A Day Out At Cheltenham Literature Festival

“Say Anna, what are you like at chairing events?”

A message popped through on my phone from a rather lovely lady who I knew was helping to organise the Cheltenham Literature Festival. As it turns out, after a last minute change of plans, the festival were in need of someone to chair The Times and Sunday Times panel on Microadventures – with Alastair Humphreys (Godfather of Microadventure) and Phoebe Smith (editor of Wanderlust Mag).

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Of course, being invited to host a discussion at arguably the most famous literary festival in the world was no biggy. Who am I kidding?! This was a BIGGY! Like, if Mr Biggy had got jiggy with Mrs Biggy and made little Biggy babies, it couldn’t have been more of a biggy. Naturally, I styled it out.

I confirmed that I could indeed do chairing – because chairing is mostly talking and asking questions – and talking and asking questions is what I do best. I always find chairing events rather lovely, because I don’t have to talk about myself for a change. Instead I can just focus on making sure the audience are having a ruddy good time, and on bringing out the best in the stories that others have to share. How marvellous.

Plus, being a chair is like juggling cucumbers (have you ever tried juggling cucumbers? It’s more tricky than juggling balls). And every time I chair, I learn something new. So what better place to learn something new than at one of the greatest literary festivals in the world? Continue reading

Behind the scenes at Women’s Health

I emerged from the myriad of tunnels that form Old Street underground station and picked up a message from my good chum Laura K. She was in the coffee shop next door to the location for today’s shoot. I still had plenty of time to spare, so I tracked her down and we got to natterin’. We gassed, chitty-chatted, chinwagged, talked the hind legs of many donkeys, before suddenly realising that the 30 minutes to spare had now reduced to just 2 minutes before we were due in the studio. Panic. We dashed outside, desperate to find the venue, which was apparently ‘just next door’.

MISSION IMPOSSIBLE: FIND THE STUDIO

Alas, it seemed that finding the entrance to the studio was like finding the Ministry of Magic. Somewhere, in the gaps between these tall, ancient buildings and old industrial works was an entrance. But where, oh where in the world, was anyone’s guess. Just as I was beginning to wonder if perhaps we should retreat to the phone box across the street and go in underground Harry-Potter style, I spotted a glimmer of hope. Two ‘model’ types were hanging out on the steps of what we thought could potentially, possibly, definitely-maybe be the entrance. Continue reading

A visit to the palace

It was the Autumn of 2015 and I was zooming down the side of St James’ park, on my usual commute-route home. All of a sudden there appeared a commotion up ahead. Cars stopped, guards materialised, and two young American girls began running along the pavement screaming at the top of their lungs: “Aaaaaaahhh maaaaayyyy Gaaaaaaad!!!! It’s her! It’s really herrrr!”. Intrigued by their excitement, I pulled alongside them at the entrance to Green Park, expecting perhaps to see Taylor ‘Tay-Tay’ Swift, Rhi Rhi, or even Beyoncé.

And then there she was. Like a china doll, beautifully dressed, perfectly poised, encased in a glass-topped limo, and waving. Of course she was waving. It was then that I realised I had never actually seen the Queen in the flesh before. To me, she was like the Golden Gate Bridge. Something I’d seen so many times on the tele-box, that I’d become blasé about. And, just like the first time I saw the Golden Gate Bridge furreal on my 50 state cycle, upon clapping eyes on Queenie – my heart skipped a beat. Only, with the Queen it was different, the wonder at seeing her in the flesh was coupled with a real sense of national pride. One I never knew I had until that moment.  Continue reading