top of page

Love Stories in Swindon on 9th May 2024

A new venture for me and the Swindon Festival of Literature but you've got to take a chance on love and I'm glad we did. It felt like felt like home...upstairs at The Hop Inn that is. In the first Literature Festival/book themed version of the show and with an an open hearted audience, we created this…

There were banners and posters and Love Hearts too of course. And a multi-coloured string of hearts to say I am here for all the colours of love.

I started on a farm, then on a plane and almost ended in a tunnel called Tom - courtesy of my Nan and a story that's too romantic for Mills and Boon.

We played the first ever World Cup of Novels and had a raft of contenders, each one pitched by their champion with insight and passion. There were more firsts too - we had to play a couple of Quarter Finals and had one novel withdrawn in favour of another. The TV pundits didn't know what to make of that.

The early results were:

Quarter-Final 1: Stoner by John Williams (the novel that caused Jeanette Winterson's 'Lighthousekeeping' to be withdrawn) v Arabian Nights (a book without a single identified author)

Result: Stoner 5 - 6 Arabian Nights

Quarter-Final 2: Bloody Foreigners by Robert Winder v Everything Is Illuminated by Jonathan Safran Foer

Result: Bloody Foreigners 4 - 6 Everything's Illuminated

Semi-Final 1: Middlemarch by George Elliot v A Month In The Country by J. L. Carr

Result: Middlemarch 7 - 7 A month in the Country

Middlemarch 13 - 11 A Month In The Country (After Extra Time)

Semi-Final 2: Arabian Nights v Everything Is Illuminated

Result: Arabian Nights 6 - 5 Everything Is Illuminated

Then there was a Book Thief, carpentry and a sentence spelt out featuring that well know author 'Roald Dahl Roald Dahl' as I like to think of him.

Amongst Mark's silliest romantic moments, there was the whistling of 'As Time Goes By.' Would he do it all again for love? You know the answer don't you.

There were excellent audience Love Stories - a reminder that 'readers are feelers' and they generously shared their stories with us all.

There was a house party, meeting a 'hot woman' there and trying to make an impression. There was drinking and there was kneeling, literally praying for a no avail. Hats off to this intrepid romantic who had the good sense to demonstrate the lengths he'd go to for love before camera phones were invented.

Not one but two dedications on Radio 3 for a partner's Birthday...nice work. There was a lot in this tale. A recent arrival in Swindon having moved from Manchester for love. A burst of Shostakovich at around 730pm but the recipient just wouldn't stay at home! As the dedication was aired, our romantic heroine threw open the difficult sash windows to call him back, only to rip her pants in the process. But there are lessons here for us all. There was a second dedication the following year and a proposal - a case of 'if at first you don't succeed...' for sure. But the first arrow had landed and was when 'Mr Shostakovic' knew that the now 'Mrs Shostakovich' was the one - sometimes, the echoes of love take a while to come back to you.

If you have to break up with someone, do it nicely. Being dumped in writing with the words 'it's a shame about your hair and clothes' can leave a scar that is remembered and recounted many years later. You may not be forgiven until the end of time. If you want your ex-romantic partners to think well of you...treat them well in the first place.

Chivalry was dead - we learned that. It was that time when a first boyfriend, who lived with his Gran in a bungalow, heard his Gran return and the girlfriend was hastily invited out of bed (naked) and out of the window (onto the street) with clothes thrown out after her. That sounds like avoiding one disaster by creating another. At least it was a bungalow doesn't really compensate does it?

Let's hear it for shy 14 year old young men. We heard of one who found the courage to ask a girl who was 'way out of my league' to a party, only for cider to take effect and for drunkeness and a collapse to follow. Sorry, let me re-frame. Only for the girl to spike our romantic hero's cider so that he got very drunk and that she could get off with his friend??!! Excuse me?

Some wonderful stories - huge thanks to all those who opened their hearts and mouths.

There was heartache and I was 'entranced, in awe, in something else too. Four letters...deep.'

The Swindon World Cup Of Novels

The Final

Arabian Nights v Middlemarch

Result: Arabian Nights 7 -8 Middlemarch

Congratulations to George Elliot and the World Cup Winning proposer.

And there was an Alien that called out reading 'black squiggles on things made of trees' as the climate catastrophe you should know better than to indulge. Don't even mention reading on planes!

Many thanks to Matt Holland, to everyone on the Swindon Festival of Literature team and to the Hop Inn for hosting us.

And as always, heart-felt thanks for everyone in the room who took a chance on love and made a show with me.

Mark xx


Featured Posts
Recent Posts
Search By Tags
Follow Us
  • Facebook Basic Square
  • Twitter Basic Square
  • Google+ Basic Square
bottom of page