Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Cheltenham Literature Festival - 2nd visit

Our fourth and final event of the day.  First the lights went out then Hilary Devey was thirty minutes late.  Was she worth the wait? Frankly, no.  Five minutes into the interview and I was hoping for another power cut.

Inconsistencies and contradictions peppered her recollections in conversation with fawning award winning Times columnist Deborah Ross. I couldn't keep up with at which point her son went to the boarding school that introduced him to heroin or when she was wrapping him in tinfoil to keep him warm in the home she couldn't afford to heat yet where she employed a nanny.

Much was made of the men in Hilary's life but when asked which lucky Dragon might take her fancy - Duncan, Peter or Theo, she failed to understand the question.  Deborah also struggled with names and faces and referred to 'little Ewan McGregor' who apparently now introduces Dragons' Den.  I'm assuming she meant economist and journalist Evan Davis and not the Scottish born Hollywood actor.

Was she inspirational - eh, no?  Did she give me any tips on how to become a successful business woman - work hard - you don't say.  Thanks Hilary.

Opting out of the questions and answers opportunity at least we were nice and early for our train home this time.  An unfortunate conclusion to what had otherwise been an excellent day at the Cheltenham Literature Festival.

We kicked off with Dan Snow who helped us distinguish fortified medieval castles built to intimidate and control warring communities to impressive confections with first floor windows and a knee deep moat.  He dispelled the myth that boiling oil was poured from castle battlements - way too expensive and plain old boiling water did the trick, but introduced us to the vision of plague ridden corpses catapulted into the castle confines, an early method of germ warfare.

Dan's talk was a prelude to his new series Battle Castles which begins on the Discovery Channel tonight (Oct 11) and his book of the same title.  He spoke with undeniable knowledge and exuberant enthusiasm.  He arrived on time, squeezed in as many questions as possible and left us all hungry for more - Hilary take note.

Next it was the turn of Alex Langlands and Peter Ginn, two out of the three Wartime Farmers.  Alex wore his signature wartime trilby and tank top, the latter he proudly told us came from his own personal prewar wardrobe.

In a well orchestrated double act Peter and Alex talked knowledgeably about wartime farming practices and Wartime Farm filming vagaries.  They were knowledgeable, interesting, engaging and funny - Hilary, are you paying attention?

Third on our list of speakers was Adam Hart-Davis who reminded us about some well known names in Engineers - a Dorling and Kindersley publication he has edited.  Extravagantly attired in a tribal print shirt and stetson, Adam told us how he was frequently accused of testiculating - gesticulating and talking bollocks at the same time - bring it on Adam!

Marching across the stage Adam spoke without the aid of notes, talking about famous engineering fathers and their sons - Brunel and Stephenson and forgotten names such as female mathematician, inventor and engineer Herthe Ayrton who designed a fan to combat gas attacks in the First World War.  He took us down sewers and stood us before the Abbey Mills Pumping Station, which he described as a monument to excrement - see comparison to Ms Devey's talk (my words not his.)  Adam spoke with authority and he was  funny, enthusiastic and interesting - get the message Hilary.

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