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Hay Days 1 & 2

May 29, 2010

Well, after another eventful year, we are back at Hay on Wye for the literature festival. It is so much more than that though. Comedy, music, philosophy, politics, the events on offer cross the broadest spectrum of the arts, there is something for everyone to enjoy. Even those who hardly ever read a book (and you know who you are guys…). This year we went straight into the events, just a couple of hours after we arrived to glorious May sunshine. One of my favourite authors, Ian McKewan gave us an hour of great entertainment, reading from his new novel Solar – a hugely comical reading, somewhat of a departure from his usual dark works. “Literature is, after all,  just an enquiry into human nature”, he says.  From comical literature we then had a mad dash to our next event, Andrew Marr. He spoke eloquently and without a script about the research that went into his book The Making of Modern Britain. It makes you realise how events almost repeat themselves through the generations – his journey through the world of music hall entertainers, builders who invented the semi-detached house (Taylor-Woodrow, started out as a 16-year-old boy and his uncle working together), to the inventor of the nightclub – mimicked today by our modern-day entertainers and entrepeneurs. 

The site last night was quiet yet buzzing. Such a different story today. The heavens have opened and it seems like the entire population of festival goers was crammed beneath the covers. Middle-class manners went out the window, or so it seemed – perhaps this was a repeat of last years Hay-rage (see Jillyblogspot for an explanation!). Work was still at the back of my mind, so perhaps a little more relaxation (and alcohol) is required. The big event was Bill Bryson at 10am. I cannot remember the last time I was up and out before 9am at the weekend!  He looks just like a favourite, warm uncle you remember from your childhood, all jumpers and tweed and beard. Strange how the English have now adopted him as a national treasure, strange for a nation who normalyl looks down its collective nose at the Americans. His new book looks at the make-up of a typical English house, a kind of etymological journey, for instance where does the term “Bed & Board” come from? Apparently from hundreds of years ago, where a bed could be bought for the night, and if a meal was included it was eaten from a piece of board which hung up in the room. Saves on washing up I guess! It was reassuring to hear Bill admit, when questioned, that he now considers himself to be English, and he would support England in the upcoming World Cup. Yet scared to take the citizenship test, because of the oddball questions that perhaps some of us would struggle to answer! I guess it’s there to test how serious an applicant is about becoming a British citizen. The day was rounded off brilliantly by a Sky Arts live recording of Songbook with Kelly Jones (Stereophonics) talking to Bob Harris about how he writes songs and his journey to stardom told through the songs. We were treated to him singing many of them during the 2 hour session, I think our up and coming “stars” – and I’m thinking of the Pop Idol creations here – could learn a lot from someone like him. Probably one of the best live voices I’ve ever heard, partnered with a brilliant interviewer in Bob Harris.

So, it’s back to base for more alcohol, lets hope it gives me the “chill out” feeling I so desperately need!!

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