Town mouse visits Althorp

A gathering of authors brings its own raincloud. Small bookshops closing, newspaper books pages dwindling, the awful democracy of the online reviewer-such is the prevailing angst that writers might ask themselves why they do it. To which I answer: the Althorp Literary Festival. At Althorp, the sun shines on Grub Street. Between talks on a favourite subject-their own books-speakers are pampered to a degree that can’t fail to bolster the ego. If you must grumble about the state of your profession, a deep sofa in front of the Spencer portraits is a good place to do it, particularly with a glass of Champagne in your hand. I concentrated so hard on the conversation at dinner that I had a bit of a headache the next morning.

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My subject on Saturday was War Memorial. Afterwards, I had some serious talk with a member of the audience about kite-balloons, used by First World War artillery spotters to observe the position of enemy forces. At 10,000ft, the telephone wires might be crackly: much better was to put a sketch of the trenches into a canister and drop it over the side of the basket.

The sun also shone on Earl Spencer’s cricket match. I hope he won. I understand that the Althorp team generally does.

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