So I dusted myself down from the hunt (hosed, more like — I was soaked to the skin and covered in mud), staggered home from West Sussex and fell into bed.  The damned clocks would choose last weekend to go forward, so up at 6am to get dressed and organized for the Oxford Literary Festival. My lovely daughter (sleeping on the sofa downstairs because the painters are in) groaned when I woke her and declared daylight savings time “a disgusting concept.”  Couldn’t agree more.

I love the Oxford Literary Festival.  Hard to explain why some are so much nicer than others, but Oxford has wonderful audiences, a great programme and a Green Room in Christ Church which is simply glorious. Had a surreal conversation with Jean Seaton, moderator for a talk on the importance of the BBC — she talking about David Mitchell and Ed Vaizey, me getting the wrong David Mitchell, and gushing about Cloud Atlas.


Not him.

Meanwhile, daughter and agent’s son, Greg, had accosted the actual David Mitchell (of Mitchell and Webb fame) and were texting their friends excitedly and bringing him cups of tea and biscuits that he only requested in order to get them to stop drooling on his shoulders.

I would have much preferred to listen to the BBC talk than my own (had a quick fantasy about standing up and shouting “the BBC is the best thing about Britain so stop messing it about!” before being ushered out in a strait-jacket), but it’s considered rude not to show up to your own event.  And we were sold out, which always warms the cockles of a writer’s heart.

Mal Peet was his usual riveting and charming self (if you haven’t read his Paul Faustino trilogy, do so immediately), describing to the audience the Mynah bird that sits on his shoulder and squawks “crap crap crap” in his ear when he writes; we agreed that plot is impossible and trying to make flow-charts of plot even more so; broke a little taboo of our own by talking about some fairly unmentionable subjects; talked of the despair of being introduced cloyingly as “a children’s writer”; signed some books and broke for lunch before racing off to the Sheldonian to hear Hilary Mantel (interviewed by PD James) talk about Wolf Hall.

What a woman HM is. Brilliant, modest, funny, sharp…there was a real sense of being in the presence of literary greatness. Her description of filling in the bits of history left out of diaries and letters was breathtaking (what were Cromwell and Cranmer talking about during that half hour described in Thomas More’s diary, during which he sat outside their office considering his position?)  PD James ended one of the finest literary hours of my life by saying “none of us will ever forget the time we sat and listened to you today.” How true.

I’d like to sign on as HM’s official stalker, but don’t know where you register.


10 thoughts on “Oxford redux

  1. bookwitch 9 years ago

    You just stalk. Write to her. Write again. Try to meet up. Repeatedly. Blog about her. Maybe do an interview?
    Oh no, this sounds familiar, somehow…
    Btw, your child is too old to drool. Have never heard of David Mitchell. The right one, I mean.

  2. Meg 9 years ago

    Ok, I’m going to go for it. A person can’t have too many stalkers.

  3. Nina Killham 9 years ago

    She should be so lucky to have you stalk her. You make the best coffee in North London.

  4. bookwitch 9 years ago

    One has to give the stalkee coffee? Sorry Meg, I owe you a few.

  5. Kathryn Evans 9 years ago

    What a weekend, am with your daughter and agent’s son re; David Mitchell, am so pleased he’s to be the voice of Stinky Rich. I’ll stalk him and you can have HM. Here, here re: BBC, think you would have been applauded not straight-jacketed…

  6. Lorna Stallard 9 years ago

    I’ve started ‘Wolf Hall’ on your recommendation and have found it surprisingly accessible and entertaining, given its subject matter. I’d love it if you did more events in Scotland, Meg!

    1. Meg 9 years ago

      Yay! Glad you like it, Lorna. (And I love Scotland, just waiting for more invitations…..)

  7. Meghan 9 years ago

    Hi Meg
    the literacy festival was great, took me a while to reply really, uni doesnt quite allow free time for small simple things it appears how ever none the less it is still enjoyable.
    I fianally remembered a question I wanted to ask you but my memory was a little distracted at the talk so I never got to ask it. In the brides farewell, what is Dogman’s name? Ive been curious about it for a while now and started to wonder if I had missed it in the book or if it really wasnt mentioned. Did he have a name or shall I be forever calling him Dogman?

    Meghan x

  8. Meg 9 years ago

    I get all schoolteacherish when people ask me questions like this, and say things like “what do YOU think?” But the real answer is, to praphrase Gertrude Stein, Dogman is Dogman is Dogman.

    1. Meghan 9 years ago

      hahaha. Dogman is good. Was wondering if there was actually a name for him but Dogman now shall be forever Dogman. Thank you for answering. 😀

      Meghan x

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