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Edinburgh International Book Festival

Today was the first day of the renowned Edinburgh International Book Festival, and I spent a happy while perusing the latest books. I’d been invited to attend an event by Luath Press at 4pm, so dutifully joined the back of a large queue, looking forward to the entertaining and educational discourse to come.

My state of inward contentedness was rudely shaken however, because as the line shuffled slowly forwards, my wife kindly pointed out to me my face staring back at me from a poster.

My first reaction was one of intrigue – swiftly followed by a sinking feeling as I realised that the talk I was about to attend was not as a member of the audience. No, that would have been too easy – and I guess you’re ahead of me now – that’s right, I’m giving the talk.

Now to be fair, Luath had asked me if I would talk about my book, maybe play some tunes or otherwise entertain the crowds; but I’d responded with a non-committal ‘let me think about it’. If only I had followed my own advice, I wouldn’t now be standing in front of an expectant crowd with a complete vacuum where my brain normally resides. I’d also be dressed in dark, moody or flamboyant clothing as is the mode for authors, not just the first clothes my hands encountered as I climbed out of bed following a few too many glasses of wine the previous night. Thank goodness I’d washed my hair was the irrational thought taking hold as I climbed onto the podium.

It’s times like these that define us. I could have entered Maybot mode and repeated phrases with a mechanical air; Strong and Stable – or Brexit is Brexit, although these would have sat awkwardly with a talk about ceilidh dances. Instead I talked about the Skye cudgel dance, in which two men hit each other over the head with wooden cudgels until blood runs over the eyebrows. I did point out that due to Health & Safety concerns this isn’t practiced today, and hence doesn’t appear in my book. I omitted to mention the dance was performed to music, what the tune was is lost to history, although I feel a waltz would fit nicely. Had I only been given the chance to bring notes, I could have further impressed the erudite crowd by providing the Gaelic name – Bualidh mi u an sa chean, (I will break your head for you), although my pronunciation may have let me down.

In fact, I was just getting into my stride when a small plastic horn emitted a weak raspberry, wavering in the air like some bluebottle in terminal decline. This was the pre-arranged Monty Pythonesque signal to alert me that my time was up. I held up an imaginary copy of my book, encouraging everyone to buy it, and left the stage to the sound of confused clapping. Job done – just need to add this to my CV.

#InternationalBookFestival #Edinburgh

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