Neil Gaiman underlined my ‘you’

And so to the (near) end of the Edinburgh Fringe and Festival. It began inauspiciously with exhaust-gate when my entire long assembly decided it wanted to meet the road – but a few hundred quid lighter and 3 hours in Kwik-Fit, and I was mobile again so I actually managed to get along to a few things this year. Highlights certainly including seeing The Overcoat at The Pleasance Dome, adapted by a playwright friend Catherine Grosvenor, for which the lead actor Billy Mack has just won a much-deserved award from The Stage. Also enjoyed Multiple Choice at The Surgeon’s Hall, staged by John Yule and written by screenwriting (and now playwriting) mate Ronnie Mackintosh; and the experimental Dummy Jim event at the Edinburgh Book Fest in the wonderful Spiegeltent.

My final event was on Saturday in the pouring rain amidst lost Tattoo buses filled with tourists and a rowdy stag-do seeking Edinburgh’s infamous ‘pubic triangle’. I scored a ticket for Edinburgh Bookshop‘s ‘Evening With Neil Gaiman’. I’ve been aware of Gaiman’s work for years and have dipped in and out, but suddenly realised that I hadn’t tackled anything since Coraline. So I bought Anansi Boys and am so far enjoying and intrigued by Fat Charlie. Took it along on Saturday, a little trepidacious, and descended into the crypt-ish restaurant of St John’s church where it was due to take place. Above it, drummers rhythmically drummed through the entire night giving humorous emphasis to random bits, as the Edinburgh Tattoo boomed out its cannons.

Turned out it was fantastic, warm-hearted evening with a reading of Chivalry, a short about the discovery of the Holy Grail, Q&A, interview and then much signing. I’d ended up on a table with a lovely couple getting a Gaiman book signed for each of their children. I always feel awkward getting things signed but bolstered by the gentle, lovely atmosphere I braved the queue and sputtered something about this being my first ‘grown-up’ Gaiman novel (no matter how you prepare I always find that the beaming, slightly wild-eyed 10 year old in you pops out on occasions like this). But, Mr Gaiman was smiling and gracious and whilst I babbled on about Mills & Boon (don’t ask) he suggested that since this was a ‘first’, special book, therefore he would sign it to me on the dedication page. And he did. And I was delighted. And then I had to go sit down and drink some organic cola (don’t do it kids, it’s pretty nasty) to recover. Henderson’s provided some fab nibbles, and then it was chucking-out time.

When I got back to my car, clutching my treasured book, a tall blonde was half-collapsed against the side of it, vomiting on the back wheel – she groaned a sort-of-apology and staggered off on platforms the size of dictionaries. I could hear singing, and on the ground was a torn ticket for something that boasted ‘cake AND pianos’. That’s the festival for you – all life is there. Fat Charlie would have been proud.

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