Tag Archives: Franschoek Literary Festival



The weather is autumn perfect. Leaves are red and gold. The encircling mountains are chocolate-box blue. So is the sunny sky.  Gardens are bright with flowers, apricot hibiscus bushes are lush. Broekie lace trims verandahs, paintwork is fresh, verges are clipped green mats. It’s got to be Franschoek in May. It’s the annual Franschoek Literary Festival.

Everybody’s here: the literati and the glitterati; the bookworms and the browsers; the wannabe writers and the published stars; the critics and the columnists; the nervous new panellists and the blasé old stalwarts.  Biographers trade secrets in coffee lounge corners, while the blue rinse brigade congregate in wine bars and brag about their literary dinner parties. The Hospice book sale is in full swing, and the elderly ladies down the road in the rambling second-hand store have dusted off their smiles along with their calculators. The impeccable owner of Africana and First Editions sits magisterially at his burnished desk and welcomes patrons into what he describes as an extension of his private library . And it is indeed meticulously arranged, the books are slip-covered in library film, categorised to the last decimal point. It seems crass to disturb the gleaming displays by actually purchasing a volume. However, the prices are so rich and rare (like everything else in Franschoek) that this impecunious blogger scuttles away, suitably chastened.

A more affordable option is the chocolate shop – it reeks of chocolate, and is crammed with sinfully enticing merchandise wherever you look, and I succumb. My willpower can resist only so much temptation, and then I crumble. But it was worth it – oh! that  chocolate marzipan, flavoured with orange peel … one of life’s little pleasures and indulgences.

A quick pit-stop at the coffee wagon, and then on to happy hours of panel discussions, interviews, debates. The only downside is my backside, when forced to sit on bone-achingly hard pews in a church, which serves as one of the venues. But a quick sprint through the streets to the next venue,  helps to ease the aching a little.

I listen to academics expound; poets are surprisingly hard-nosed about sales figures; book review columnists ask awkward questions; publishers get technical; new writers gush enthusiastically or mutter unhappily; successful novelists toss bon mots to the adoring audience. And, I regret to say, several writers speak in condemnatory tones about bloggers who dare to write reviews of their work. Hey! Come on guys! Us bloggers are not out to crucify you! And not all Lit Bloggers are ignorant yahoos from the murky electronic depths – in fact, I have read many deeply erudite book reviews on Literary Blog sites. Just because we don’t have an MA in Creative  Writing doesn’t automatically consign us to the ignoramus section – we’re writers too, and more importantly most of us are your readers, or your prospective target market. A little fellowship here would be appreciated.

That said, it was a grand event, and I can’t wait for next year’s Franschoek Literary Festival.




















To tweet or not to tweet …. that is the question. A thoroughly 21st century question it is too. Are we going to Twitter or are we not going to Twitter?

It became glaringly apparent at the Franschoek Literary Festival, that if you’re an author who’s looking to widen your readership and boost your book sales, then you’d better be out there Twittering briskly on your Smartphone and diving boldly into the Twitterverse. Or whatever it’s called. One wit told us that an amalgam of the predominant social media titles leaves you with the tag  Twitface … Do I want to be a Twitface? Do I need to be a Twitface? I’m already Facebooking and that’s time consuming enough. Will I land up with thumb sprain if I tweet as well?

I’m no Luddite, I’m all for electronica, but  somehow Twitter is a byte too far for me. When do the Twits find time to do anything else? Like write, and work on their books, for instance?  Or cook a meal/play with the cat/commune with their significant other? And do I want 4 000 followers eagerly awaiting my latest pronouncement on what I ate for breakfast, or some other equally vitally info-byte?

Two speakers at the Lit Fest compared Twitter to having a huge, noisy cocktail party yammnering constantly in their heads. No thank you. Not for me. I have enough trouble dealing with my own plethora of mental debris let alone time and headspace to take on other people’s Twitter Trivia.

I recall a very old children’s rhyme that said:

The Wise Owl

The wise old owl
Sat in an oak.
The more he saw,
The less he spoke.
The less he spoke,
The more he heard.
Why can’t we be like
That wise old bird?

‘Nuff said.





Why do we have such inflated expectations about our holidays? Why – most of the time – do our holidays not live up to our fantasies, our dreams, our hopes?

May I suggest it’s because we believe the advertising?  Who has not been hypnotised by the glossy brochures?  The Sunday supplements with the colour pics of palm trees, white beaches?  The TV ads that show bronzed bodies  frolicking in the waves?  The docile elephants conveying immaculately kitted visitors through Tiger Parks in Asia?  It all looks just too good to be true.  And it generally is.

Once you’ve factored in the breathtakingly short holiday breaks we take nowadays – 5 days in Phuket! –  4 days Tango in Buenos Aires! – 3 days ski-ing in Austria ! – added in the  maelstrom of mega-airports, topped off the cocktail with a generous splash of jet-lag : voila! You have one totally frazzled holiday maker staggering out of the airport into the confusions of a different currency, an unintelligible foreign language, traffic that drives on the wrong side of the road, cranky aircon in hotel rooms and  funny food on the menu.  Happy holidays, folks!  And this is supposed to be enjoyable ?

My childhood featured holidays of at least four weeks.  The theory went that it took you three weeks to unwind, and then, and only then, could you start to actually enjoy your holiday.  Gentle walking, a few rounds of golf, a bit of swimming, plenty of good food three times a day, pre-lunch drinkies, sundowners, and not too much early rising in the mornings.  In other words, you relaxed.  Whereas today’s holidays are more like an SAS Assault Training Course and you will need two weeks to get over the experience when (and if) you ever get home again.

And let me crossly add that you do not need to travel to Foreign Parts in order to have a disappointing holiday.  My visit to the  2011 Franschoek Literary Festival was supposed to be a luxury weekend getaway but was sabotaged by heavy fog for two out of three days (no beautiful scenery visible); workmen laying paving using a shatteringly penetrating angle grinder; astronomical prices; and wildly incorrect instructions to my hired apartment.  At one point, marooned in the back streets, lost in the foggy dusk, I seriously contemplated having to sleep in my car ……

But these are trifling complaints, compared to those hurled by disgruntled clients  at the venerable travel agents, Thomas Cook, and currently circulating on the Internet.  For example:

“On my holiday to Goa in India , I was disgusted to find that almost every restaurant served curry. I don’t like spicy food at all.”

“I was bitten by a mosquito – no-one said they could bite.”

“We found the sand was not like the sand in the brochure. Your brochure shows the sand as yellow but it was white.” (See ? my remarks about brochures are quite correct).

“No-one told us there would be fish in the sea. The children were startled.”

But all this discomfort pales besides those related in American P J O’Rourke’s  Holidays in Hell .  Mind you, he does choose to visit El Salvador, Lebanon, Warsaw & Seoul which may have had something to do with his unhappy experiences. O’Rourke is an American journalist/political commentator with a robust attitude to absolutely everything. Unless its Republican of course, then there might be some glimmers of hope.

Finally, the prize for miserable travel experiences has to go to one of my favourite travel writers, Jan Morris, sending a pastiche of her horrendous experiences to Keath Fraser, editor of Worst Journeys, the Picador  Book of Travel. Listen to this:

“….. to have been robbed of my passport and plane ticket, my luggage having already been lost in flight, while suffering from extreme diarrhea during a high summer heat wave and severe water shortage, at a moment when the local electricity supply and telephone service have been cut off because of political disturbances, with nothing to read but a Robert Ludlum thriller, expecting a visit from the security police in a hotel room without a washbasin overlooking a railway freight yard on a national holiday in the Egyptian town of Zagazig.”

Be glad, be very glad, you stayed at home.


Filed under TRAVEL