Neil Gaiman: In Conversation with Claire Armitstead

Neil Gaiman 2

Before she begins Claire Armitstead receives rapturous applause from half the audience when she mentions that she is the Books Editor for “the opposition”, The Guardian. She then mentions that one of the stewards on the way asked the if they were here for the ‘Neil Gaiman’ event. Levelling and so very Hay Festival.

Gaiman talked about his personal and professional relationship with the late Terry Pratchett.  They collaborated when Neil was just 27. Gaiman’s first novel Good Omens was a collaborative effort with Pratchett and he described how they each wrote sections and shared them with each other over the phone.

He shares his favourite memory of Pratchett. “I was in a taxi on my way to a book signing and my phone rang.” Terry, suffering from Alzheimer’s, was writing an autobiography and he had a lapse of memory that he thought Neil might help with.  It was about a radio interview in the US in 1990 during the promotional tour for ‘Good Omens’ after a radio interview they were signing a ‘They Might be Giants” song on the street. “Were we on 39th or 40th St?” said Terry.

“Terry was somebody who used anger..it was something that drove him” said Gaiman. People who say he was a sweet man had never met the real Terry Pratchett.

Gaiman also talks about his new book of short stories ‘Trigger Warning’ and reads from July. It is one of twelve stories in the collection entitled ‘A Calendar of Tales” created after Blackberry invited Gaiman to request ideas from fans via Twitter and then create stories around the replies.

Virtual Hay

david mitchell bone clocks
By Virginia

One of the downsides of leaving Hay is realising all the good stuff you are missing. Last year I had to leave before Toni Morrison, this year before my favourite author David Mitchell. Although I saw him in Oxford last year, it would have been marvellous to be at his talk, particularly because Crispin Hershey, one of my favourite characters in ‘The Bone Clocks’, has a memorable trip to Hay.

So it was a thrill this morning to see this tweet as I was doing the accounts:

‏@CrispinHershey: Okay you win, Publicity Girl: Hershey is Tweeting his way into Modern World. Happy now?

What followed was total joy, as Hershey’s tweets were by degrees contemptuous, deluded, arrogant and hysterically funny, perfectly capturing  his character. Mitchell added to the fun by tweeting that he was sitting opposite Hershey, which resulted in a typically self-aggrandising comment from his fictional creation.  And much to my delight, Hershey favourited my tweet that I’d rather see the writer Holly Sykes (the heroine of the‘The Bone Clocks’) which made my morning.

I might not be at Hay anymore, and I have missed out on seeing my favourite author in the flesh, but interacting with his  alter-ego on social media  has been quite a consolation prize. It certainly beat doing the accounts.

David Mitchell was on The Starlight Stage last night, along with Tiffany Murray, reading from his next book ‘ Slade House’ which itself emerged from an excellent twitter story.

Live Tonight on BBC iPlayer: Dan and Peter Snow + Neil Gaiman

Dan and Peter Snow

If you’ve been following the Hay Festival on social media but can’t get there, you van still enjoy the experience live on the BBC iPlayer.  BBC Arts Online has been broadcasting selected live streams of some of the events at this year’s festival as they did for the first time last year. The on-line broadcasts can be watched on the BBC Arts site where they’ll remain for 30 days.  Here’s tonight’s schedule:

At 7pm this evening Dan & Peter Snow discuss the Battle of Waterloo and tell the story of Napoleon’s 100 Days Campaign, from his Elba escape to his Waterloo defeat.  Then at 8.30pm Neil Gaiman talks to Claire Armitstead.  The prolific creator of books, comics, films and songs talks about his work and pays tribute to his friend Terry Pratchett, who died in March.

  1.  LIVE 19:00: Dan & Peter Snow
  2. LIVE 20:30: Neil Gaiman talks to Claire Armitstead

The Rain in Hay…Brightened by The Two Johnnies

John-Sutherland-and-John-Crace

Normal Hay service was resumed this morning, as the heavens opened and a cold northerly wind blew us down the hill from our base in Craswall. Our morning brightened as we attended ‘The Two Johnnies do Emma’, a.k.a John Crace of The Guardian’s Digested Read (& latterly their parliamentary sketch writer) and ‘Superprof’ John Sutherland, master of the classics.

Despite not having read Emma until a week or so ago, Crace skilfully applied his ‘digested’ approach to the novel, to the obvious delight of most of the audience (more of that later), while Sutherland pondered the obtuse such as ‘what were the toilet arrangements in Emma'; ‘why doesn’t Emma want to be married’ and ‘was Mr Knightley a Paedophile?’ He later concludes that there are several hints in the novel regarding toilet arrangements, Emma has witnessed her older sister bearing 5 children in 6 years and dreads the same fate for herself – and, thankfully, Mr Knightley only has honourable intentions, phew!

John Crace then ventured into the afterlife of the classics, digesting Death Comes to Pemberley by P.D James, cleverly weaving in the titles of Austen’s other novels before concluding that often, ‘a classic novel is not in want of a sequel’ – he was then reprimanded by an audience member for ‘ruining Emma’ for her – but then, we are all entitled to our opinion, it’s just made me want to read Emma again, after an absence of some 25 years.

Dr Phil Hammond: How to Get the Best from the NHS

Drphil

I’m comforted by the good Doctor shaking my hand on the way into Llwyfan Cymru, saying “You look well”. The night before, I was reminded of my upcoming 60th birthday when a question was asked of Jack Dee’s Help Desk about how (or more correctly who) to harvest a stool sample, as the NHS write to all of us approaching the big birthday, screening for bowel cancer.

The entertaining and informative session focussed on how we can fix the NHS. By taking responsibility for our own well-being, Dr Phil reckoned that over 70% of visits to the GP can be avoided.

I’m a T2 diabetic, and have successfully managed my condition by diet and exercise. Dr Phil illustrated his point by using CLANGERS as an acronym to assist people in living a healthy way:

C to Connect with people and don’t live in isolation to others;

L to Learn new things and continually challenge yourself;

A to be Active;

N to Notice the world around you and savour the moment;

G to Give Back, do something nice for someone, smile, volunteer;

E to Eat well;

R to Relax, take time out to chill; and

S to Sleep, getting 6-8 hours of good quality sleep is fundamental.

“Every day you don’t need to use the NHS, someone else benefits”.

An Afternoon with Pam Ayres

Pam-Ayres-promo

From the moment that Pam Ayres walked onto the Tata stage, she captivated her audience with humour, wit, facial expressions and a perfect sense of timing. Her introductory piece was a poem about the arrival of a letter from the pension office and it was the start of a series of hilarious poetry and stories which had the audience in an uproar, I have seen Pam Ayres on television but her impeccable delivery of her material and the twinkle in her eye can only be appreciated in a live show.

What was unexpected for me, was the sensitivity with which she described things such as the departure of her son for university and the arrival of her grandson into her family.

Most people know that her husband features in some of her material (not always in a positive way) and I think that he must have a forgiving nature as they have had a long marriage.

This session was one of my highlights of Hay Festival this year because I laughed so hard that my stomach ached for hours afterwards and it is wonderful to witness a true craftswoman practice her art.

Coastlines, The story of our shore by Patrick Barkham

Photograph by Martin Godwin.

Photograph by Martin Godwin.

A couple of years ago, I was sitting in the Reindeer in Norwich with Patrick when he spoke of his next writing project. The idea was to celebrate the 50th anniversary of “Enterprise Neptune”, the National Trust initiative to “..save the most precious portions of coast from rampaging tourism and industry”.

To date, some 742 miles of the total 3,000 coastline of England, Wales and Northern Ireland is now owned by the National Trust. Patrick’s book isn’t a travelogue, but a collection of stories about our relationships with the Coast forged by our childhood memories (building sand castles, inclement British summers), the romance of the sea (weekends in Brighton being cited in divorce cases) and the role that the Coast plays in providing a living and a defence in wartime.

Don’t expect a glossy coffee table book with loads of colour pictures, but a series of stories which paint a picture of how the Coast shapes our lives.