I didn’t mention my coughing fit in the middle of the Simon Armitage event. The woman next to me looked very disapproving indeed and offered me a cough sweet (I’d already had three, but perhaps they were too rustly for her comfort).
During the Alexander McCall Smith event I was sitting on the left hand side of a lady with her left arm in a sling. I spent the whole hour trying to sit as still as possible for fear of knocking it.
I found the audiences very genteel. Hardly anyone seemed to take photos or use their phone during the events – which was nice in a way, but made me feel very conspicuous. I always keep my phone on silent in events and turn the flash off, but I’m surprised there weren’t more people live-tweeting – at the beginning and end of events, at the very least. (I try to be polite and considerate and restrict my phone-fiddling to the first and last couple of minutes. I’m not a total philistine.) There was much less activity than I expected on the #CheltLitFest hashtag. Maybe I should be thankful for small mercies, but I don’t think it has to be an either-or between highbrow literature and social media – I enjoy both!
In Cheltenham itself I recommend the Queens Hotel, which is right next to the literature festival and has a great bar with very friendly staff and loads of different gins, as well as amazing wallpaper designed by Pugin in the stairwell. At the time of booking it was the same price as the usual ordinary chain hotels!
I also highly recommend John Gordons whisky bar. If you love a good single malt you’ll be in heaven.