Friday, 28 August 2009

Stookies, spy-pens, and the sound of rejoicing.

Not many people get welcomed into the Book Festival with a round of applause. But then not many people are Helen: unofficial queen of the yurt, she has been sadly out of action, and barely-even-walking wounded, after having been involved in an accident.

But now, stookie proudly on show, she has made a quick-stop visit, to refresh us in our sleepy and every-so-slightly frayed festival state.

Stylish enough to refrain from the usual sharpie marker-ed slogans across her leg, Helen will have a stookie covered in nothing less than MAGIC SPY PEN INK. Yes, that is right, ladies and gentleman, pick up your jaws from the floor. Whatever you could conceive of, the Book Festival will provide.

The pens are easy to operate: a UV light illuminates invisible ink. Promotional material for Michael Buckley's 'Nerds', they are quite simply the most marvellous piece of writing apparatus I have ever encountered.

But back to Helen. Wired up with a site radio, and raring to go, she is surrounded by a packet of Jellybabies who look a bit like courtiers, and swathes of authors and chairpeople whom she barely knows but who have heard all about her. From a distance it looks like some subtley gothic tableau of an unusual family day out.

And that is the best thing about this place. The best thing about a twenty-four-hour-a-day village of last minute requests, even more last minute changes, and frustrating IT, and mud, and endless tea, and food snatched in not-quite-quiet-just-less-frenetic moments, and the thrum and drone of conversation containing words as wonderful to roll on your tongue as pebbles washed by the sea are to roll in your palms.

The family that emerges from the commas in between these things. That is the best thing we have. The 'good-nights' on the radio. The people who pop out to buy lunch and will bring you back a curry. The staff party. The way the staff share their jumpers. The cutting-out or emailing of things we know the other people will like. The letting other people catch a wink of sleep on a sofa, and not waking them up, not even when there is gossip to be shared.

And Helen, even in absentia, is proper, important, wonderful family. And we are very, very glad that she's ok, and rocking her stookie with unflappable glamour.