Quality not quantity that's what this must all reflect and so I mustn't be tempted to dash around to events just to serve up loads of blog posts at the Festival Feast that we are enjoying. Besides, talking of feasts, I'd sat down to Stalin's Hidden Legacy nursing a bout of indigestion after bolting that lunch and if there was a single mention of people under siege living off boiled shoes I wasn't in the mood to cope. Gaviscon that's what I needed.
But who says you can't have quality and quantity?
Certainly no one's told Simon Montefiore because he delivered in an hour a talk that would have taken the average English-speaker at least two hours. He speaks at 78rpm, breath-takingly fast, no notes and it is all so compelling you have no choice but to keep up, there was smoke coming from my Lamy Safari and I can only apologise if that distracted anyone.
The man is indeed a human dynamo and he said it not me, a civil war seems to break out in just about every country Simon visits just as he arrives.
Sashenka was the subject but Simon took us on a guided tour of his life as both a historian and a writer with some high octane adventures on the way. I'd be surprised if his mother isn't grey with worry bearing in mind that he rang her from the President's personal satellite phone just as civil war was pending in Georgia.
By his own admission much of it was terrifyingly foolhardy and settling down to a life as a writer sounded like the grown-up solution to ending Simon's Boy's Own adventures, except it all involved frequent return visits to do battle with the impenetrable Russian archives. Having written a book on Catherine the Great which had been well-received in the Kremlin, Simon Montefiore bathed in the warm light of approval and with it an open door for his research.
The result was Young Stalin but also enough material gathered to write Sashenka, a novel which focuses on the lives and struggles of the women. It was a photo in the archive of a woman who had been arrested and executed some days later which was the starting point, her face telling so much. You could be arrested for a million unknown reasons, when you fell everyone you knew fell with you, etched on her features the pain of that moment, of losing everything. The joy of writing a novel evident as Simon recounted the pleasure of getting to know his characters and what they might or might not do.
This was quite my most exhilarating event so far, no fear of falling asleep and I hope I've given you the essence. Simon Montefiore is a marvellous raconteur, brilliantly entertaining, another one not to miss if he's down your way. I think speakers like this are few and far between these days or perhaps I don't get out enough. A true storyteller and one by all accounts striving and succeeding in writing readable accessible history for people like me who never really paid enough attention to it at school and have regretted it ever since.
So yes, I have definitely come away enthused enough to read Young Stalin and anything else Simon has written.
If he's done an audio version expect it only to take up half of one CD and therefore no good for a long train journey.