Thursday, August 17, 2006

Edinburgh festival 1

The flat we are renting here is round the corner from not one but three internet cafes so there is no excuse for being as blog-lite as I predicted. (although photos are a bit beyond me today). That said we have just returned from a performance of Girl Blog From Iraq, a dramatisation of a blog being written by a young, female computer programmer out of Bhagdad. The descriptions of life in a war zone makes this account of a pleasurable time wandering around streets freely enjoying music and theatre and food and basics like clean water seem trite. However, as that is all I have to recount right now I suppose I shall carry on if only to encourage you to follow the above link and read her blog to contrast it with how easy life is here.

Edinburgh is not as overflowing as I feared. Ok, The Royal Mile is bunged but that is becuase circles of people gather around street performers and clog the pavements which run outisde shops I am sure most Edinburgh relatives have no cause to visit anyway. The rest of the time there is a relaxed but easy going atmosphere... and an awful lot of flyposters and handbills. We booked a lot of stuff before we arrived but are adding to the schedule now we are here.

As might be expected the experience can be as eclectic or not as you want to make it. I seem to be hunting down SouthAfrican and gospel sounds whilst Dennis is sticking to the more high brow festival itself ( rather than the fringe) and we meet in the middle at the Book festival which is held in a cosy coralle of tents in a city square. There we have heard new authors Naomi Alderman (whose book Disobedience, set in Orthodox jewish Hendon I had already read and liked) spoke with Lucy Caldwell whose book about childhood in Northen Ireland I have not yet read but of course bought at the session - wait for the report! Both of them were delighfully excited about being writers ... but appallingly young! I felt like I had wasted my life so far until I realised that perhpas they were not quite so established in their 'day jobs' yet!

Also at the book festival, the session with Linda Grant ( latest book Life on the Streets about ordinary Israelis - bought, not yet read, wait for the report!) and novelist Alan Kaufman degenerated at the questioning session into the inevitable non-question statements from members of the audience who thought that Alan as a member of the IDF was fair game for them to state their own political opinions at. I thus decided ( for alas reader, I cannot resist) to try to restore order and using the tacitc that served me well for gaining attention in childhood Sunday School classes ( sit central, sit tall, wear white sleeves!) I got to ask a question and asked whether fiction had a part to play in changing the work they had been talking about or whether it was just a way to escape it. I will spare you the long answers but the parts of the answers that imprinted themselves on me were, from Alan, that fiction shows the fundamental truths about people and from Linda, that its function is to create empathy and never to dehumanise. Alan's novel ( bought, not read - wait for the.... Ok You got it) Matches is about life as an IDF ( israeli defence force ) soldier and he wanted the reader, if not to agree with Israeli policy to at least understand what it was like to be a solider in the IDF. As Dennis is a bit of a buff in Israeli history we invited him for coffee afterwards and had an interesting chat. As he put it perhaps it is time to stop trying to find the non-existent solution to the middle east situation and start to work out how to live without one. He has also written a memoir Jew Boy which I now want to read. There is definately something about meeting a writer that makes me want to read every word they ever wrote, which is of course why the book tent in the square is doing such good trade. We have also seen Tim Watersone and Moazzam Begg ( ex Guantanamo Bay detainee, never charged) who seems a very intellgent educated guy.

Away from books, I spent a fantasic hour listening to the Soweto Gospel Choir ( failed miserably in my attempt to come away without buying both their CD's) and dragged Dennis to an unscripted pereformance by two (South African) psychiatrists who are into narrative therapy and whose performance was about story telling. The brochure desription told me nothing but the warm recommendation by Archbisop Tutu did it for me and I loved it - basically interwoven stories about their childhoods up to date with one big theme which I can't tell you in case you go to see it. As a writer it was interesting to think about how plain storytelling should be done for dramatic effect. Then from the artstic to the plain stomach filling - I went to see Momma Cherri this morning - her of soul food fame from Gordan Ramsey's Kitchen Nightmares. The 'show' is really her telling you about soul food with a demonstration of how to cook jjambalaya with a bit of gospel singing thrown in, but it includes a free bowl of jamabyala which in my hands and tenandcy to overorder, got increased to the meat version, the veggie version, sweet potatoe salad, corn bread and southern fried chicken. Oh and cajun fries. For two of us mind. Yum yum!.

Tonight, is Ian Rankin. I've only ever read one of the Rebus novels but fortunately Dennis has got them all so that will save some book shopping tonight. I will report again in a few days.

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