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Saturday, September 13th 2008 : "Travelling light"
I like to travel. I don't even mind hanging round in airports as long as I've got a decent book and there are interesting conversations to listen in to. But I don't enjoy being weighed down by a load of stuff. Tim, my husband, has packing down to a fine art. He has a holdall in brown leatherette that most airlines will take as carry-on baggage. Into that he can get his telescope, tripod, field guides and the few clothes he thinks essential for a three week expedition. Sometimes, even wellingtons. Binoculars he wears round his neck. I dither and always take far too much.
Back from a book tour to southern Sweden I was glad I'd put in smart clothes. There were dinners, a reception. Jeans would have been fine for the few days in Svedala, in Henning Mankell's Scania, where our friends Lars and Ingrid live in a long, low farmhouse. But not for the working part of the trip.
I'd been invited to take part in the Kristianstad Book Festival and Bonniers, my Swedish publisher, had invited me to a bookshop event in Lund too. Ing-Britt, my editor, met me from the bus in Lund. I'd only met her once at the London Book Fair, but by the end of the weekend we were gossipping and giggling like schoolkids. She'd been a student in the town and showed me the cathedral, the University Library with the huge spiral staircase made of oak, where once, it's said, a Danish king gallopped to the top of the tower on his horse. The event was in the university bookshop - 150 people had turned out to hear the Bonniers rep pitch the latest titles. This is a country where reading is taken seriously. They listened to me too, talking about the Shetland books, and then to Theo Kallifatides reading from his new work.
Theo is an academic, philosopher and novelist who moved to Sweden from his native Greece at the time of the generals. He writes the books simultaneously in Greek and Swedish and speaks fluent English, German and French too. Later, in the bar, the conversation was as it always is when writers get together: about the power of the marketing department and accountants, a regret for a gentler age when content was more important than style.
Theo opened the Kristianstad Book Festival. I wish I'd been there, but I was talking to a hundred sixth formers in a High School in the town. RAVEN BLACK was one of their set English texts. The next day my session in the Festival proper attracted a full house and lots of interesting questions. Ing-Britt and I found time to wander around the town in the sunshine. Our favourite place was a coffee shop that looked like a set from an Ibsen play, with bentwood chairs, marble pillars and potted plants. It sold some of the best cakes I've ever tasted. Ing-Britt bought a bag of goodies to take back to her husband in Stockholm. But not me. I travel light.
In a couple of weeks time I'll be in the US to promote WHITE NIGHTS there before ending up in Bouchercon. Already I'm wondering how I'm going to manage getting about - I'll be on my own and I'm travelling everywhere by train. Visit Shetland has sent me a bunch of goodies to hand out at events. Terrific, but on the heavy side! I've just printed out some of my favourite Shetland recipes to give away. I'll need books to keep me sane, and my laptop so I can get on with some work at quiet times. And won't it be cool then, so I'll need a coat and some sweaters? Maybe I should ask Tim to do my packing for me...
Posted by Ann at 01:07 PM GMT