Two women walkers came into the café in Grasmere where we were having lunch. Previously we had left a pile of programmes for the Words by the Water Lake District festival on the window ledge. One put down her walking sticks and picked up a programme. She proceeded to open it at the beginning and read it carefully word for word. Maybe she felt that was the right thing to do considering its title but I wouldn’t access the programme like this. If I found this programme I’d flick excitedly through it.
“Wow” I’d say. “Look who’s coming to this festival! Oh I’d love to see Roy Hattersley or Salley Vickers; her novels are great. Oh and Valerie Grove is speaking on her biography of Kay Webb, the founder of the Puffin club. And there’s an event on the history of the Ordnance Survey maps. Can we go? I want to spend all 10 days in Keswick.”
In other words I’d babble on in an incoherent way if I came across the programme. Not our fellow diner. She never mentioned the programme to her companion, never discussed it. Was this because she was totally unimpressed? Or was she just filling in time until her pannini arrived? She had read through Melvyn Bragg’s introduction where he explains he is programming Saturday 5 March as it’s our 10th festival. Friday 4 March: Michael Frayn, Claire Tomalin, Raymond Blanc – no comment. (“The first w/e is amazing. We’ve got to go!” I’d be babbling with joy.)
By the entry on Maureen Lipman ( Sunday 6 March) the walker’s lunch had arrived and she put the programme down – with no comment.
I wanted to ask her what she thought of the programme, to ask whether she would be coming and if not why not. All this would have been good market research. I could have introduced myself as the director of the festival but I’m so British, so reserved.
She probably is too and would have been polite but dismissive. I know some writers who have been unable to resist telling a stranger who was reading his/her book that he/she was the author only to be met with cold stares. So I remained silent – but curious.
We continued through the torrential Cumbrian rain to leave thousands more damp programmes around. Such serendipity. Will someone pick one up and respond as I would? I feel like the sower in the bible: stoney ground or fertile? Who knows?