Saturday saw the opening of the Edinburgh International Book Festival. Some lucky children were fortunate enough to meet up with a certain grrrrruff friend! That is Gruffalo a character invented for children to enjoy by Julia Donaldson.
Julia conjured up the idea of the Monster’s name to end in O so that it would rhyme with “doesn’t he know”. The “Gr” being a fierce start to the monster’s name, with a middle of “uffal” to make up that super name Gruffalo. A fierce name that displays a pleasing image of a monster, and it also projects an image of a buffalo. A buffalo more that is scary, fierce, friendly, and a fiend.
You can see Julia Donaldson in action here. You will need to register, and the event can be seen after registration.
Image above is a fond memory of the 2017 Edinburgh Book Festival in Charlotte Square,. A different world to the one of 2021. A freer COVID19 free event, packed with live audiences and visitors to the gardens in the Square. All enjoying the sun and the atmosphere of the great literary celebs.
This year they are staging a hybrid Festival. We hear there is a fabulous online programme of over 250 events for adults and children, Their events are streamed live on the festival’s website.
Alongside this your are welcome in-person for a wide range of the events in the programme, which you can book using this link to their website , This year’s Book Festival takes place from Saturday 14 to Monday 30 August at their new Festival home: the University of Edinburgh’s Edinburgh College of Art.
Activist and author of memoir-cum-manifesto The Properties of Perpetual LightJulian Aguon and prize-winning author of poetic essay collection Small Bodies of Water Nina Mingya Powles come together to discuss their books and environmental perspectives in a live event with an author Q&A. BOOK YOUR SPOT
Poet of the people and the first Young People’s Laureate for London Caleb Femi shares his debut collection which has been called ‘a landmark debut for British poetry’. BOOK YOUR SPOTFollowing the event, Caleb Femi will be doing an in-person book signing in the Festival Village.
Tara June Winch, winner of Australia’s most prestigious literary prize, brings her third novel to the Festival. Told in three masterfully woven narratives, The Yield is a celebration of language and an exploration of what makes a place ‘home’. BOOK YOUR SPOT
But today I am looking at a book. One written by Jose Eduardo Agualusa.“The Society of Reluctant Dreamers”.
Jose today (Friday 23rd August 2019) is the Angolan star for The Society of Reluctant Dreamers, spoke about his surreal new novel which asks what understanding dreams could do for our waking lives.
Part of the text is written in the first tense and strange as it may seem that is what I tend to do.
Dan the Chair of the meeting asked Jose to open the talk. He started by reading part of his book in Portuguese. A short extract and the words that I could discern were few. Just the names of the key character and his job. Surprisingly just the words, Daniel and Journalist.
Then, thankfully Daniel Hahn (his interpreter) read the same text in English. I must admit I do prefer Scottish but the E word is close enough.The first bit is about Daniel. As you can see amusingly there are two Dans on stage supporting Jose.
This next bit is a teaser from the cover of the book.
“While swimming in the waters of the Rainbow Hotel Daniel Benchimel finds a Waterproof camera, floating seemingly lost in the sea.
He goes on to discover that the camera belongs to Moira, a Mozambican artist famous for a series of photos depicting her own dreams.
On seeing the images Daniel realises that Moira is also the mysterious woman whom he has been dreaming about repeatedly.
The two meet, and Daniel becomes involved in an unusual dream experiment with a Brazilian neuroscientist, who’s working with Moira to film and photograph people’s dreams’
Thinking aloud here but that could conjure up some bizarre images, film and photography.
I now move on to the second reading which will have my observations with interruptions based on two couples. The interruptions will be bold italics and therefore will not refer to the content of the book
That is in the packed Baillie Gifford theatre, there are two couples. One couple sitting in the back row and the other in the middle row.I am at the back and I can hardly miss the couple in front. They sit in the middle row as I look onto the platform. However, the couple on the back row were affectionate to each other. Their fingers gently caressing each other’s face and neck.
It is good to see such a gentle display of affection of another human being one to another.Now onto the story in Jose’s book.
Part of chapter 16
The text, a letter dated Sunday 17th July 2016
I wake up and say my name out aloud:
‘My name is Apolonio Kalley. I am the son of Pedro Kaley and Mario Joao Epalanga.’
Then I recall the names of my poor children and wife. I try to remember all my cousins’ names. There are twenty-two of them and I can’t always do it. Only then do I get up. I live in terror of one day waking up and not knowing who I am. Imagine, any old guy, he imagined he’s had his eyes ripped out’
The red-headed lady in the middle row looked concerned her eyes stirred protectively to her lover. She gently massaged the back of his neck.
We’re going to give him a name and an occupation, to make things easier. For example: Sebastido Eusebio, farmer, though he’s now blind. Some people have ripped his eyes out, could be a knife, could be a tea spoon, the guy’s still Sebastiao Eusebio, farmer though he’s now blind
The lady had a concerned countenance. Eyes concentrated, you could feel the burning concern. She fingered and massaged the back of his neck. Her fingers gliding over his skin moving to both sides of his face. A measure to intercept any arrows of the past. A measure to relax and put her lover at ease.
The text in the book continues, various parts of the body are mutilated but he still is Sebastio Eusebio, a farmer though he’s minus another or many other parts of his body.
During each bit of the reading, the lover gently intervenes, applying a massage of intervention to the man in the middle row.
I am skipping a lot of the text here and moving on…
‘… Let’s try ripping out not parts of his body, which is easy enough’
The young man on the back row was just lovingly applying his fingers gently to the lady he loved.
‘…. You just need a firm hand, some practice and a certain alienation of the spirit. We’re going to be tearing out his memories.
I could see the sharpness of the ladies eyes in the middle row and her fingers started the massage again.
‘First we’re going to rip out the image of his mother pounding corn with other women, while they sing; Then the happy memory of playing with his siblings and sugar cane in the field…”
‘This man who has never been a boy, is this man still Sebastido?’
The red-headed lady is busy, one could nearly see the tears in her heart, she massages her lover’s neck, his face and gently massages his neck again.
On the back row. The young man is giving the young lady a gentle massage and she smiles with every gentle touch.
In the middle row, the man, his neck vibrates for what appears to be a while. To the rescue, a healing massage, fingers on the neck. They glide across his face as if a healing fairy. A woman, to the rescue. To protect her lover from his pain. The neck vibrations and her healing fingers stop. The storm has passed.
if you wish to read more of the book you can buy the book “The Society of Reluctant Dreamers” by Jose Eduardo Agualusa online you can do so here. We receive no commission nor affiliate income in using this link to Amazon.
Selection of Highlights for Tomorrow:Saturday 24 August
Photo of the Late Toni Morrison courtesy of Angela Radulescu [CC BY-SA 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)]
NEW EVENT: Beloved: A Tribute to Toni Morrison8.30pm
Scots Makar Jackie Kay leads this special memorial event marking the life and work of a true modern literary legend, alongside writers Nafissa Thompson-Spires and Nesrine Malik, editor Margaret Busby, as well as publishers Clara Farmer and Lennie Goodings, each of whom have been moved, inspired and influenced by Morrison’s oeuvre in different ways. Join us in a warm, celebratory event paying tribute to Morrison with readings from her across her astonishing career, audio from her Book Festival appearance in 2004, and more.
John Lanchester 10.15am
How close is our society to dystopia? One of Britain’s most eloquent authors comes to the Book Festival to offer some imaginative clues. John Lanchester slides effortlessly between novels and non-fiction, but his latest bookThe Wall (longlisted for the 2019 Booker Prize) is a science-fiction fable offering a chilling picture of a possible future. It depicts a country where everyone must take their turn as a Defender patrolling the Wall, which protects Britain from the Others, throwing up questions of duty, morality and what kind of a society we want for ourselves.
According to some people, video games are a threat to both our physical and mental health. Psychology lecturer and video games researcher Pete Etchells does not hold that view. Instead, he believes they can be of great benefit to individuals and, in his own case, had a positive effect in helping him grieve after the death of his father.
Women Talking by Miriam Toews6.00pm
‘Brave’, ‘scorching’, are words used about Miriam Toews’s unforgettable story of oppression and resistance in a Bolivian Mennonite community,Women Talking. We’ve partnered with Edinburgh’s Royal Lyceum Theatre and playwright Linda McLean to produce a theatrical response to this classic of feminist fiction. After the 45-minute performance, the creative team is joined on stage by Toews herself for a discussion about the ideas in the book.
In partnership with the Toronto International Festival of Authors and supported by the Canada Council for the Arts and the British Council.
Goenawan Mohamad is a legend in Indonesia. A poet, essayist, playwright and editor, his decades of work amount to an incredible body of fiction and non-fiction. A champion of creative independence and journalistic freedom, he was among the writers and intellectuals who signed the 1963 Cultural Manifesto and is now a dissenting voice on social media. It is an honour to welcome him to the Book Festival to discuss his life and work.
Mathias Énard with Ece Temelkuran7.00pm
Already recognised as one of France’s foremost authors, Mathias Énard came to worldwide attention when his masterpieceCompasswas shortlisted for the Man Booker International Prize. Described as ‘one of the finest European novels in recent memory’, it is a sumptuous meditation on the West’s idea of the East. Today, Énard discussesCompassand his time spent living in the Middle East with Turkish journalist Ece Temelkuran.
One of Britain’s best loved poets, Lemn Sissay is a performer of rare passion. But growing up with foster families and in care homes, Sissay struggled with his identity. The discovery of his birth name and Ethiopian background is the catalyst for reflection inMy Name is Why. Today, he meditates on home and identity as he presents his insightful memoir, exuding the creative energy that’s made him a literary phenomenon.
Changes to the Printed Programme:
2.00pm China: The Land That Failed to Fail –Steven Erlanger will now participate in this event.
7.30pmRadical Economics: The Fifth Industrial Revolution. Mariana Mazzucato has cancelled. Christine Borley & Diane Coyle will now participate in this event.
8.30pm Zawe Ashton– Zawe Ashton has cancelled
8.30pm NEW EVENT – Beloved: A Tribute to Toni Morrison
Yesterday at the Edinburgh International Book Festival (EIDF):
Image of Raja Courtesy of EIDF
“I think I’m a better writer for not being angry,” said Raja Shehadeh, speaking yesterday at the Edinburgh International Book Festival with playwright David Greig. The lawyer and writer was speaking about his memoir Going Home: A Walk Through Fifty Years of Occupation and his home in the Palestinian city of Ramallah.
“Anger can be distracting,” Shehadeh said. “And since I am not distracted I can see things more.”
“If I become angry then I lose the point, I’m not convincing because I’m lost in my anger. If I’m not angry and able to be rational and explain things in a less angry way then I’m much more effective. So I think many Palestinians who try to speak about their conditions lose their audience by becoming angry and lost in their anger and I did that for a long time, of course and I was very angry. But I think being less angry is much more effective and it allows you to see more and feel more, rather than to be involved in your own anger… which leads to nothing really.”
Shehadeh also spoke of his understanding of home as a Palestinian living in the West Bank; “I often feel a stranger in my own city. But I try to not be lamenting of this and to see the positive aspects.
“It’s not imperative that you only love what you possess… I can be at home by having peace with myself and even if the physical home that I have was destroyed I would still feel at home.
“If you feel at home you have a relationship and peace in yourself not necessarily attached to a concrete place.”
A possible end to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was discussed, with Shehadeh expressing more hope in young people.
No gloom, and no doom. Particularly as the subject was about an unmentionable word.No! Not the three letter SEX.Do I dare mention it here? Which reminds me there are two things I tell my friends…
“We all must pay tax and at some point after we are born we die – both are inevitable”
Sadly, I nearly missed this event as I spotted it in the programme at the last minute. But more seriously while travelling I had a little doze on the bus. I awoke to see the West End of Edinburgh depart from my eyes. I hurriedly pressed the bell and left the bus at Princes Street. An additional 5 minute walk to the Book Festival. Making me even later to collect my desired ticket for the event.
Falling asleep in the afternoon.Just like my grandmother! She started doing so for a hour, then two, and over time to eight.Allsleeping in this case after mid-day.I always wondered did Gran sleep at night?I am assured she did as her night time snores were loud and clear.Therefore something else must be happening.
She was dying and was experiencing the death process. Something we no longer talk about. For some reason it is taboo!
As Kathryn so eloquently put it…“A hundred years ago we would be talking about Pomp and splendour of death”. Now we worry about chatting to anyone that has lost a loved one.
The author explained that there are rituals that surround birth and death.There was a time that women in the community acted as a centre of health wisdom.Giving advice, about birth and death, and anything in-between.
However, these days we happily talk about life, sex, birthand all it entails. We understand all of this and any associated rituals and the pain a woman suffers during the birth of a child. Yet many come back for more.
But death, the normal process is not as understood by our society.
When we start to die we notice that we have less energy, we can’t do things as we used to.It might not be so easy to breathe and we sleep longer/more frequently and at times become unconscious
It is important that there is somewhere in the sequence of events that someone needs to explain the natural process of dying.That is what her book ‘With the end in Mind’ is all about. It describes the end of life experience for people in a hospice. Each individual experience interspersed with a ‘homework break’ for the reader.
The author explained that Natural Death is not painful, it is an opposite and a complete contrast to the pain endured at the end of pregnancy, that is the birth process. I must say not everyone experiences a natural death and people are not aways forewarned.
This needs to be understood by the person in the hours, days, weeks, months or years before they die.If explainedIt gives an opportunityfor the dying person to see how they can help theirintimate and closest friends, family, and their tribe. That is to copewith their loss after they have gone.
For those dealing with Palliative Care they need to know who and what the person is – that is not only their own personality but their family, their tribe, village and relationships.
By the end of the book people should befamiliar with the process.In that book there are many stories told but here is one very emotional story…
It is of a Senior Male Doctor explaining the process to Sibien in a nursing home. Kathryn went along to join the senior doctor.
He explained the process to…
Sabien. She is a Wonderful women, a French Women with a fantastic French accent. She was in the resistance movement. Married to her husband that was parachuted into France. He died as a hero.But she had bowel cancer.The pain was going to be terrible.Her religious belief was such that if she was not brave she might not be in the same part of heaven as her beloved. That is her very brave husband.
Sabien adored the very bones of the male Doctor. Her eyes lit and face shone as the Doctor started to tell Sabien about dying.
“I hear that you have some worries about dying.Would it be helpful if I could describe it?
“You may notice that you are weaker and you need more sleep”
“Can I describe it you?”
“You become more weary as time goes by. Your stay awake period is less.Some of the time you will sleep but others you will be unconscious”
Kathryn thought “He is not going to tell her all the details is he?”
The doctor continued…
“The periods of sleep and unconsciousnessbecome longer”
“Eventually your breathing will slow”
“Towards the end you will Snore. Your breathing will be shallow – your breath will gentlyslow and stop”
“No pain – just a gentle close.”
She held his hand.She was relaxed. Her eyes glowed with a peace.
Then Kathryn said…
“I will always remember his words. For some reason my cheeks were wet”
“We need to tell everyone about the process of death.”
“Currently in acting, on TV, films etc – dying is about as interesting as watching paint dry and is not included as part of the story. Normally the scene is set of a person starting to die and it suddenly switches to the funeral. The death scene omitted as that all important Drama is needed”
The event continued with more discussion and a question and answer session. The applause at the end was rapturous and the tears from the audiences eyes were mopped by an army of paper tissues.
(Editorial note that may help directors of Soap Operas) There has been the occasional death bed story, – and I have seen it done well.I am a fan of Handel – the drama I watched was a death bed scene that covered about 1.5 hours.It was a reflection of Handel’s life. The programme “God Rot Tunbridge Wells”.
Every year I scan the Edinburgh International Book festival Programme for something different. All the events are fantastic but I am looking for something that is extra special. This year I spotted Music and Calculus. David Acheson was promoting his book and during this session there were many examples of how calculus and maths is applied. David’s examples focused on Music. But there are many others. Therefore, you may be surprised but…
Throughout the land – thousands listen to some applied maths. People play this game either at home or in their local hall. For them it isan every day game, providing fun and entertainment – everyone waiting for a special moment. This is what happens as the tension builds…
Sheila is close. Only one to go – all she needs is a number 10. The caller shouts out “Theresa’s Den”, number 10. (Early in 2017 it would have been David’s Den – David Cameron Prime Minister did live at 10 Downing Street until Theresa took over the role).
Without fear the words “House!” are shouted out in excitement. And a prize is on its way. She is a bingo winner.
For bingo on your computer/phone some maths are involved, as there is no physical ball! A mathematical calculation is performed in some cases to establish the number of the next ball. That calculation gives a magic number for the virtual bingo caller to shout out!
David in his talk did mention a magic number and I am now going to tell you all about it. I have called it Fish, Chips and Peas Squared. And for this meal there are three portions and of course the number 3 is a prime and odd number.But that is not the number that David introduced me and the audience to.
But what would happen if I invited my friend for a bite toeat.Of course being completely compatible we eat the same meal. That would be 2 meals of fish chips and peas – dare I say it – it is squared!
That is two sets of 3 but what can I do with this?
Well I can add them together and that will give 6. But that is not the number David mentioned..
I can subtract 3 from 3 and again I get a number 0, and zero is a magic number.Therefore, if I divide 0 into three I get… infinity? David did talk about infinity but that wasn’t the number at the start of the event he focused on.
It also follows that I can square 3 and that is not quite right.. As the answer is 9 and not…
The answer is simpler if my friend and I become one in this example. One mathematically I mean. That is by joining together we have some magic and the number 33 appears.This is nearly the number that David introducedme and the rest of the audience to.The clue here is in the title Fish, Chips and Peas Squared.
Now we should just do that calculation . That is 33 x 33 and write down the answer. Yes, top marks if you have calculated 1089!
Please, make a note of this number and now try the following exercise.
Think of any three digit number above 500 that descends in value the distance between the first and second number must be at least 2.
Write this number down.
For example 754
Then reverse the order
subtract from your original number
reverse the order and it gives
add both numbers together and it gives 1089
Is that not amazing!
And of course he has written another book about maths and it issimply called 1089 and all that.
But that is not the book he is promoting at the book festival it is the calculus story. This book became a Christmas Stocking filler after a surprise article in the New Scientist.
And on that theme he went on to show how calculus can be applied to ordinary things such as guitar strings.A demonstration followed in which two children held a piece of string and applied movement to it to generate single and a variety of multiple waves.
Other examples followed and the event closed with a superb finale. Did he quickly give us two plates of Fish, Chips and Peas to digest?
No, in food terms it was the sweet that he served up to his audience.A superb performance on his electric guitar showing the applied use ofcalculus.A standing ovation almost ensued. The music on exit, Apache by the Shadows. David by all accounts should have been in that recording,
Well that is the end of that story and if you are mathematically inclined you can purchase David’s book here….
But why is the headline Fish, Chips and Peas squared? What has that got to do with anything.
Well here comes the clues…
Theresa’s Den – BingoBall (10)
Garden Gate – Bingo Ball (8)
Two little ducks – Bingo Ball (22)
Two Fat ladies – Bingo Ball (88)
Fish, Chips and peas or All the threes is Bingo Ball(33)
Yes, they are all bingo calling rhymes and of course Fish, Chips and Peas is 33 in Bingo slang.And as you all know 33 squared is… 33 x 33 = 1089
Another interesting fact is that in 1089 the Northumbria was split into many smaller counties….
As a result of many rebellions by the county of Northumbria it was decided to make the County more manageable. Subsequently it was divided into the counties of Northumberland, County Palatine of Durham, Yorkshire, Westmorland and Lancashire.