Last Friday, Stuart and took the train to Carlisle, then hired a car and drove over to beautiful Wigtown in southwest Scotland. Even thought it's a fairly small town, it has something like 20 indie bookshops and is a wonderful, cosy sort of place even when the wind is whipping down the high street.
We always stay with the excellent Mary and Angus MacIlwraith, and Stuart and Angus have been friends for 25 years. Here's a picture I drew (fairly quickly) of their farmhouse.
I think they were quite surprised when I came to breakfast in full pirate costume, and here we are, posing with Suzy the border terrier in their back garden. Thanks so much to writer Geraldine McCaughrean for lending me her Captain Hook hat! Geraldine wrote the authorised sequel to Peter Pan, called Peter Pan in Scarlet and has been working with the Peter Pan Moat Brae Trust, not far from Wigtown, to create a JM Barrie centre in a lovely old house where Peter Pan took it shape. The Moat Brae Trust and Geraldine are hosting a tea party at the Wigtown festival on Thursday at 4pm and I'm very sorry to miss it!
I was very excited to meet writer and illustrator Debi Gliori for the first time and, besides doing our own events, we both gave talks together twice in front of 300 schoolkids. 600 kids is a lot of people when the town's population is only about 1200! And we were both very chuffed to see writer and illustrator Shoo Rayner, who does more school events than almost anyone I know, and has posted hundreds of how-to-draw videos on You Tube (or Shoo Tube, as he calls his channel). We spent a couple hours chatting up in the Writer's Retreat, a beautiful room above Wigtown's most central bookshop, and we got a bit silly. Here's the evidence... (not a video for children, really; sorry about that...)
Here's the actor Celia Imrie with Shoo in an oh-please-take-this-or-my-wife-will-neve
Lately it's seemed that the first person I've walked into at every festival has been the tweedy besuited Stuart Kelly. I think he moderated something like 14 events at the Edinburgh Book Festival. So I couldn't help laughing when there he was, first person I saw, in the Writers' Retreat. Poor Stuart, I think he thinks I'm a bit nuts, swanning noisily into the room in my various pirate costumes. He inhabits the, ahem, very serious world of books for adults.
But enough of that. Ahoy! Jolly pirates!
Last time I was in Wigtown I met fabulous storyteller Renita Boyle, who can do absolutely anything with a guitar and silly voices, that woman is totally fearless. Here she is, leading the crew in a galloping rendition of I Know an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly, while I'm drawing her.
Thanks for all your help with the events, Renita! You're amazing! If anyone's in need of a great storyteller to really whip up the kids, Renita's your person, and will travel. She also just had a book published this year, My Storytime Bible.
After a swashbuckling pirate event, the lovely Zoë Bestel interviewed me. I sound like a real airhead but so would you if you'd just turned a tent full of kids into pirates for an hour. Go have a look here at Zoë's blog, where she's also interviewed Debi, Shoo, and Maria Cairnie.
Here's our group at the Wigtown public library, who went off on a rollicking Comics Jam session with me.
Here are my two lovely assistants, Pamela the librarian and Angus Dunn, whom I met last year. Angus and I had a good chat about comics, he showed me some of his (which were very funny) and he's been publishing some of them online in Comical Animal, edited by my former DFC colleague Jim Medway. Do keep an eye on Comical Animal for free, bi-monthly, family friendly, top-quality comics!
Hee hee, since I didn't have a publicist along with me on this trip, Angus got to be my 'official minder' and helped me partake of the lobster. This one had such a big claw that it was slightly intimidating.
We had two fine days of weather, but Sunday was blowy, wet, and as Scots put it so well, rather dreich.
Angus and Mary took us for a fine lunch at Portpatrick and we got blown about on the beach for awhile at Cairnryan.
Of course, Suzy the noble border terrier lives on a farm and is used to any sort of weather nature can throw at her.
Suzy came along with us as we went around inspecting Angus and Mary's sheds. Sheds are a big deal in Wigtown, and theirs are very fine.
Here's Stuart (in a shed) with our fine host. Thanks so much, Angus and Mary, for putting us up! Thanks to Shaun and Jessica for all the fab Writers' Retreat hospitality, and to Renita, Heather Bestel, Anne Barclay, Carolyn Yates, and so many other organisers and volunteers who are making this year's festival such a great success. We were very sad to leave!