Sunday, 13 October 2013

Table collapses

My kitchen window
A curious series of coincidences occurred when I was at the Wigtown Book Festival. An old friend, David Ross, who I had not seen for thirty years was there talking about the Caledonian Railway. David is a former publisher turned author whom I first met in London in the 1960's when he was sharing a flat with friends from uni and who kindly offered me a job as his secretary when I was an out of work journalist and he landed a good job in marketing at Associated Book Publishers.  One of the authors David was responsible for launching on an unsuspecting world in those heady days was the notorious Govan-born anti- psychologist R D Laing.  David has written an impressive history of the Caledonian and other railways and places near where he now lives in Herefordshire. We had dinner together and I am hoping he will come to Moffat to give a talk to the group hoping to re-open the station at Beattock. His history records that Moffat was a favourite watering-place for railway engineering legend George Stephenson and his apprentice Joseph Locke. Both  David and I have written 'Xenophobe's Guides' - his, being a Scot, to the Scots,  and mine to the Russians. He has sent me the Russian language edition of his Xenophobes Guide, which I think will amuse our friends at the Library for Foreign Literature and the Institute of Translation in Moscow who were in Moffat for our conference last month.

At Wigtown I had a uniquely eerie experience. One morning I went to a talk by Peter Conradi, about a visit of the Royal Family to the US in 1939.  Conradi described an episode where a dining table loaded with Limoges china collapsed from the weight of silver, glasses, china etc much to the consternation of President and Mrs Roosevelt who had borrowed some of the china from a rich friend. That same evening, I was at a dinner with various writers and the organiser of the festival when lo! The table collapsed under the weight of etc etc. Luckily there was no great damage done, amazingly nothing was broken because it happened quite slowly, caving in from the middle, and everything was caught by the table cloth, other than the wine. Then when I got back to my hotel there was a satisfactory 'third' collapse when the little Ikea table I had put my case on suddenly gave way. When I reported this the following day to my fellow diners at Wigtown I was accused of being a poltergeist but I am happy to say there has been no repeat.

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