Monday 28 May 2018

Back from the Baltic

When I had the good fortune to be invited to take part in Tallinn's HeadRead Literary Festival, I was thrilled to accept. Tallinn's a city brimming with atmosphere and sights, and the festival programme was packed with stellar names from around the world. And having just returned (though by an unexpectedly circuitous route) I must say that the event more than lived up to expectations. For its success, great credit goes to Krista Kaer, and her excellent team of organisers. They even managed somehow to arrange gorgeous weather from start to finish!

I've visited Tallinn once before, as a stop on a Baltic cruise. One of the merits of cruising is that you can sample a destination and decide if you'd like to go back one day. Tallinn's always been high on my list of places meriting a return visit, and luckily the programme included several trips which allowed me to see more of Estonia, a real treat, as well as an evening reception in the remarkable historic setting of Tallinn's town hall, and another reception at the British Ambassador's residence. 

The itinerary included a walking tour and a rare chance to see the stunning altar piece in the church of St Nikolai (now a gallery) fully opened up by the curator. A bus trip to the coast included a visit to an art museum, and lunch at a delightful place called Kasmu. My event was a conversation with Sophie Hannah, hosted by fellow crime novelist, Jason Goodwin. I last met Jason in a bar in Baltimore ten years ago; he was very good company then, and again in Tallinn. What I hadn't known before was that his dad is Richard Goodwin, co-producer of the Albert Finney version of Murder on the Orient Express and other Christie films. 

There was plenty of time to socialise with fellow writers, most of whose work is far removed from crime fiction; so I had breakfast with a delightful Norwegian poet, lunched with an American journalist, dined with a Danish crime writer, and went out for a drink with a group including Jason, storyteller Janis MacKay and Helen Rappaport, as well as chatting with such luminaries as brain surgeon and author Henry Marsh, Scottish novelist James Robertson, and Michel Faber. When Jason arranged an impromptu tram trip to the baroque Kadriorg Palace, I had the pleasure of a chat with Louisa Young, whose forthcoming memoir You Left Early sounds as though it is both poignant and brilliant.

I'm so grateful to Krista and her colleagues for inviting me to Tallinn. My return to Britain yesterday took a bizarre turn when a series of mishaps on the part of Finnair led to my spending several  Kafkaesque hours in Helsinki airport before being told that I had to fly to Munich in order to get home. It took a very long time, and I arrived back in the small hours, exhausted. But never mind. Even on that bizarre journey I had the consolation of having the time to read from start to finish a quite superb novel, Newton Thornburg's Cutter and Bone. And I'm so glad to have brought home so many memories of a fantastic festival.  


No comments: