Lindsey and I have been to three presentations at the Edinburgh International Book Festival so far, with several more scheduled for the following weeks. Within five minutes of the start of the first one, which I won’t name, I was wondering why on earth did I book tickets for it. It wasn’t that it was bad, but it wasn’t my scene. It started with a short poetry reading. Now, unless it’s Allen Ginsberg or Gary Snyder, poetry is beyond me, and my mind was quickly elsewhere. The poem was followed by a reading from a play, and then a sort of clip from the play, with two actors playing parts. I couldn’t follow it, because I was distracted by how wonderful the actors were at playing parts, instead of trying to understanding what they were saying in context.
My friend Fat Mac is currently working on a new play of some sorts, though how he manages to find anything to write about when he spends most of the day sitting in his bath is beyond me. But if he manages to get his play produced somewhere I hope he gets either, or both, of the actors we watched on Sunday to act in his show. They simply clicked into their roles, and were very believable. I doubt, however, if even they would be able to bring any life to a two hour show entitled: Watching my toes slowly wrinkle like raisins while I reminisce about the sivinties.
The second and third presentations we attended were really good. One was by Sunil Khilnani who spoke about his book in which he picks 50 lives to tell the story of India’s history. India is such a vast place, with a very rich history. Telling its story through the lives of 50 very different people makes its past accessible.
Last night we went to see Sir Tom Devine and Angela McCarthy talk about their book Tea and Empire: James Taylor in Victorian Ceylon. James Taylor was one of numerous Scots involved in tea production in what was then Ceylon. Devine reminded us about how the Scots contributed to, and benefitted from, the British Empire. One can only imagine what Scotland would be like today had it not gained so disproportionately from the Empire. Tea was one of many areas in which Scottish people made a great contribution (sugar, tobacco, religion, the army and overseas civil service are some others).
One question asked at the end that I felt the authors did not completely answer was, where did all the money from tea go? It was a profitable industry, but did not leave its mark on the Scottish economy as much as, say, the sugar or tobacco industries did.
Lindsey and I have already bought four books from the festival bookshop. The problem will be finding the time to read them, but they all look very worthwhile.