(hmm, spilled or spilt? I prefer spilled, as I also prefer spelled, but is there a difference that matters or is it too old-English-used-to-be-sort-of-German to count now?)
So all the way down to Fowey for not quite 24 hours for the du Maurier Festival this weekend. It’s actually a gorgeous train journey from Paddington, 4 hours there and 4 and a half on the slower Sunday train back, with some lovely coastline and all points west lookingly splendidly spring-like. Had a lovely time at Fowey last year, made my first tentative connections (ie meeting someone who appreciates both Janet Frame and my laugh!) with the esteemed dovegreyreader, met some very nice festival organisers, sold books, did a favour for my own publishers Virago by promoting many of their Virago Modern Classics. Same again this year, with the added bonus of meeting up again with Justine Picardie (who has a great blog), what could possibly go wrong?
Well … the hotel (having given away all their lovely, bright, water-facing rooms) decided they’d best put us up over the road in a dark house, right on the street, where Justine drew the even shorter straw of a room with a generator behind it!
Lisa Appigannesi, Justine, Helen Taylor and I went up the hill to our long-sold-out event … and found none of our books was there. Lots of du Maurier’s, loads of The Breaking Point which we were there to talk about, but none of our own. Now, with the best will in the world, and fan of Daphne’s writing though I am, and happy to have a nice day by the seaside etc etc … no author gives up a full weekend and travels cross country with no hope of selling their own books. Profuse apologies from the very nice people who run the festival book stall and hey, we’re sure they’ll get some in stock now anyway. But still, grrr.
And then there was the half-finished cup of tea that found itself upended and all over my jeans about a second before we got off the train at Paddington!
So yes, a few irritations, but …
Justine did splendidly successful nice-complaining about the room (which is lucky, because I’m totally rubbish at complaining, nicely or otherwise) and we were transferred to a newly decorated apartment on the corner – with water view (on tiptoe, through one window) – FAR nicer and light and bright.
We had a GLORIOUS Saturday evening having dinner with du Maurier’s son Kits and his wife Hacker. They gave us a splendid meal, buckets of wine, possibly the best view in Fowey (as always, the best views imo are those looking back at the place itself – Manhattan from Brooklyn, Wellington from Eastbourne, Fowey from Ferryside), and loads of good stories, most of which I have now conflated into a single inebriate daze! I don’t think it’s gossip though, to say I really enjoyed hearing Kits talk about ‘Mum’ – with all the theories about Daphne’s life and her writing, the academics and critics analyses, the sexual and emotional revelations that readers always seem to want about loved writers, it was great to be reminded she was also someone’s mother, daughter, sister, wife … a real person to those who really knew her. Having worked in film himself, Kits now looks after the du Maurier estate, and is clearly doing a fine job of it if the numbers of people at the festival’s du Maurier events and the sales of her books are anything to go by. (Not a little helped by Virago Modern Classics as well!)
As for our own book sales, it’s a disappointment, but it happens. It’s not the first time and won’t be the last. Running a festival is a massive job and there will always be something that goes wrong – everyone was very kind about it, no-one had a tantrum (which always helps) and we all met some readers we otherwise might not have, who will, hopefully, think kindly of us and remember us next time they’re shopping! (Mind you, I happen to know – even though they weren’t the people with the shop at the festival – you can now buy mine, Justine’s and Lisa’s books at Bookends of Fowey and loving local independent book shops as we all do, that’s no bad thing.)
And I met Lynne/dovegreyreader, confirming for myself, she is indeed, real. Add to that a lovely couple of walks down to Readymoney Cove, great chats with Justine (whose Daphne is great, and especially a must-read for du Maurier and Bronte fans), a delicious cornish pasty, loads of sunshine, big big blue sky, and quite splendid views … all in all, a lovely weekend crammed into 32 hours.
Right then, it’s midday Monday. I have a new draft of Medea to edit (“after Euripedes” – have no idea what they mean by that, def something to blog about another time – what the hell do you call an adaptation/translation/re-writing, and why pick the one you pick, and gosh isn’t adapting really really different from writing from scratch?), an essay on Patricia Highsmith’s Carol half-done which I must complete today, questions for Little Brown’s annual pub quiz to finish compiling for when I host it on Wednesday eve, AND April’s accounts to sort before I go to Montreal* on Thursday. Eek!
(*press trip, not quite 3 days, will be back this time next week, there’s a fully-booked itinerary by the looks of it, but any extra must-see suggestions very welcome.)