my thanks go to the Alderney Literary Trust and everyone else who helped to make the Festival such a success.