Hazel McHaffie

Edinburgh Fringe Festival

The price of everything … the value of nothing

So, that’s the Festival over for another year. Phew! Time now to settle down to the day job. But also to pause for a moment and reflect. All the talent, creativity, determination I’ve seen in these many and varied performances and exhibitions make me question: where do I fit in the bigger scale of things? How can I as a writer do better?

It took a cashier to rapidly reduce me to my proper size.

Me (enter stage left into local post office, carrying one of own books for sending to a reviewer.)

Cashier (without looking up; tone bored): ‘Where’s it going?’

Me: ‘To England.’

Cashier: ‘What’s in it?’

Me: ‘A book.’

Cashier (dismissively):  ‘So nothing of any value.’

Me (tentatively): ‘Well, the book’s priced at £7.99 …’

Cashier (fingers impatiently hovering over till): ‘First or Second Class?’

Beneath his plimsoll line evidently.

Reminded me of Lord Darlington in Oscar Wilde‘s play, Lady Windemere’s Fan, who quipped that a cynic was ‘a man who knows the price of everything and the value of nothing‘. Typical of Wilde, not just a memorable turn of phrase, but also touching on a problem at the heart of society. (Hey, did you know Wilde’s full name was Oscar Fingal O’Flahertie Wills Wilde? Now there’s an aside to conjure with.)

It also got me thinking. What would you get for £7.99 nowadays?

A budget quickie lunch in town?

A concession ticket to an Edinburgh Fringe Festival show?

A month of flexible prime membership with Amazon?

A modest hanging basket?

A pack of men’s socks?

Hey ho.

Jean-Claude Juncker, President of the European Commission, could teach that postal worker a thing or two:

As the world goes digital, we also have to empower our artists and creators and protect their works. Artists and creators are our crown jewels. The creation of content is not a hobby. It is a profession. And it is part of our European culture.

YES!!

Enthusiasm rekindled. Onwards and upwards. Starting with a quick revision of the basics courtesy of literary agent Evan Marshall‘s book, Novel Writing, to get me back in the zone … well, it does say ‘16 Steps to Success’ in the subtitle!

And hey, before I’ve reached the end of the first ten pages I’m already feeling more relaxed. Be realistic, Marshall cautions, set achievable goals … factor in your own resources, responsibilities and limitations … have the self-confidence and self possession and self esteem to define for yourself what your personal definition of success should be; what will bring fulfillment and satisfaction and serenity. Wise words. So it’s all down to me then to decide what success means to me.

 

 

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Festivalmania

Remember that pile of tickets for the Festival in Edinburgh? This one:

Well, instead of beavering away at my own creative writing, this week I and my teenage granddaughters (both very into the performance arts) have duly braved the crazy crowds …

watched breathtaking acrobatic daring …

gloriously elegant dance …

clever new drama …

and so much more beside. The occasional performance was … hmm … not quite up to the mark or indeed its programmed description – I draw a kindly veil – but as for the rest, well, hats off to some fabulously talented people. I hope they all got starred reviews and go away well satisfied with their experience in our fair city. I, perhaps more than most, appreciate the courage involved in taking one’s own creative skills into the public arena, and standing or falling on your own merit.

(Apologies for using posters instead of actual performances but photographs are strictly forbidden in most shows for obvious reasons.)

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Exotic island or private library?

Some writers fly off to exotic islands or remote mountains; some hide away in huts miles from any internet connections or distractions; some spend six months trawling through microfiches and dusty archives. All in the name of authenticity and accuracy. To get in the zone.

Me, I’m knee deep in books which might inform the two stories I’m currently working on. Trips to special locations remain somewhere in the hazy future.

The hypocrisy and mores and prejudices of the upper classes? Julian FellowesSnobs or Past Imperfect will do nicely, thank you.

A bit of terror and psychological trauma? Harlan Coben or Robert Goddard are my go-to choices.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A blend of ethical dilemmas and fiction? Diane Chamberlain, Jodi Picoult, Heather Gudenkauf will keep me out of mischief.

Everyday life in bygone eras? Biographies about Dickens, Jane Austen, et al are guiding me nicely.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I can pick up and put down, browse or flick, all while I weave in and out of domestic responsibilities and grandparental excursions during the summer season. All without roaming further than my study/library door. No jet lag, no tummy upsets, no grappling with weird currencies and incomprehensible languages and dodgy local mores. And I’m still free to whip into town for Festival performances and assorted exhibitions. Perfect.

 

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