The Boswell Book Festival is held annually in May at Dumfries House near Cumnock, south of Glasgow.
We’ve attended most years and this year decided to become more involved and become volunteers.
We could take bundles of leaflets to distribute so I thought I’d kill two birds etc and combine my daily walk with pushing the leaflets through letterboxes in my neighbourhood.
I learned a lot. First, utter respect for all postmen and in particular, mine, who must walk miles each day as part of their job and in all weathers. Having written Postman Pat stories for many years, I should have been aware of that! I had a glorious day with the sun beaming down on the spring flowers and it was a very pleasant, if tiring escapade. What would normally take me twenty minutes to walk took almost three times as long as I meandered up and down garden paths of all descriptions.
You can tell a great deal about people from the state of their front door. The letterboxes, for example, come in all types; some are just a simple flap which makes it easy to poke things through, many others have brushes inside which catch your fingers while the worst are stuck near the ground and require bending and stretching to deliver your goods.
Some front doors are very welcoming – kerb appeal, I think it’s called in estate agent parlance – with highly polished letterboxes and numbers, pots of flowers and welcome mats. One even had mini decorated Easter eggs in a tub of pansies.
Other houses had forgotten toys on the grass or piles of muddy boots and bikes in the porches, evidence of families with children to care for. Some had all their blinds and curtains closed. Well, it was a Sunday morning but not that early.
Cars were a bit of a nuisance, parked on driveways with very little space to squeeze through. Obviously some households have a car for everyone and have parked them on what passes for a lawn. They’re better than a spiky hedge for keeping people away.
Some houses are anything but welcoming. Scruffy peeling doors, chipped steps, even a locked gate stopping you approaching the front door. Signs were common – No cold callers, no charity bags, no flyers (they got one regardless!), no religious groups. One had even gone to the trouble of having a metal sign made repelling all boarders who dared to ring his bell (perhaps press his buttons might be more appropriate).
As I walked along, I found myself creating the characters that might live behind all those doors. Old and young, alone or in a family, tidy or sluttish, busy and rushing everywhere or lonely and keeping to themselves. By the time I’d posted every leaflet through many doors, I had enough characters and story situations for several short stories and a pile of novels to boot! Now just to write them.
But first, there’s the Boswell Book Festival to enjoy. I hope you’ll come too. Tickets are now available and they go fast so don’t miss out.