Sunday, 16 August 2009

Hissing cockroaches & rubber faces

Yesterday was great fun! With 18,000 visitors to the gardens we were kept busy all day. A number of events proved particularly memorable: children in the Exotic Creatures with Sharon Tregenza event were thrilled to be able to handle a four foot python, a Mexican red-kneed tarantula, hissing cockroaches and a giant millipede, courtesy of Edinburgh Butterfly & Insect World. Posh Josh - a brand new Beano character - was created by the excited audience of The Beano event. Look out for the cheeky chappy in October as he makes his debut in the Minnie the Minx comic strip.

Despite hearing Emmanuel Jal’s tragic story of his brutal childhood as a Sudanese child soldier, his audience left uplifted after dancing in the aisles to an impromptu performance of his peace-promoting hip hop. As Peg mentioned earlier Garrison Keillor proved yet again that he is the consummate raconteur, keeping his audience amused with both tales of bizarre small-town American characters and his not inconsiderable rubber face! (See below.)

Today saw my wee baby nephew wreak havoc in his Rhymetime event. Getting up on stage to perform when not invited and pulling the hair of other babies’ mums is just not on - that’s the last time he’ll be allowed into an event. So much to look forward to for the rest of us though!

Opening party!

Tradition dictates that the first Saturday night at the EIBF is party night, and so it was! The Highland Park Spiegeltent was creaky with the weight of the many party people who came from far and wide. Susan Rice welcomed everyone and toasted the opening of another three weeks of literary shenanigans in the dramatically lit garden of Charlotte Square, before handing over to this year's guest director Richard Holloway to declare the party started. Five piece electric band Rosy Blue kicked up with a rousing mix of blues, soul and rock 'n' roll while people quaffed curious concoctions of whisky, ginger ale and lime and nibbled at pakora, samosas and dips.

Despite the rising winds, the terrace was as busy as the inviting velvety-red interior. The chatter revolved around Carol Ann Duffy's powerful reading earlier in the evening; how Garrison Keillor's event put a smile on the face that lasted all day, all the more thrilling for his arriving on stage laden with luggage having nearly missed it due to flight troubles. Someone enjoyed the mild stushy between Lyn Gardner and Ruth Wishart over feminism, and recommended film-goers to see the film of Lyn's book, with screenplay by Nick Hornby, due in November. Fashion wise, there was more than one kilt and a fabulous blue cardigan; an unnamed source was heard to remark upon the pleasingly high numbers of attractive women wearing red.

Among the revellers were contemporary Scottish ladies' man Alan Bissett, sci-fi writer Ken MacLeod, Poet Laureate Carol Ann Duffy, novelist Ewan Morrison and poet Emily Ballou (who missed her train and was preparing to taxi home to Glasgow to make dinner for Hilda Doolittle. Hilda is 14 years old, and Emily's dog). By far the most intriguing line of the evening goes to this snippet, surreptitiously uttered: 'And of course, she spent her whole life not being able to tell A SOUL'. A novel born, perhaps... People danced. The wind caroused with the trees. The rain stayed away and the fireworks burst over George Street to the delighted noises people reserve for fireworks just as the party-goers started to totter home, tipsy with anticipation of what the next three weeks could bring.