War Horse author Sir Michael Morpurgo chose an unusual way to relax at the Appledore Book Festival this week.
After delighting an audience by talking about his new books Flamingo Boy and In The Mouth of The Wolf, he joined the crew of the Appledore Pilot Gig Club for a row in the pouring rain.
Clare, his wife of 55 years, had her misgivings about the trip but said: “I wasn’t surprised he went out because the stormier it gets the more he likes it. I’m just glad to see him back on dry land.
“I’m pleased for him too because he was really, really glad that he did it.
“He loves gigs and we always follow the gig boats when we go to the Scilly Isles.”
Naturally, 74-year-old Sir Michael, who is recovering after radiotherapy treatment for larynx cancer, enjoyed every minute.
He said: “It was all so very beautiful because you are doing the rowing in time with other people and feeling the movement of the boat.
“It was lovely for just a moment or two to be part of a team to move the boat along swiftly.”
Pilot Club coxain Steve Lock was honoured to have Sir Michael aboard and was also very impressed by his technique.
He said: “I’d been abroad teaching rowing and came back especially to cox this boat and Sir Michael loved every moment of it -- and he was a very, very good rower, too.
“He was perfectly in time and his stroke was good and his blade was going in properly.”
And book festival patron Jeremy Vine, who interviewed Sir Michael on the stage, said he is determined to keep performing at the festival despite a huge increase in his workload.
Vine has started presenting Channel 5’s daily current affairs TV programme as well as doing his morning radio show on BBC2.
But he said: “I wouldn’t do the shows if I couldn’t come to Appledore. I think this is just the best book festival.”
And author Anthony Horowitz, who also appeared at the festival last week, said he believes playing spy games as a boy in the sand dunes at Instow led him to write his hugely successful teenage spy series Alex Rider.
He said: “I would chase up and down the sand dunes across the estuary at Instow and pretend to be a spy, a sort of infant Alex Rider, and you could almost say that Rider began in this part of the world.”
The festival continues until tomorrow (Saturday, September 29).