Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Something for the weekend

So this is what we call work. I think you'll probably agree that it barely passes muster as hard graft. A lot of chat. Even more laughter. At Wigtown, an awful lot of lobster-consumption as well. And if only I was more technologically savvy, I could do all that cool linking hyperlink stuff and people's names would come up in blue and you could click on them and whizz off to their webpages, but....

I'm still at the level of using a bit of burnt stick to draw images on the cave wall. The little video clip above is proof positive of this. So - apologies to Renita Boyle, storyteller extraordinaire, whose retelling of The Legend of Sleepy Hollow was masterly. Mistressly. Atmospheric. Had us all, large and small in thrall. Apologies to Shoo Rayner whose mastery of all things Youtube is stellar - I am in awe of your abilities, not to mention your dynamic and ridiculously need-a-change-of-underwear funny telling of your Olly and Olympia stories. Apologies also to Sarah McIntyre who is a complete delight, a pirate Queen of Queens, an illustrator of great wit and talent and a joy to share a stage with. I cannot wait to be entented with you all again.

And if only I had a techno-brain, all of these brilliantly talented people would be only a click away. Must learn how to do this stuff. Must. Must. Must. Aaaaargh. Beats self round head with pointy burnt stick of willow charcoal. But for now, must go feed family, water greenhouse, light fire, feed dog, gather apples, help with homework, work out how to get from King's Cross station to the Bloomsbury 25th Birthday party in Bedford Square and then back to Euston to catch the sleeper home tomorrow.

Oh, and have a wardrobe crisis. What to wear? Oh, what to wear?

Friday, September 23, 2011

Wigtown is Bestown

There's a wistfulness to the season ; the summer that wasn't a summer has elided into a dreich* autumn, the field outside my window has been shaved down to stubble and across the land our sons and daughters are spreading wings and heading off to university and college and the unimaginable freedoms of young adulthood.

Leaving us in a mess of discarded twigs and grubby fluff. Or perhaps that's just the nest chez Gliori. Still two chicks left, but the nest is showing distinct signs of wear and tear if not downright decreptitude. And winter still to come...

But for now, hush. We shan't talk of fare-thee-wells for the best bit of the year is here. It is time to head to Dumfries and Galloway for my personal favourite and much looked-forward-to and absolute best book festival in the Western Hemisphere, if not the World. I'm referring to the Wigtown Book Festival, which is possibly the best fun a human being can have in a tent in the 21st Century. Truly. All of life is here, nestled in a picture-perfect small place. Words cannot do it justice, even though it is a festival about words and ideas and writing and thought. Suffice to say, at this time of the year, there is no better place to be than Wigtown.

So. You have to come. And bring your best friend so that you have somebody to turn to and hug and say - Well, dyamm - see that Debi what's-herface with the hideously unpronouncable surname- she speaks the truth, her.

*Translator's note. There is no other word that describes unending grey, oppressive, spitty skies better than dreich. Let the 'ch' roll out to chhhhhhhhhhh. Feel our Caledonian pain. We're rusting up here.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Ten thousand hours

I wonder what I was playing?

I was six in that photo and I'm fifty-two now. Pause while I scream quietly to myself. Cut to a shot of the last fast-running grains of sand in the hourglass. So much to do. So little ( sob) time. I wonder if I'm anywhere close to having put in the necessary ten thousand hours of practice yet?

Although I love my fiddle now, I absolutely detested it when I was wee. Back then I had a succession of tetchy old men as teachers, a weekly lesson, and no desire whatsoever to practice in between. In my own defence, I have to say that the fiddle is pretty unrewarding at first. Every bowstroke sounds ugly. People wince when you play to them. It's completely un-natural , not to mention painful, to clasp the buggar in your arm and twist your wrist round its stalk and somehow, sans frets, find where your fingers are supposed to fall in order to make a sweet, true note. And don't get me started on the utter horror for a beginner when your strings go out of tune and you have to turn the utterly disobedient and bloodyminded pegs all by yourself. All I can say is thank heavens for fine malt whisky - although perhaps not when one is still a primary school pupil. Meanwhile, some old tweedy grump is breathing his stale pipebreath all over you and chastising you for not slogging away and becoming note perfect on some hideous bit of monotonous musical juvenalia like three blind mice three times a day seven days a week in between lesson days.

Now if they'd only started us all off on fingermangle or any number of basic Shetland reels, I have the sneaking suspicion that I'd have enjoyed my fiddle a whole lot sooner than I did. Considering how I feel about my fiddle now, the word 'enjoy' doesn't even come close. But then...I was taught by fear and shouting. Nobody ever said 'that sounds good', undoubtedly because it didn't, but children learn best if they're encouraged. I associated music with embarassment, with exams, with never quite measuring up, with something taught by brilliant but unpleasant old men to this particularly stupid and incompetent girl. It's no surprise I couldn't wait to escape that particular tyranny.

If I could turn my personal clock back to 1974, this is the only thing I'd change. I wouldn't give up my fiddle at fifteen, thinking it was part of what I needed to run away from. With hindsight, I've realised that you can run, but you can't hide. I ran for a long time. Thirty two years it took until a fiddle found me. My partner bought me one, an electric s-shaped seriously cool beast, and I fell upon it with cries of delight. Couldn't draw a note from it at first, but I persevered. And the joy of an electric fiddle is that you can plug it into a pair of headphones and nobody else is forced to endure your early squawkings.

And now. On a different fiddle. One that my Dad made. A lovely, big blonde Strad copy that is almost too big for my left hand to span, but I love its sound, so I persevere. Every single day. Sometimes I manage to sneak in three practices a day. How long do my books take to write and illustrate? Hmmmm, that depends on whether I'm currently trying to nail a tune or not, but shhhhhh, don't tell my editor. Debi Gliori is playing truant on her fiddle. The long-dead old men would have been amazed at my diligence, but it's not diligence, it's love. I close my eyes most of the time when I play, all the better to hear where we're going, my fiddle and me.