After seven wonderful days and nights in Hay, we have returned to our Kentish seaside abode, awash with good food and drink and many inspiring memories. There really cannot be any literary festival anywhere in the world that can hold a candle to the joy that is Hay. Personal highlight of the week was the evening with Alan Bennett and Nicholas Hytner, as they discussed “The Lady in the Van”, and at the end of which the former was presented with the Hay Medal for Drama. It was a very moving moment and an absolute privilege to be witness to. The hills and vales of Wales are now far behind us. The process of longing for Hay 2016 has begun.
The last full day at the festival with friends is always tinged with a little sadness and some degree of exhaustion. Early mornings, late nights, overloading on fizzy, ice creams and irregular sleeping patterns fail to spoil our enjoyment however. Listening to Marcus Brigstocke talk to Steve Punt (a.k.a Eric Idle) and Will Smith (Veep and The Thick of It) about their comedy inspirations and early career was both funny and inspiring. The session reminds of how much brilliant comedy our wonderful nation has produced, long may it continue, although the medium of delivery for new comics may be changing (i.e. YouTube)
The sun is shining again and I’ve got far too many layers on today to be comfortable, so it’s refreshing to be in the cooler Telegraph stage for the delightful Vikram Seth, in what seemed to be a vehemently ‘Guardian’ audience. Much to our delight one audience member confessed that she asked for a copy of the Guardian at the Telegraph stand…
So I’m off to buy a copy of Vikram’s new volume of poetry, A Summer Requiem, after admittedly struggling with A Suitable Boy (must get round to it soon) after listening to him talk about his life, his writing, his love of the ‘red stuff’ (like myself, he finds it aids working…) and music.
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. In the US in 1990 during the promotional tour for ‘Good Omens’ after a memorable and chaotic radio interview the two of them 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.
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.