Saturday, 30 May 2015

Celebrity Spotting, and an Event

It was my day off, so I wandered up through town to see what was going on. The Artisans were in the Buttermarket, including Richard with his prints and Shelley with her silk scarves - shivering in the blustery breeze that was knocking prints over and sending scarves slithering to the floor. It was sunny outside the Buttermarket.
I'd just bent down to say hello to a little dog. It must have had paralysed back legs, because it's back feet were bandaged up, and it had a little harness around its hips with a lead attatched so that the lady with it could hold its back end up. It seemed quite happy, sniffing round.
When I said hello to Richard, he pointed out that I'd just walked straight past Tony Robinson, who was with the lady and the dog.
Later in St David's Hospice shop, the lady there said that she'd seen someone famous too - "big lady, Australian, feminist...."
"Germaine Greer," I guessed.

I always go to at least one event at the Festival, and this year the one I really couldn't miss was Neil Gaiman, being interviewed by a lady from the Guardian.
He was doing a talk for the children in the morning, and I went up in the evening for the adult talk. It had been moved from the Wales Stage to the Telegraph Tent, and it was packed out.
For the first part of the evening, they talked about Terry Pratchett, and Neil told some funny stories about their collaborations and friendship, which led into a discussion of the themes of memory in Neil's own work ("I keep trying to do different things, and when I look back - there it is again, the same themes keep coming up"), and about Alzheimer's in general. He also read an extract of Good Omens - and to do this, he had to ask to borrow a copy from someone in the audience, because the Festival bookshop had run out! Before he gave it back, he signed it with a little message. The bit he read out was where the parcel delivery man delivered a parcel to Pollution, who was sitting beside a polluted river, and he said that he had written that bit, apart from 5 words from Terry, which had made it "17% funnier".
He also talked about his new collection, Trigger Warning, and read out the July story from the sequence of 12 stories (one for each month of the year) he'd done as part of a social media collaboration for Blackberry. He had tweeted questions for each month, and written a story based on the answers he got back. This one, he said, was particularly apt to be read at Hay, because it involves a man who builds an igloo of books.
The last story in the collection, Black Dog, hasn't been published anywhere else, and he was writing it right until the last day of the deadline. It's about Shadow, his character from American Gods, who he sends to an English pub. It's a pub he visited in the Peak District, with Colin Greenland, another SF author. Earlier, he had said that he spends a lot of time in the States, going to places and saying: "This is wierd." So he walked into this pub, and he said: "This is wierd - has anyone noticed we're the only people here who haven't got a lurcher with them?"
He wanted the story to involve one of those monstrous black dogs of legend, so he phoned up Colin Greenland, because he thought there wasn't a legend local to the Peak District. "Oh, you mean Old Shuck," Colin said. "You know that lane we walked along on the way back to my place from the pub? That's where he's supposed to appear to people."
"Sometimes," Neil said, "you don't have to make anything up - it's all already there."
He was asked if he would be writing any more about Shadow, and said that he would be sending him to London, where he would get involved with "certain characters from another of my books." He said no more than that - but I'm sure I wasn't the only one in the audience to make a quiet squee of delight at the thought of Shadow interacting with the Marquis de Carabas and Door and the rest of them from Neverwhere!
American Gods itself is still progressing towards being a TV series with Starz in the States - "all it needs is for the red button to be pushed to provide the money." He also said that he's been asked about writing a sequel to American Gods already, because if the series goes to three seasons, they'll run out of story, and will want to have a published book to go to in order to continue. So that's quite exciting, too.
Other questions from the audience led to talk about writing, and why The Truth is a Cave in the Black Mountains had never been performed here in the Black Mountains. Neil pointed out that the stage show (they had done a mini world tour) involved an Australian string quartet - the first show had been at Sydney Opera House - and he may look like a man who always has a string quartet following him around, but he isn't really, and transporting them around the world was quite expensive!
On the way home, I stopped by the Masonic Hall, where they have a beer tent outside (the only real ale was bottles of Butty Bach, so that's what I had) and music inside, with a chap doing food as well. There was a guitarist playing when I went in, followed by Mel, who performs poetry at the Globe, reading one of her poems, and then Alan Cooper went up with Di, the lady with the cello, and a chap playing a mandolin (?) who I think was called Dan James. Alan and Dan had obviously played together before - the problem was finding something that Di could join in with too. So the introduction went something like: "What shall we do first?"
"Something we all know!"
And what they did play was beautiful.

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