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.
A most entertaining and very moving hour was spent last night in the company of Jude Law as he performed in an ensemble reading of My dear Bessie, the letters that passed between two lovers during the last years of the Second World War, and which now form the basis of a book of the same name.
Many a festival goer will have left this event with a lump in the throat and a tear in the eye. I know that I did. Such was the popularity of this particular piece that the scrum for seats was a little unseemly as the doors opened to permit admittance. Many a sharp middle class elbow was brought to bear as certain of the Friends of the festival showed that they were able to behave in a rather unfriendly fashion in order to bag a prime position. Such, I suppose, is the allure of Mr. Law. Normal civilised behaviour was resumed as he took to the stage, although the rapid beating of adjacent female hearts was almost audible.
Colim Toibin provided much entertainment this morning in his own inimitable fashion, though one’s eyes were oft diverted by the very easy on the eye, Sarah Churchwell. Right now we find ourselves waiting in line for admission unto the presence of Jude Law, whilst Germaine Greer burbles from within. One of the pleasures of Hay is always the ability to watch and listen during downtime. Thus today we have been much entertained by the kind of conversations that would do justice to the scriptwriters of W1A or 2012. The pleasures of being nosey.
Our second day in Hay dawns with a new determination to exercise a degree more diligence to the cause than was exhibited yesterday, for yesterday the lure of the festival bar and myriad eateries proved too much for one whose flesh is sadly weak in relation to such matters. So here we are bright and early and fully equipped for a long day at the races. Shortly, one of Ireland’s national literary treasures,
Colm Toibin, beckons. Thereafter, an edition of BBC3’s educational and entertaining series “The Essay”, and last but by no means least, and much to the delight and delectation of the lady of the party, the eponymous Jude Law, the man earmarked to play me in the inevitable forthcoming biopic. Indulge me in my dreams. Pip pip and anon.
A journey from the depths of deepest, darkest Kent necessitated being hoofed out of bed at an unholy hour by She Who Must be Obeyed. Much unimpressed as I was, I dutifully complied with her ministrations. The fickle motorway gods were, for a change, beneficent. Thus we arrived in these parts at high noon. Having been buffeted by the slings and arrows of outrageous isobars last year, it was a pleasant suprise to be greeted by the sun.
Sadly neglectful of my literary duties I regret to advise that my first port of call was one of the purveyors of beer, wine, pizza and other assorted delights. As Brendan Behan was a drinker with a writing problem, so am I a reader. After a stern talking to, normal literary service will be resumed in due course.
As thousands of book obsessives descend upon the Hay Festival to indulge their passion for all things bookish, our friends at Vintage Books have today tendered advice on Twitter to those worried about the age old, time versus books to be read, conundrum.
Having fairly recently raised my bat to the pavilion to acknowledge the applause for my half century, and having a singular inability to keep my book buying within civilised norms, this is a subject that has been much on my mind of late. I am sure I am not alone. We must therefore doff the titfer to Vintage for advising that the secret of life is not 42, but garlic. Demand for the same in all relevant outlets in and around Hay is likely to assume Gold Rush proportions in the days ahead. You have been warned. Clove up booklovers.
As Hay beckons and a week of nervous perusal of various weather apps comes to a close, decisions of great import have to be taken. After the weather of last year the wellies are, of course, a given. Other sartorial choices remain the subject of in house discussion with She Who Must be Obeyed. The only certainty is that I am sure to pack an awful lot less than her and probably be insufficiently equipped on the sock and other undergarment front.
The other major decision revolves around the choice of reading material for the week ahead. That is something that has detained me a good deal longer than the clothing issue. Whatever choice comes to be made on that front, the only certainty is that way too much will be chosen for the journey west. The six hour trek across country thus beckons on Saturday morning, with Ian McMillan and Radio 3’s The Verb as the lure for an early start from Kent and a correspondingly early arrival.
The rest of the week promises so much, including tickets to see Alan Bennett, Colm Toibin, David Lodge and Jude Law, amongst myriad others. The rest of the time holds out the chance to pause and reflect, to look and linger, to ponder and read, and indulge on the fabulous food and drink that the festival places before you by way of temptation. And like the great Oscar I can resist everything except temptation.