Friday, 30 June 2017

Favourite spots on the planet

Here I am, back in the city of cafes and coffee culture!  Melbourne.  I've come to meet my second to youngest grandson, born just over a year ago, and to catch up with his big sister, Mum and Dad.  
Apart from being with the family, I've made a beeline for a couple of my favourite haunts in this fantastic city, taking in a bit of graffiti on the way, of course!
Hosier Lane is a narrow street in the heart of the city centre, which attracts graffiti artists and a steady stream of visitors.  Street art isn't seen as vandalism here.  The city council allows designated areas for this constantly changing art form. There was even a school group receiving a lesson on the concept of street art!  You wouldn't come across that in the back streets of Edinburgh!

"We swallow greedily any lie that flatters us, but we sip only little by little at a truth we find bitter."
Denis Diderot
I walked along the banks of the Yarra River, past some totem poles with Aboriginal art, to the 96 tram stop for South Melbourne Market.  I don't think I have seen these ship's figureheads before, but in the past we have usually walked along the other side of the river.
 Before I wandered through the market I went along to my most favourite bookshop in the world, Coventry Bookstore.  They have wonderful literature, art books, cookery books, a great children's book section, with sophisticated chilled out music playing quietly in the background.  It all adds up to heaven for me!  I usually just let my camera record a few minutes of video footage, just for the soundtrack, and listen to it when I get home!  And I always leave the shop v e r y  s l o w l y and with the greatest reluctance, but there is a limit to how long you can hang around in one place without raising the shopkeeper's eyebrow!  I regret that I never buy a book.  The cost of books in Australia is eye wateringly painful, and I can get them at home for half the price.   

And then to the market, piled high with colourful fruits, vegetables, flowers.  Meat and fish stalls, cakes and pastries, and some fantastic deli counters.  

I bought a ridiculously large chocolate and almond croissant at one stall, and an excellent coffee at another, and sat at a little table in one of the market thoroughfares, and scoffed the lot.  It was delicious, and extremely greedy.  But sitting in the middle of the hubbub of the market, in a place I love to be, watching the comings and goings of the market traders and their customers, was just the best way to spend some of my morning.
Having visited my favourite bookshop, I also had a browse through the market's very good second hand book stall.  Seeing a copy of 'The Natural History of Selborne' amused me.  I know the Hampshire village well and it is a very long way indeed from South Melbourne Market!

Wednesday, 21 June 2017

Out of hours

At the moment we are living beside a 9 hole golf course.  Golf is most definitely not my thing.  I agree with Winston Churchill - a round of golf is a good walk spoilt.  Having said that, out of hours, the neighbouring golf course is serving us quite well in other respects.

There are a few ponds across the expanse of green, which provide sights and sounds from water birds, and wonderful reflections from the sky.
As the rest of us gear up for a summer of tennis, Ted has discovered his favourite seasonal sport is chasing swallows.  As they skim over the ponds and swoop across his bow, he tears after them! It's almost as though they are teasing him.  Their flight is so fast and skilful that he doesn't stand a hope in hell of catching one, but don't tell him that, he's having the time of his life!
During this warm, humid spell of weather I have been picking field mushrooms on the golf course. Several decades ago my mother and I used to pick them on my uncle's Hampshire farm, on misty September mornings, so collecting these has been particularly enjoyable - bringing back happy memories, as well as providing a very delicious ingredient for tonight's supper!

Monday, 19 June 2017

Final fling

Another sweltering day at the Borders Books Festival in Melrose, but we enjoyed the company of masses of festival goers, all eagerly buying their books in the shop - where we quietly melted in the heat behind the credit card machine! 
We had record attendances for Steve Backshall - naturally - with the longest book signing queue of the festival!  
After that I managed to sneak off from my post in the bookshop to listen to gardener Carol Klein, tracing the seasons in her beautiful Devon cottage garden.  Here she is, passing on some pearls of gardening wisdom at her book signing session!
And then the giant - Michael Parkinson, interviewed by his son, and enrapturing his audience. 
By the time we had packed up the books at the end of the evening, it was well after 11 pm, and after such a boiling hot day I decided to give the wrap party a miss, and tiptoed off to my B&B to have a refreshing shower before collapsing into bed!  Four long exhausting days, but ones I wouldn't have missed for the world.  Three cheers for the Borders Book Festival.  Looking forward to next year's now!

Sunday, 18 June 2017

Saturday at the Borders Book Festival

We melted in the heat at the book festival on Saturday!  On Friday we were bundled up with scarves, but yesterday the sun shone brightly all day long, and the marquee was sweltering inside.  I think today may be the same!

Rain or shine, the Borders Book Festival is the place to be, especially with a line-up like this in the main marquee
and we even have festival goers who match the book covers.
This is where I spend my days, selling books, chatting to familiar faces from previous years, and enjoying the excitable, positive energy which exudes from this space during book signings.  We get a considerable number of people who come back later, extremely embarrassed, because they have been so swept away in the moment of talking to the speaker who has signed their book, that they forget to pay for it!  It's something we can more than understand!  It is exciting to have a chance to exchange a few words with a celebrity, and the Borders Book Festival does manage to attract real celebrities - ones we have all heard of!
To find a bit of peace during a frantically busy day, I have a walk through the gardens surrounding the marquees.  The herbaceous borders are really delicious at this time of year.
One of the things I enjoy most about this book festival is the opportunity to spot little moments that wouldn't happen anywhere else.  For example, here we have BBC Radio's Jim Naughtie getting a book signed and having a chat with John Cleese. 
And here, an authors' mutual admiration society with Joanna Trollope signing and swapping books with Ella Berthoud.

Saturday, 17 June 2017

It's that time of year again

The highlight of my year has come round again!  Working in the bookshop at the Borders Book Festival.  I've been here since Thursday morning, when we had a deluge of schoolchildren and rain, but no dampened spirits!  EVERYONE loves the BBF, staff and guest speakers alike.  And we have some stomping good speakers this year!
There are no two ways about it.  This is just the best book festival in the UK.  Apart from anything else, where else do you get a book festival in a vegetable garden?  The grounds of Harmony House in Melrose are dreamy.  Delicious scents from the flowerbeds and shrubberies and beautiful views to the hills around the town.  I just love being here!  
Judy Murray came to the bookshop, during a quiet moment, to sign a huge pile of books before she gave her talk in the evening.
 And Melvyn Bragg needed a little help with removing the microphone wiring after his talk.
This morning we have wonderful blue skies overhead and there will be hundreds of families coming to the book festival throughout the day.  I will be on my feet from nine in the morning until eleven o'clock tonight, but I wouldn't want to be anywhere else!!  

Sunday, 4 June 2017

In memorium

I have just finished watching Ariana Grande's One Love tribute concert in Manchester this evening.  At short notice, she put together an impressive line up, and for me the brilliant Coldplay stole the show!  As always, the supremely energetic Chris Martin bounced and skipped around the stage like a crazy man, and the band's music was easily the best!  
There are no words for the reason why this concert took place.