Tuesday, 19 November 2019

Noisy neighbours, different ways to travel, unexpected reunions

Noisy neighbours, different ways to travel, unexpected reunions

MAX HASTINGS drew a full house to Christ Church with his book Chastise about the Dambusters.

He whipped up his audience with a thunderous opening clip from the famous Richard Todd film.

After signing books he dashed for a train from Henley and, at the last minute, realised he was about to depart for London with his lapel microphone still attached.

THERESA MAY was full of plaudits for the Bell Bookshop, which has been a festival partner since it began.

Had it not been for the bookshop passing on a letter from the festival asking Mrs May if she would be a speaker, her event might never have happened.

IT’S not just the authors who need looking after as Jenni Murray proved. She returned to Henley accompanied by her three Chihuahuas Butch, Freda and Madge who were impeccably behaved as one would expect.

HARRODS may not have arrived in Henley yet but they made their presence felt as the festival workmen drilling on their new shop were overwhelming the sound system in the festival hub where Gerry Foley was interviewing Jack Brown.

The workmen stopped but then two minutes later the burglar alarm in the building next door, the old Loch Fyne premises, went off. Festival staff went out and soon a man was sent up a ladder with a pair of pliers and cut through wires.

PROOF the festival has an effect on the town’s economy came from a barista in Harris & Hoole who told a customer: “Apparently there’s going to be a huge rush at 3pm because that reading thing finishes.”

And a member of the Coppa Club staff apologised to a reporter from The Times that they had run out of food and explained it was because of the festival.

PAUL MERTON charmed and amused in equal measure and was surprised to get a question detailing his first job at Tooting Employment Office. ‘You’re not an ex-colleague are you?’ he asked.

The lady wasn’t but Paul said he left the job on February 29 and so only had to recall it every four years.

DANIEL HAHN, a regular interviewer at the festival, was the subject of a special presentation from festival director Harriet Reed Ryan to mark his 100th festival appearance. He was given a personalised festival brochure cover. The popular and charming Daniel is well qualified for the task as a writer, editor and translator.

THE festival often throws up meetings from the past but few will beat children’s author Onjali Rauf going up to David Suchet in the green room saying they had met before. The ever polite Suchet asked where that had been.

“On a number 15 bus,” he said. “You and your wife were talking about kitchens and I kept looking at you thinking ‘is it him or isn’t it’ in the end your hands were the giveaway.”

THE rain deluge meant recruiting more drivers to ferry authors to their venues. One driver was the irrepressible Louise Hall who had to take former Eton headmaster Tony Little and former St Paul’s head Clarissa Farr and interviewer Gerry Foley in her uncleaned car to the festival hub.

She apologised as they got in about the untidiness. “I opened the boot... one former headmaster discovering two cases of wine there,” recounted Louise.

“On getting in the front passenger seat, the other discovered my dirty china cereal bowl and spoon in the footwell. She said it was nice to travel in a normal car.”

THE multi-talented bestselling author and Carnegie Medal winner Frank Cottrell-Boyce talked about his latest novel, Runaway Robot. It entranced the audience — not least one boy who put his hand up and said he was born with one leg and now has a robotic one. He liked Frank’s stories about robots because it made him feel better about his body.

Another child asked if he was writing anything at the moment, and Frank pulled out his notebook from his bag and read the story he started writing on the train to Henley.

ANNA SOUBRY got one of the biggest ovations known at the festival and that was when she walked into the packed town hall for her session with the Guardian’s John Crace.

She also met an old friend from schooldays in Worksop among the People’s Vote supporters outside the hall who laughingly recalled how Anna held her under water during a swimming session... surely not!

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