It's jackets off for the book festival

DANCING girls in their itsy-bitsies holding the floor, gyrating in a tent. Trayloads of malt proffered to the throng. As much red and white as your thrapple could handle. Who'd have thought this of the book festival 25 years ago?

Saturday night's alright for partying in Charlotte Square and this was festival director Catherine Lockerbie's traditional way of thanking everybody who helped put the show on the road.

Old hands nip in smartish and grab a strategic table, as private as you can get, where I was joined by two leading ladies from Edinburgh's consular corps, Ireland's Cliona Manahan and America's Lisa Vickers.

Both bookish, both big supporters of the festival. So which paperbacks had they bought that day? Lisa produced from her shopping bag Craig Murray's Murder in Samarkand and The Confessions of Max Tivoli. Cliona was taking home Justine Picardie's If The Spirit Moves You and Imran Ahmad's Unimagined: A Muslim Boy Meets the West.

The director reminded us that 800 writers from 45 countries would be piling in this week. The buzz among the usual suspects, after over-indulging in the Highland Park, was that Oscar Wilde is alive and well and was in the crowd. Oscar couldn't make it to our table, alas.

Gord only knows

Yes, Prime Minister? Still in the Square, the hot ticket earlier in the day had been the Gordon Brown interview. The Big Yawn. Fat chance of the Clunking Fist coming away with anything the least inspirational or enlightening in the least.

You mean people actually paid good money to hear him bluster: "Just like we've made guns unacceptable, we should be making knives unacceptable and you need role models to do that. You need young people to say to other young people: this is the wrong thing to do."

Aye, Gord, that'll have the young quaking in their trainers. Bloody well do something about and stop dithering like your Chancellor's dithering. Recommended reading, Gord while you resume your holiday, an anthology of Winston Churchill speeches.

Afterwords . .

. . . Nigel Kennedy prattling on about conductors: "Why would you want to stand there waving a stick when you could be playing an instrument?"

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