Wordpretzels, I have been revelling in the Cheltenham Literature Festival and the rugby world cup in equal measure.
As you probably know, the Cheltenham Literature Festival is on our doorstep and appears to be the new tradition in our social calendar, when Gerald, my old fag from school, and his wife Sarah, who won’t use her title for political reasons, join us for a weekend to attend.
Lady Barton St Mary and I had started early with a visit to Cheltenham Town Hall to listen to Steve Hilton, author of ‘More Human’, former adviser to shiny faced prime minister David Cameron and famous for being scruffy and shoeless. He’s also a professor at Stanford University and satirised in the TV programme ‘The Thick of It’ as herbal tea drinking philosopher Stewart Pearson.
Now, Cheltenham Town Hall is a not a good venue when sitting downstairs. With no elevation to the seating, I volunteered to swap seats with Lady BSM to sit behind a tallish man with a massive head, which, due to its size, he had to move about a lot to stop it breaking his neck. Hence I had to watch Steve on the big screen. He was compassionate, in favour of making things smaller, liked people. I was confused. Why was he with the Tories? The smug interviewer felt the same way – why are you working for Cameron? she asked. Apparently they’re friends, although a man who likes to take his shoes off at any given moment and comes up with another idea every five minutes doesn’t sound like Dave’s type of guy. He wanted Tesco to be broken into smaller components, he wanted schools that didn’t teach subjects, in fact he wanted schools that didn’t have teachers, he wanted … to be honest, he wanted lots of things, but he was obviously one of those people who was far, far cleverer than me. But still my mind reeled. If he was that clever, why was he friends with David Cameron? Did he need reassurance that he was so much cleverer than the leader of our government?
I had a week to recover before Gerald and Sarah visited to see Nigella Lawson. She’s pretty and has long hair that she constantly brushes out of her eyes. She’s very posh, with a deep voice. As the interview progressed, it became clear that she was, in fact, another version of Lady BSM. I relaxed, safe in the knowledge that I no longer had to adore Nigella. I’d already married her. Fortunately, they didn’t read out my question, sent electronically and too late : “Nigella, we have friends staying who are eating beef bourguignon, but we don’t have dessert. Could you pop round and make one for us? I’m happy to help. We have plenty of beef and wine if you want to stay…”
Saturday, we managed to watch the Scotland v Tonga match in the pub before setting off to see Louis de Bernieres, author of ‘Captain Corelli’s Mandolin’. He told incredible stories about his family, including a grandfather who was discovered in Canada after being presumed dead for many years. Sarah decided that he was just telling lies. We agreed, but decided that the lies were so good, we could forgive him. He was a great storyteller, after all, so inevitably would be a fantastic liar.
Saturday night we spent in a circus tent, eating a meal cooked by John Torode, the star of Master Chef. I don’t watch Master Chef, but Lady BSM, Sarah and Gerald do. I didn’t know he was Australian, but he is. The accent is terrible, though. He’s spent so long in England, his Australian accent is about as convincing as Dick Van Dyke’s cockney accent. He was fun, the food was good and people drank too much. A man left his table at the end of the evening only to fall on his knees in front of me in a pose of reverence and a shocked look on his face. I didn’t know how to react, so, simply placed my hand on his head and said ‘bless you my son.’ He looked even more confused. Meanwhile, the three drunk middle aged women who had tried to ingratiate themselves with John Torode continued to throw napkins rolled into balls at Gerald’s head, due to the fact he’d shushed them for talking loudly during Torode’s interview. A funny end to the evening, returning home to watch more rugby.
Sunday, we smoozed into Cheltenham to watch Robert Peston give a talk on the economic state of the world. To cut a long story short, we’re doomed, although to be fair, economists have been saying this for years and they can’t quite decide how we’re doomed, which means that until they do, we’re not doomed, just in the same state as we’ve always been. If that helps. He had lots of graphs and charts and I tried my best to understand. Lady BSM was in her element.
A long luxurious lunch at Hotel Du Vin and Sarah and Gerald set off back to their suburban pile to drink more wine. I prepared for my visit to Kingsholm to see Japan play USA.
It was a strange atmosphere at Castle Grim, as though other forces had possessed it, which, in truth, they had. We were prevented from walking from one end of the ground to the other, due to visiting dignitaries. We did manage to find our seats, with a limited view. You had to stand up to see any action on one wing, so people did. Behind Master Johnny and myself sat three individuals, arms crossed, unsmiling, who shouted, ‘Sit down!’ every time people leapt to their feet during an exciting passage of play. After experiencing five occasions of ‘Sit down’, I decided it was time to question their motives.
“Sorry, but it’s exciting and as you can see, it’s impossible not to stand up,” I explained, pointing at the 15 rows of people on their feet in front of me.
“Fuck off!” said the man on the left with his arms folded, glaring at me aggressively.
I decided that this gave me the right of reply. I explained that he might find it more enjoyable if he embraced the spirit of watching an exciting game and joined the rest of us in our celebration of sport rather than be so churlish. I may not have used these exact words, but I hoped they conveyed a similar sentiment.
Anyway, overall, a fantastic weekend, with another to follow, as Master Johnny and I embark on our trip to Cardiff for more World Cup jolly japes…