Simon Garfield, (author of Just My Type, that lovely book on fonts) could be forgiven for thinking that the Happy Campers stalk him at Port Eliot Festival year on year, but actually...well they do. He is a very firm favourite of theirs, and mine, and very kindly popped into the tent to say 'hello' and very nice things about dovegreyreader this year, and sign our Visitors Book....here are The Happy Campers' adulations thoughts on Simon's talk in the Bowling Green tent about his new book On the Map’ to be published on 4th Oct 2012.
Simon Garfield is getting to be rather a favourite with the Happy Campers. The man is such a genius that last year he had us thoroughly fascinated by fonts and poring over print. Moreover, he has the patience of a saint when confronted by the HC in determined autograph hunting mode (more of that later). When we saw the festival programme, which said that he would be ‘turning his narrative flair to maps’, we were intrigued, as we had not heard that he had a new book out.
An interesting route for the guru of fonts and typography to take - perhaps he had released his inner cartographer? (apologies to Robert Macfarlane).
So it was with a warm fuzzy feeling we heard Mr Garfield refer to Port Eliot as his spiritual home: we are starting to think of this small corner of England in a similar way ourselves. And the festival programme is a work of art in itself, isn’t it, a worthy souvenir. But there is a small cloud on Simon Garfield’s Port Eliot horizon….. the map of the site is lacking in any kind of emotional resonance.
Where are the people, the events, the wit of, say, the Glastonbury festival map?
Apparently this paragon of map virtue has interesting details woven into it, like ‘crayfish paella mountain here’ and ‘creepy soulless old weirdo‘ to describe the presence of a very famous venerable canonised pop icon who shall remain nameless in the interests of me not being pursued by a team of corporate lawyers. This annotation, of course, is in the style of ‘Here Be Dragons’, which as any fule kno is authentically blazoned across the uncharted sections of many a medieval map.
Like so many things later proved to be tosh, the here be dragons malarkey was, according to Simon Garfield, born out of a mis translation (remember Cinderella and the glass slipper?) Dorothy L Sayers gave the phrase its first place in literature when she wrote ‘Here be dragons to be slain…..’ in her book ‘Catholic Tales and Christian Songs’. So as usual with Simon Garfield, after only five minutes or so your head is being stuffed full of fascinating facts.
He shows us a Facebook map; a world image defined by light tendrils. It is a map of connections, a record of the links made by millions of keyboard presses. China is not on it. Facebook is not big in China.
His talk makes me want to buy the book.
Who would have thought that the people of Hereford rubbed away a small area of the Mappa Mundi because before it became a valuable artefact many a local stubbed their finger on the place on the map they reckoned was home?
Or that Churchill and Roosevelt owned identical globes so when they spoke to each other at a distance they could pinpoint exactly the same places during their strategic discussions?
Or that maps, too, can be the object of someone’s collecting mania to such an extent that a master criminal razored out priceless maps from ancient books in such institutions as the Bodleian library?
Another reason why Simon Garfield is such an entertaining talker is that he is a great gossip. Snippets about Patrick Moore, the famous astronomer - he delights in being wrong! - are followed by anecdotes about map dealers, who are not an engaging bunch, being both self important and physically unprepossessing. I could supply some more detail, but the lawyers are looking over my shoulder again….
All too soon the talk is over. We have to be back at the DGR tent five minutes ago. Nonetheless I leap up and ask Mr Garfield to sign the map in the back of my festival programme, ‘Here Be Dragons’ style.
He kindly transcribes my suggestion – next to an arrow pointing to the campsite, he writes
‘Here be the Happy Campers- over excited!!’