Home again, to find Frome in turmoil. The annual carnival, ever a reliable source of Disgusted letters in the local paper whether rage is directed at majorette voyeurism or mega-abuse of finite energy by illuminated floats, has excelled itself this year: "Baghdad Beauties" comprised a bevy of blokes in burkhahs with barmy slogans like 'does my bomb look big in this?' Protests were profuse, police have visited the entry organiser, and Frome is now on amber alert as a terrorist target. You go away for two weeks...
And now I'm back, it's been a week of meetings and talks. Local author Jane Elmor was talking to the writers' circle at the library about the importance of the writing habit, Bristol Old Vic's dynamic new Literary Associate Sharon Clark was talking to Southwest Scriptwriters about the importance of the collaborative process; there's been meetings about STAGE WRITE at the Merlin next week and a Home in Frome meeting at Annabelle's. All very useful and productive, especially the ones with cake.
On Wednesday evening the Shakespeare Schools Festival came to the Merlin, with four local schools each presenting a compressed version of one of the bard's plays. Adjudicator Alex Webb rightly praised everyone concerned in the productions. Maybe because I'm a sucker for costume, even pink glitter pompoms, my favourite was Selwood Middle School's Dream: it was the closest to classic structure, yet these young actors managed to make an unfamiliar 400-year-old language intelligible, showing characterisation as well as plot, and to integrate contemporary energy too. The conflict between modernity & traditionalism seemed more difficult for the older students, but it was certainly enterprising to cast Macbeth's three 'secret, black, and midnight hags' as a posse apparently on a St Trinian's form outing.
Back on the subject of racial stereotypes, My Life With The Dogs at the Tobacco Factory featured a selection of Russian ruffians: corrupt cops, child molesters, everyone chronically drunk on vodka. But the story of street urchin Ivan Mishukov was stylish and very funny - and apparently true, though NIE's interpretation was more pantomime than poignancy - and you'd have to be very po-faced not to enjoy the antics and music.
Figures reveal (who compiles these figures, I wonder, and why?) that Dan Brown is the most frequently donated author to Oxfam shops. Titter ye not; think how many books were initially sold to achieve this statistic. Though if you do want a titter, try this site of Brownisms, which are kind-of Colmanballs without the rude bits: lines like "The kaleidoscope of power had been shaken, and Aringarosa was still reeling from the blow."
And finally: A children's picture book about two gay penguins and an orphan chick, And Tango Makes Three, has been banned in the USA. Over this side of the pond, the Conservatives are planning to repeal the Human Rights Act and give 'normal' people the right to know if their neighbours are 'criminals'... and police investigation of carnival silliness begins to seem a bit less funny.