Because you can't have depths without surfaces.
Linda Grant, thinking about clothes, books and other matters.

Sunday, 24 August 2008

Second place in the Karachi Bonniest Baby Contest

Last week I commended to your attention the weepingly funny account of author Imran Ahmad's trip to the Edinburgh International Book festival where he met Gordon Brown, while dressed in shorts.

Yesterday afternoon, in the the authors' yurt in Edinburgh, a pleasant man in a linen suit came over to introduce himself to me. This was Imran Ahmad in person. He had been deluged with visits to his blog from The Thoughtful Dresser, more he said, than from all the other sites put together.

He pressed into my hand a signed copy of his book Unimagined: A Muslim Boy Meets the West, which I read on the plane coming home. Later he would persuade Salman Rushdie to take a signed copy off his hands. And has the photographic evidence to prove it.

I cannot tell you how much I have enjoyed this book, particularly his account of how he was robbed of the title of Karachi's Bonniest Baby by political corruption and nepotism. Here he is, pictured on the cover, in the contest.

Look, just go and buy it. It's the story of a Pakistani Muslim Adrian Mole. What's not to like? Eh?


Imran has updated his account of Edinburgh:

On Sunday morning, a quiet chap wandered into the Writers’ Yurt. I could see that he had no Festival ID and obviously wasn’t supposed to be in here – maybe another wannabe writer?

The Festival staff were all very busy, so gallantly I stepped in to deal with this situation, with my characteristic sensitivity and tact.

I shared with him some advice on writing and getting published; I gave him a signed copy of my book (so that he would gain an appreciation of the standard of writing which has to be attained in order to get published); I let him have his photo taken with me; and then I gently nudged him out of the Writers’ Yurt.

Although I am a successful internationally-published writer, I’m always ready to help aspiring writers on their long journey to some form of publication.

PLEASE NOTE: The Writers’ Yurt is strictly for invited writers, authorised Festival staff and nominated guests only (all to be wearing Festival IDs, unlike this gentleman).

Here's another bit:
I returned to the Festival on the weekend of 23-24 August, taking a train up to Edinburgh on Friday night.

At Kings Cross, there was a huge crowd waiting to board the train, but I was quite relaxed. This being the last train to Edinburgh on the Friday evening before a holiday weekend, I wouldn’t even contemplate this journey without a reserved seat in First Class.

The crowd surged forward as soon as the platform number was revealed, and I still got caught up in the herd mentality – even though I knew I had a comfortable seat waiting for me. I boarded the train and began to arrange my stuff around my seat (suitcase in the luggage rack, jacket on the overhead shelf, food bag at my feet, book on the table etc).

A man in the next carriage was yelling into his mobile phone. An attractive woman seated at the next table smiled at me, as we both realised we could hear a phone conversation taking place so far away.


He was moving towards me …


He came into my carriage … He was a thin man, with very short, dark hair and wearing jeans and a t-shirt …


He sat down in the reserved seat opposite me (although a Standard Saver Return would not entitle him to a seat in First Class).


An elegant Japanese couple stood hesitantly alongside me, conferring together and looking back and forth between their tickets and the seats opposite me.

“May I see?” I asked them, and examined their seat reservations. “Will,” I said to the man on the phone, “these visitors to our country are waiting to take their seats.”

Studiously not acknowledging that he had heard me, Will Self moved off down the carriage, back in the direction he had come from – still yelling into his phone.

Later during the journey, I was unable to overcome my curiosity. I made the hazardous journey into Standard Class and down the length of the train, to find out what had happened. The aisles and connecting areas were strewn with people on the floor: reading, talking, sleeping and (in some cases) drinking far too much.

Eventually, I found him. He had a seat and was furiously scribbling notes and using a purple highlighter in a copy of Richard Dawkins’ ‘The God Delusion’.

A curmudgeon writes

Norm goes shopping:

I will leave aside the fact that my body is always overcome by a draining fatigue the instant I arrive in this environment - a physiological phenomenon I have never been able to comprehend. And I will leave aside the puzzle that, on entering a large department store, the intending purchaser never arrives at the part of the store he (for he it is in this case) needs or wants; there are always floors to negotiate, by lift, stair or escalator, and then vast spaces to cross, as if shopping doubled as a training ground for long hiking expeditions. And I leave aside, too, that the air in such places is like a condensed falsehood all of itself. These obstacles and inconveniences I now know, in the light of much experience, I must expect.