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Patrick Gale is hot off a combine harvester. Somewhere in southern England, the author has stopped bringing in the barley to talk sexuality on the phone. Gale is a writer who happens to be gay and also happens to be known for writing about women. In one novel, he wrote about a young woman’s phantom pregnancy, in another about women in their eccentric dotage.

'Women are more self-aware,’ believes Gale. ’They make themselves up as they go along, much like gay men. The cliche is that (heterosexual) men usually have the crises of self-awareness later in life but it is not usually a complete enough one.’ In short, for Gale, women are usually more vigorous in taking control of their lives.

In his latest book, Tree Surgery For Beginners, Gale borrows from the real- life break-up of his brother’s twenty- year marriage. ’There’s a higher divorce rate than marriage rate and I’ve always believed more in the tribal structure than the nuclear family,’ he insists. ’In the long term the extended family seems beneficial.’ (Susanna Beaumont) B Patrick Gale And Christopher Whyte (Book Festival) Post Office Theatre, 16 Aug, 7pm, £7 (£5).


In a brief respite from trying to finish his already legendary Anthology Of Prefaces, Alasdair Gray declares himself ’very pleased’ at the outcome of the referendum on a Scottish parliament. Hardly surprising, given his authorship of Why Scots Should Rule Scot/and. But with opportunity comes responsibility, and Gray is about to start work on A Home Rule Handbook with social historian Angus Calder. ‘My feeling that the book had to be written

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came to me as soon as I heard we were going to be getting the parliament,’ Gray explains. ’It’s easy to have opinions, but opinions are useless without detailed information.’ Through consultation with people working in education, health, prisons and other areas of public life, Gray and Calder hope to provide a manageable guide to how the Scottish state can be run. Join their discussion this week and add your own opinions to the brew. (Andrew Burnet) I Alasdair Gray And Angus Calder (Scottish Writers For Breakfast) Spiege/tent, 20 Aug, 10. 75am, £5 (£3).

EVENTS FOR CHILDREN The Paddington Bear 40th Birthday Party

Peru has several connections in the British psyche. For Scottish football fans there is the horror of Argentina 1978 and defeat at the hands of the mercurial South Americans. Then there is the Sight, now comical thanks to The Fast Show, of groups of pan-piped Peruvians doing a little incantation or two. There's also some joke along the lines of ’what sound does a SOuth American pigeon make?’ but that’s better left unsaid.

For thousands upon millions of kiddywinks, however, it is the home of arguably the world's most popular bear. Paddington, named after the railway Station in which the Brown family found him, has reached the ripe age of 40 this year alongside far less cuddly types such as Madonna and Michael Jackson. Michael Bond’s creation has been through a fair number of adventures including Paddington Marches On, Paddington Takes The Air and Paddington On Top. And like most cult celebrities, the Marmalade-obsessed one got his own telly series, which also made a name for Sir Michael Hordern whose grumbly voice-over made having a childhood in the 197OS almost worthwhile.

(Brian Donaldson)

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Birthday Party (Events For Children) The Bank Of Scotland Children ’5 Tent, 75 Aug, 1.30pm, 3pm, £3. This Special event is aimed at kids between three and six and they are encouraged to bring their own teddies along.

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fESTIVIIL The write stuff

Inverness-born Ali Smith has received plaudits and prizes for Free Love and Like. Fine, but why does she have a Belinda Carlisle song running through her head?

Five words to describe yourself Scruffy, hypochondriac, hard-working, lazy, paradoxical.

Five words to describe your writing Emotional power of the intellect.

Catchphrase Have I got a temperature?

Nickname At school it was Swotty Smith, presumably because I was clever at English I wasn't clever at anything else. Or maybe I just looked like a swot. Future of the novel The novel will carry on in ItS own form and different forms. PeOple love artefacts, they’re never gOIng to desert books, because books are so sexy. The tangibility of them Is wonderful.

Ambitions To eat well and Sleep in the sun.

Recurring dream/nightmare There’s one of me returning to an empty house, the house I lived in during my childhood. Sometimes, it’s a nightmare because it’s horrible and the wallpaper'S hanging off the wall and sometimes it’s just a quiet dream. Your idea of heaven That Belinda Carlisle line keeps going through my head, ‘Ooh, heaven iS a place on earth.’ It’s got to have the 'Ooh As soon as you say ‘heaven’, you think of a place where God is handing out medals. Your idea of hell Not being able to Sleep.

What do you do to wind down/get high To wind down I’ll either watch anything on TV we've got cable which is the same as doing nothing - or meditate. To get high I travel with hope. (Brian Donaldson)

g All Smith And Di/ys Rose (Scottish Writers For Breakfast) Spiege/tent, 78 Aug, 70.75am, £5 (£3).

g All Smith/Jill Dawson/Louise Doughty/Kathryn Heyman (Wild Ways Stories Of Women On The Road) Spiegeltent, 18 Aug, 2. 75pm, £6 (£4).