Friday, 7 November 2014

Cramming It All In

As we're spending two days a week at the moment helping out with the family's temporary childcare shortage in Rochester we're having to cram seven days worth of home life into five  at the moment and boy did we cram it in yesterday.

I started at seven in the morning with a trip to the college for a spinning class. After that it was a quick trip back home for a shower and a bowl of porridge before heading back with Marion to the college for a circuit training class. Duly exhausted it was back home at ten for another shower before heading to Southwold.

We were in Southwold for the excellent Ways With Words literary festival and were fortunate enough to have front row seats for talks by Shane Spall (accompanied by husband Tim), Rev Richard Coles and Melvyn Bragg.

What a great line up it was. Shane Spall was a quiet and fairly diffident presence who spoke enthusiastically about her books whilst her husband Tim exuded bonhomie and an infectious joie de vivre - the Southwold audience loved his reading of a passage about a meeting with a Sole Bay fisherman complete with unintelligible local dialect. 

By complete contrast to Shane, Richard Coles was as confident a speaker as you are likely to encounter which is not surprising given his regular TV and radio appearances and his other job as a vicar. He spoke about his childhood, his coming out and his epiphany in Edinburgh but missed out the "searingly honest" bits of his autobiography which could have shocked his mostly silver haired audience.

At the signing afterwards, Marion told Richard that if he were the vicar of Framlingham she would go to church. I simply raised my eyes and wondered how on earth we could fit that in.

The afternoon ended with a talk by Melvyn Bragg. I've always considered Melvyn to be a serious and confident interviewer but his talk showed a fragile side to him that is rarely seen. He was talking about his novel Grace And Mary which is written as an autobiographical fiction. By this Melvyn meant that he used real people, changed their identities and then wrote fiction about them. The people in this case were himself, his mother and his grandmother who was sent away from her community for bearing an illegitimate child (true, but as the author said, hard to believe today). A third of the book covers the period from when his ageing mother developed Alzheimer's to her eventual death from this ghastly disease and Melvyn was too emotional to complete the reading of each of his chosen passages. It showed a truly compassionate side to his nature and I have great admiration for his ability to share this sensitivity with a group of strangers. He was annoyed at letting his feelings get the better of him but, as the interviewer on stage with him said, if your writing doesn't move you, it won't move your readers.

Framlingham Town Council. Photo courtesy of
There was no time to dawdle after the event finished and it was back to the car and off to Framlingham in time to get to the Town Council meeting. I believe that there are usually no more than three members of the public in the audience at these meetings but, due to current development proposals which could increase the town's population by over 30% at a stroke, the hall was packed with standing room only. I felt sorry for the town councillors who explained that they were all volunteers and, effectively, asked the audience not to blame them for anything. The most important part of the meeting - the discussion of the proposed development on Fairfield Rd - drew a huge response from members of the audience who repeated the many arguments against the new houses. The outcome of the meeting was, for me, fairly unsatisfactory as, although the proposals were not approved, they were not rejected but simply pushed down the road for further consideration when more information is available.

After the meeting we were home in time to catch the final episode of The Detectorists which was filmed here. As a detector user living in Framlingham the show has been a firm favourite with me and I've really enjoyed it. It was a very gentle and fairly whimsical show which is right up my street and I'm delighted that, with 582,000 viewers last night (way above the slot average), another series has been commissioned.

I enjoyed spotting the town locations. Here's Toby Jones outside our bookshop - the only bookshop in the country stocking my novel at the moment. 

Here's a nice shot of Castle St.

And here's the excellent John Bradlaugh Electrical on Fore St where we bought our vacuum cleaner - I must pop in and try and get one of those toy detectors that MacKenzie Crook's character bought in last night's show.

So that was a pretty hectic day and a pretty lengthy blog too (sorry). This weekend we're off to a pub near Rugby to meet our friends Dave and Jane from our old life in Lancashire.