Roger McGough at the Abingdon Arts Festival

The evening was dark, wet - but no fret. We were prepared, jumped in, round the corner haired.

The books were safely in the car, and the Amey Theatre - well, it wasn't far.

The show began at 7.45. So when, just after seven, James and I arrive, the assembled committee are looking worried. I took the hint - we hurried.

Got the books out of the car, and our bookselling paraphernali-ah.
At a quarter past, our books were out, impressive looking. The audience were arriving now, dressed smart (if slightly dripping).

Some pre-show interest, admiringly looks. Some flicking through the assembled books. Many were checking, and wanting to know: "Would Roger be signing after the show?"

Yes sir, yes madam - but over there. The smart black-felted table (and chair).

Applause. Announcements. We're off, it's go. Time to sneak in and catch the show - but b*gger, all our planning is undone! We've not bought bags, we'll have to run back to the shop and get 'em, how on earth did we forget 'em? The rain demands this, a safe bet. No-one wants a book that's wet...

James goes off, my nerves rise a notch. Still, time to sneak in the back to watch. As soon as people start to clap, I'm out the door, and quickly back, to the book stand where I stand and wait, how many books do you reckon we'll sell, seven, eight?

Chaos. Pandemonium ensues. Floods of people, jostling queues. Everyone wants a book to sign, we're doing our best, but interval ticking fast, the warning bell is rung. And suddenly - everyone's gone. Silence. Panting, we survey the devastation, wrought upon our bookselling station.

Right- sneak back in to watch the master. He's in full flow, effortless, faster than I want him to go, it's over before I know. But no time for whining, we need to set up the signing...

But need we have worried? Absolutely no - of course he's a total pro. There in a flash, purple pen cutting a dash. The queue is long, it snakes around (people are asking why his collected poems can't be found. Sold out, so sorry, please blame me. But take a copy of his autobiography).

The queue shrinks, it'll be gone in a tick. I shuffle up and request an obligatory pic.

The committee stand around for a final shot. They're happy - so's Roger - the show was hot. The organisers did everything right - a fantastic end to a brilliant night.

(With apologies to anyone of a poetic sensibility)


  1. Hi Mark, Looks good. Sorry I missed it, and I hope you don't mind I borrowed a picture for my blog. Best Wishes. One of the other blogs in town.

  2. Hey, you were at Julie Felix, and there were other events in and around Abingdon on Saturday evening, which says a great deal about the vibrancy and success of the festival this year.