Sunday, 7 October 2007


So lucky with the weather Thursday to Saturday, driving up to Wigtown, Scotland; spending two nights there; and driving back again by the shortest, most scenic but by no means quickest route: 532 miles in all. Dumfries and Galloway looks marvellous - a mix of wild sparse hillsides, splendid cattle, dingly-dell woodlands and the shining sea - scarred only by the general godawfulness of the region's domestic architecture. And you'd have to go a long way to find an uglier town than Stranraer.

Wigtown itself had a certain quirky charm, and a few fine old buildings (the American writer Donna Brewster's home, featured in her book The House That Sugar Built, for instance) and there was lots going on at the festival. The venue for my own contribution, In Search of Blind Willie McTell, was a large bar inside the Bladnoch Distillery with an alarmingly high stage. Thank you, any reader who came to hear the talk.

One thing: I entirely forgot to explain Willie's Scottish ancestry to this audience, which would have included stating firmly that the claim made in the blurb on the festival programme (that he would have been related to Wigtown's plantation owners) was entirely false, and never suggested by me at any stage.

I was very pleased, on the night, to meet for the first time, after a long-lived phone and e-mail relationship, the owner of Document Records, Gary Atkinson - the man who bought the company from its Austrian founder, Johnny Parth. Document sponsored my event, and Gary has a house in Wigtown.

I was sorry to miss a number of other people's festival talks (including George Simenon's son talking about his father).

My own next gig in Scotland will be on Bob Dylan and the Poetry of the Blues, at the CCA (Centre for Contemporary Arts) in the great city of Glasgow, on Friday November 16th.

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