|Been there, done that, got the t-shirt.|
The ten days of the festival were prefaced by a couple of days' training and putting the finishing touches to the site, and rounded off with a day of dismantling everything again, so I've been away for 13 days, the longest time hubby and I have been apart for many years. I was also away for my son's birthday. When I left home he was a teenager, and now he isn't. (Pause for sob here.)
I had pictured myself floating around being bookish, but the reality was that the days were long and physically demanding: 8.30am starts and, sometimes, 11pm finishes, plus a 15-minute walk at either end. I walked miles to and fro on the site, and there were many hours of standing - not to mention the strain of having to smile all day! But my goodness, it was worth it.
I shook hands with radio presenters, made tea for publicists, chaperoned celebrities and directed TV stars. I booked cars for professors and carried bags for screenplay writers. I sat in on writing workshops and panel debates, and heard presentations not just on fiction books that were being promoted, but also wider subjects from the realms of literature, science, economics and philosophy. I learned to my write my son's name in Gallilfreyan, discovered a talent for putting up flatpack furniture and was a human shield between over-enthusiastic autograph hunters and their quarry.
There were academics and celebrities, authors and publishers, and quite a few 'who was that?' moments, and the details will come to the surface in future blogs. I won't bore you with a list of all the people I met/heard/saw in the distance, because no one likes a name-dropper. For now I want to mention two highlights. First, I met Brian May. I know! How awesome is that! Second, I heard Neil Gaiman speak and then accompanied him to his book signing. He is one of the loveliest men I've ever met, endlessly patient with the very long queue of people waiting to meet him - he signed books for getting on for two hours - and just a joy to be with.
Cheltenham Literature Festival 2013: been there, done that, and I have the t-shirt to prove it.