Sunday, 17 April 2011

A golden day

I promised a full report on the book event, so here it is (at 5.0am the day after). The first good thing, as I mentioned in my earlier post, was the weather which remained fine throughout the day right through to nightfall when a magnificent full moon appeared in the southern sky. At 8.45am, Harry aged 5 and I helped load the Zacharry's products into the back of Jim's car, Zacharry's being the sponsor, with Forestry Purposes LLP of the event and Jim being my son in law. I took a decision to wear my old mud-stained, once-purple plimsolls - lace-up canvas shoes - for some kind of superstitious reason distantly related in my head to that poem 'When I grow old I will wear purple' . ( Well, I was - a purple fleece jacket over my lime leopard print Boden dress). Also because I correctly guessed there would be quite a lot of running about to do both before and during the event. As I scrunched across the gravel forecourt of the hotel, I saw the reassuring figure of Marilyn Elliott, book lover and indispensible MBE administrator, without whom it can quite literally be said the event would never have taken place, standing at the door. The function room at the Moffat House hotel looked dauntingly large and empty set out with chairs from front to back. When I arrived, Jim and Harry had set up the Zacharry's stall at the far end by the window, and a volunteer was putting the finishing touches to the PA system. Carolyn Yates, D&G Literature Development officer - our compere for the day - appeared, resplendent in 1930's style coat, hat, dress and shoes but nearly minus her voice. She revealed huskily that it had been completely absent the day before, but being a trouper she did magnificently, a benign, experienced and professional presence from arrival at 9.0am until after the unveiling of the plaque to D E Stevenson at her former house and the glass of pink bubbly courtesy of our host there, Anne Colledge, 10 hours later. Lorraine, chic in orange, established herself at a small table by the front door, while Andrea, Sarah and Tina organised a beautiful display of vintage clothing in an ante-room between the bar and the reception room. Chris and Sue of Atkinson Pryce Books from Biggar set up a bookstall placed conveniently beside the entrance door facing the audience. It was a full and appreciative house for both the morning events, listening to Fiona Bevan's family memories of DES, Aline Templeton's clever appreciation, as a writer herself, of DES's lasting appeal, and Alis Ballance's hilarious reading of well-chosen excerpts from Miss Buncle Married, demonstrating DES's genius for comic observation and dialogue. After coffee, Jerri Chase explained how and why the DESsie evolved and skilfully highlighted those qualities, including a sense of moral goodness which draw us so strongly to her still. I proposed a champagne toast to The Book in the sun-filled garden room before we returned for a Q&A in which Rosemary Swallow, DES's daughter took part, alongside Fiona her granddaughter, Aline and Jerri. After a light lunch and a bit of nail-biting our afternoon speaker, Lynne McCrossan arrived on the dot of 2.0pm explaining that a) her lift had lost his way between Edinburgh and Moffat and b) she had it in her mind that she was on at 3.0pm. An appreciative audience with a significant sprinkling of younger guests were able to quiz Lynne about the in's and out's of wearing vintage, the delicate balance that needs to be struck between charity shops operating on a very charitable tax and rent regime, and those experts running 'vintage' as a small business; the vexed question of fur - to wear or not to wear - arose, what counts as 'vintage' etc. Our MBE marketing & PR Stacey Paul, officially on holiday, attended this session with her mother - all tribute to Stacey whose good work through the three months runup to the event ensured magnificent local, regional and national media coverage to the event and consequent full houses. All too soon, it was suddenly teatime; Chris Nolan struck up hits from the 1920's and 30's on his keyboard and on came the sandwiches, scones, and dainty meringues, strawberry tarts and other delicacies. Fiona of Moffat's Fiona Flowers had placed the prettiest little posies of pale pink and white flowers in tiny 'carrier bags' on every table. The function room was packed, cups were replenished, and at one end of the room a birthday cake appeared with a fizzing firework in its centre. At 6pm the 'plaque party' set off in cars and on foot to DES's former home for the unveiling in the presence of BBC reporter Willy Johnstone, who is putting together a programme about DES to be broadcast on May 5, of a dignified bronze plaque, celebrating her long and fruitful (over 40 novels!)residence in Moffat. Our host Anne had a bottle of pink fizz and tray of glasses waiting, the sun still shone more brightly on the daffodils and golden dandelions in every garden along our way up and back, bluebells just starting to open. At 7.15pm we made our way back to the Moffat House hotel for the 'after event' preview of Abi Roberts's 2011 Edinburgh Fringe show Abi Roberts Takes You Up The Aisle raising £150 for Moffat's Small 'n Tall nursery, currently attended by Abi's nephew Zac aged 3 after whom, with his older brother Harry, Zacharry's spruce products business, sponsor of Moffat Book Events is named. The show was the ideal, crazily comical, both down to earth but also uplifting way to round off a memorable day, the audience in turns rocking with laughter and rapt at the rendering of many old and new favourites (Abi's encore,by request, was her own hit song Turn the Lights Back On). And so to bed for a ruminative oatcake and bit of cheese to start to savour all the wonderful memories of our first - I hope of many - Moffat Book Events.

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