Sydney Writers Festival, 2014

In 2013, and now 2014, my sister and I took a day off work to go and see some events at the Sydney m festival. Perhaps this is our new tradition, superseding the food safari days.

This year the events included:
1. My Valentine, Sandi Toksvig
2. On Epicurus, Luke Slattery and Damon Young
3. Why I leave home, Robert Dessaix
4. Mind your manners, Sandi Toksvig and Lucinda Holdforth

Sandi Toksvig I know from the weekly-ish News Quiz podcast that I download from BBCRadio4. As it turns out, she’s been in the entertainment business for over thirty years, and has written a barrel load of books. The ‘My Valentine’ show was about how she finds the joy in life, in every moment.

A slew of hilarious anecdotes followed. Born in Denmark, grew up in New York, then shunted off to boarding school after her parents went to a parent teacher evening and couldn’t find a single teacher who knew her. From there she discovered books, became a voracious reader and then somehow made it into Cambridge. Took a gap year in her human rights law degree , performed as one of the only all female ‘Cambridge foot lights’ comedy troops with Emma Thompson. She described some of her more memorable times in the children’s show ’73’ including traveling on a homebuilt hovercraft made out of a wardrobe.

Sandi taught the audience a favourite Danish phrase of her and her brothers whom they would teach to unsuspecting friends. When later in life, their friend John McCarthy was released as a hostage from Lebanon, guess what message he sent via a fellow hostage to let her know he was okay?

Jeg er kongen af ​​Danmark og jeg kan lide jordbær

She ran through a list of books with extraordinary ‘how on earth did they manage to publish that’ sorts of titles. The evening was concluded in a tailed coat, with her and the entire audience standing up and conducting one of the stanzas from Beethoven’s ninth. What a way to get a standing ovation: everyone is standing up already!

On Epicurus had been on the agenda as the first event for Friday morning. However doofus here who had brought her bicycle into town had forgotten her bike lock keys and so was running too late to make the event.

Robert Dessaix was next up on Why I Leave Home.

Why I Leave Home

He’s a famous essayist based in St Georges Terrace, no apostrophe, Battery Point, Hobart Tasmania. Unfortunately, this heathen hadn’t heard of him, and he had a rather dry monotonous way of speaking, and the wooden piers underneath my bum were hard and unyielding. Nothing wrong with foam tiles or cushions. What I remember from the talk:

SWF audience

– tourism can be a form of travel
– travel is a way to break the routine of chores, but that is also why some people may be reluctant to leave home – they don’t want to break routine
– Anglicans were not allowed to hunt as part of their religion, so they would fish and satisfy the instinct to kill. ‘Angling’ thus being derived from ‘Anglican’
– there are some places that are with seeking but not traveling to. These include Uruguay and the Eiffel tower

Finally in our schedule, Sandi Toksvig being interviewed by Lucinda Holdforth on Do Manners really Matter? This was more an interview than a discussion on manners. Some of the stories were recycled from last night’s performance, particularly about other people’s boundaries when you’re a famous person. The outcome of this afternoons discussion included
– manners are the small amount of effort that makes the most number is people happy
– as you get older, you feel as though you have to be a custodian of manners
– Once a month, the queen of Denmark has an open house where if you have exhausted all avenues in solving a problem, you can go and ask the queen for help. Yet it is not abused by the Danes because it is not in their culture.
– Don’t let the error of the language (acronyms, misspelling, LOL speak etc) detect from the intent of the message

Mind your manners

One last sentiment to conclude my post:
Jeg er kongen af ​​Danmark og jeg kan lide jordbær

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