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Friday, 6 May 2011

MAY 2011: Is the Festival telling a story?  

On 3rd May, Gavin Pretor-Pinney came to town, with waves, of every kind. On sound waves, he surfed, hordes of happy people in a happy auditorium. Pointing out that, in terms of waves (and maybe life too?) peak, peak, peak is not possible. There must be troughs too. Furthermore, all sorts of waves on which we depend are an omnipresent in our lives.  Then he got us dignified festival folk to do a Mexican wave, and we did a beauty!

He was followed by wild swimmer-with-child Kate Rew, who reckoned that cold water gives you a thrill. Maybe you but not me :-).  She spoke of seeing our lovely world anew, from water level, like a vole from its hole, or a roach from its river. We rippled with delight.

Next day, cooly-clever Kate Williams told us how boring her academic research was until she came across the - beautiful, voluptuous, sweet, seductive, splendid, etc. choose your own superlative - Emma Hamilton, who was an 18th century celeb, posing for olden-days painters in page 3 ways called 'Attitudes'. Plus ca change.

That evening, James Geary marvelled at metaphors, as we did too; and pointed out, to any pedant present, that 'a simile is just a metaphor with the  scaffolding left on'.  He gave time to aphorisms too. Like this one. 'Mirrors would do well to reflect a little longer before sending back images.' But metaphors remained memorable, like some jobs are jails. That night, my job was a joy.

On Thursday 5th May, Professor Lewis Wolpert told a big and largely ageing lunchtime audience that old age has no adverse effects on sexual activity. There was a slight intake of breath but hands remained folded on laps. He also said that experiments showed that eating less increases age. Starved rats live twice as long as well-fed ones. And added that, apart from the right genes, the key things to living long are diet and exercise.

In the evening, Robin Hanbury-Tenison, who had had an explorer's adventure getting here from Cornwall, said there was evidence that explorers were people who had domineering mothers. Furthermore, they do not have to be nice people. But no famous explorer was first to sail round the world.  It was a slave.

To end the day, Michael Wood reminded a full house that anyone can generalise but the thing to do is to particularise, because every single place tells a story, its own story.

Is the Festival telling a story?


Tuesday, 3 May 2011

MAY 2011: exemplary septuagenarian

At 4am, in the darkness of night, we worked among the trees of the park to make all ready for a Festival sunrise launch to write a blog about.

As we stood in a biting wind on the Lawn Woods ridge looking down the valley onto Queen's Drive, at 5.31, on the horizon between the Tower Blocks of Park South, the top curve of an orange orb appeared and, spontaneously, we burst into song. 'The sun is rising, the sun is rising, as it has since our time began, as it has since our time began.'

We proceeded to have the kind of fun you cannot help having in the rising sun. Never mind the icy wind, enjoy! Watch the pipers, singers, jugglers, rope walkers, aerialists, dramatists, hoopists, and poetists. And furthermore, a champagne book launch at dawn, in this case of Domestic Cherry, is, we discovered, the way to sell good books.please see:

By midday, the Festival crew had crossed town, to Swindon’s lovely Lydiard Park, for walk and talk. Walking wonder Cheryl, in yellow, did both, like a mother hen taking her chicks on an adventure, making sure they went the best way, saw the best bits, and did not get lost. We loved being looked after while getting the good thoughts that only come when the body is in motion, walking.  In the indoor talk, Maggie and Les took us on another adventure, of the  walker’s mind.

Next came running, and, in their inimitable style, Swindon’s brilliant Parkrun crew organised a Freedom parkrun (or another hard 5km slog by any other name ) for more than 70 of us Bank Holiday runners, and our guest speakers too.

After refreshments, of Lower Shaw Farm drinks and home-made runner-shaped biscuits, we sat down to an air-conditioned talk. Parkrun-founder Paul told us how this phenomenal phenomenon came about and inspired us with his vision, of free park running. Next, running legend Bruce Tulloh both entertained and inspired us in his way, which included tips for running over 40, over 50, and over 60; and he, an exemplary septuagenarian.  Words of wisdom too, like this. You can fool yourself in many things in life but not in running.

And then, in an early evening breeze, we all went for a bike ride, with Rob Penn, and enjoyed his round-the-world-round-the-bike-I-love-bikes talk, as a result of which, all his books were bought.

What a lovely long first day, doing it, being it, feeling, hearing it, and talking about it. Love Literature, and Life? We do! MATT HOLLAND

And Shaun Butler wrote this wonderful report on his experiences of the first day of the Swindon Festival of Literature 2011:

The Wonders of walking for Health and Well-being

After an invigorating 20 minutes walking in the beautiful grounds of Lydiard Park, Maggie Humphreys pronounced 'The longest journey begins with just 1 step.' She gave the benefits of healthy eating and walking for fitness, health and stress relief. 'The New Walking Diet' , her book detailed a 7 day plan to restore energy and fitness levels. A controlled metabolic rate brings psychological and physiological improvement.
Les Snowdon referred to literary figures who composed auspicious work while walking and musing. Wordsworth, Shelley, Hippocratus, Travellyan,
R.L. Stevenson and famously the Bard himself, Bill Shakespeare.
Cheryl Heyne, the working for Health co-ordinator left us with her father's poem promoting walking for everyone.
                                                          Life is a journey we all take
                                                          Fate deals us the mode of transport
                                                          The only part that is our reward
                                                          Is the pleasure of those who travel with us
                                                          Thank you for your company.

Photography Jill Carter

Monday, 2 May 2011

Still up baking biscuits

I've just returned from an evening up at Lower Shaw Farm for supper and helpers’ (of which I am one) meeting. Tomorrow is May morning and the first day of the Literature Festival. It's busy: there's a porter-loo in the drive sitting on top of a truck, there are people chatting around a camp fire, there are all kinds of people in all kinds of beds and some that are still up baking biscuits. Matt lost his festival T Shirt and Andrea found it but could not refresh his browser so he can read this blog...there are only so many things a woman can do as I know very well. There has been drama...access to the park was very tricky because we had the wrong key for the calls were made and a nice local councillor took a bolt-cutter to the lock so that festivities can take place in the morning (phew!) Now the porter loo can take its prominent and essential place under the trees along side performers, chairs, poetry pods, bunting, posters, hot tea, bacon rolls and hopefully hundreds of lovely Swindonians ready to get our festival on the road.
Domestic Cherry magazine will be launched and thankfully Jill found the right outfit to match the occasion...
"As you suggested the praying flipping worked because I have just found my entire vintage collection of paisley crimpolene et al  (buried under a knitted castle), together with the lovely chinzy number Jan favoured for the Radstock Festival. Now I am in a whirl about what goes with might still go down to the pyjamas ensemble, who knows.  And wear something a little more tasteful for the Domestic cherry launch on Tues eve at the Arts Centre, there is plenty of black curtains to hide behind there.  Sorry Hilds, Ursula and myself may be the only ones braving the elements at dawn. Gulp. But we will be rewarded with a bacon buttie hopefully. xx Happy May Day. Jill"
Off to bed now as I must be up at 3:45 to hang bunting, set up the picnic table and lay out the jammy dodgers with Ursula.
good night for now
Mabel Watson

Friday, 29 April 2011

Practical Matters of Consequence

Wednesday 27th of April and everyone at Lower Shaw Farm is busy. Andrea and Matt are getting ready for a music weekend as well as the Literature Festival that starts on May morning Monday at 5:30am. And there is a farm to run too...

"A couple of hours ago, the blackest sheep of our family, Lou, gave birth to an even blacker lamb. Cute beyond belief. What with the newly-hatched ducklings, and new white rabbits, it's not easy to get on with practical matters of consequence...sprinting but bleating" Matt.