[Editor's note: This is the first of a series of blog posts Margaret Atwood is writing exclusively for the Globe and Mail during her innovative tour for her new novel, The Year of the Flood. For the tour, which began in Edinburgh on the weekend and will continue in the UK, Canada and the USA until December, Atwood wrote a one-hour play based on the novel that will be played by local actors each time it is presented. She also commissioned Orville Stoeber to write music for the 14 hymns from the hymnbook of the God's Gardeners, the fictitious eco-religious cult at the centre of YOTF. Atwood is trying to make her tour as green as possible; that included taking the Queen Mary 2 to England last week. You can also follow her tour at her blog here.]
By Margaret Atwood
Edinburgh, Sunday morning, Aug. 30: Day One of the Year of the Flood tour
Yesterday, after leaving the Queen Mary 2 - on which I'd done a pre-tour preliminary reading - we went by train from Southampton to Edinburgh, making our connection in Birmingham with one minute to spare via one of those heart-stopping haul-your-bags-up-the-stairs-and-across-the-overpass athletic events that characterize British rail travel. We arrived at 4 p.m., in time to meet with Phoebe Larmore, who has put the CD together, Orville Stoeber, the composer of the God's Gardeners hymn music - who will also perform tonight - and Fiona McMorrough of FmcM, who has orchestrated the entire UK tour.
We all had dinner together, and just as I announced that no, I would not have a glass of wine because I was not drinking before performances for the entire tour, the server - in shock, I suppose ("No! There goes our income!") - dropped a tray with five glasses of ice water right on top of me. After this symbolic baptism and a terrific veggie dinner, we went off at 8:30 to rehearse, at St. John's Episcopal - that big church at the Castle end of Princes Street. The cast for the Scottish event have thrown themselves into the project with great energy and improvisation. Bishop Richard Holloway (playing "Adam One") has a wonderful robe made of scavenged materials, including some orange Sainsbury's plastic bags - also used to decorate the God's Gardener's ceremonial pole objects - and "Ren" (Emma Danby) had decorated the script books with scraps of tartan and some floral paper napkins. There will be 12 singers - they have already rehearsed with Orville - but only three were present last night, and even so the rafters were shaking.
During the read-through all actors were in fine voice, but Janet de Vigne ("Toby"), the director, had trouble with me - in the pulpit I looked like a floating head, as I did also behind the big brass eagle lectern. Height-enhancing boxes were tried, but in the end I was positioned in plain full view. As we left, large decorative birds were being hoisted - the event is a fund-raiser for the RSPB Scotland, who will be present with tables and leaflets. Now I will spend the morning doing last-minute tweaks to the script and crossing my fingers for the performance at 3:30. Miraculously, the CDs of the Gardener Hymns are actually finished - I will see one for the first time today - and Bloomsbury is doing the overall distribution in the UK, with Amazon UK and the YOTF website having an online presence.
In pursuit of greenery, we are staying at the Bonham, which has Green Tourism Gold status - quite comprehensive. Zerofootprint is carbon-counting the entire tour, in stages: Toronto-Edinburgh came in at 1.86 tonnes, which we are offsetting though forest regeneration.
P.S. After the Event, from the Authors' Yurt at the Edinburgh International Book Festival: A roof-rocking success! Singers and actors were brilliant! Happiness all round!