The Hay Winter Festival
I am staying at what in my contract said was Somerville House Hotel and what isactually as it says on the swinging sign Somerville Bed and Breakfast. A seeminglyinnocuous mistake? As an introduction to the accomodation information in my contract it says No Bed And Breakfasts.
I am on the border of Wales deep in the countryside - Hereford - in the shadow of The Black Mountains. I wake at 5.30am and descend at 7am. It is dark. The dining room is locked. A head pops around the corner of the downstairs room “bit early” says the owner. I have woken up the entire house. Nice breakfast, all local produce.
The Chauffeur which is what he is called in the contract picks me up at 9am and whisks me away for a half hour drive through hedgerow lined roads which seem to get smaller and smaller, to a beautiful school - very Harry Potter - where Ruth Hay is waiting. Ms Hay works for The Hay Festival and this event is part of The Hay Festival Winter Weekend. The reading is for one hour at from 10am to 11am. The trooping children pour into the hall. They are all first years. There are junior school children here too on a school visit. They sit on mats on the floor and peer upwards at me like spring lambs.
It’s a while since I have read at a school. The head teacher is a character and clearly a good head teacher. The school recently aquired two LAMA. I have never seen a school with two Lama! Wonderful. I read for forty minutes and we have a hilarious time ending with questions and answers. Children work hard and deserve to have fun when meeting a writer. In no time I am back in the car. It takes me four hours to get back to London. The feedback is already happening through my text. I love what I do. But I should give myself more time to write.
The festival gave me a Goody Bad, three bottles of wine, Cava, a red and a white, a moleskin Hay notepad. Very nice and some AVEDA hand cream as writers use there hands. The hand cream is called hand relief which is a fruity title for ten am in the morning at a school. Don’t even go there says Ruth hay. I may later I reply.
On arrival in Paddington I go straight to the south bank, pick up my bike and drop off thebag of alcohol. I don’t drink. But t this time of year three bottles of alcohol is good for hospitality. I bike it through the pouring rain back to home arriving at 8pm. It is Kari’s birthday but I am just too shattered to get back out of the house. The journalist has gone. Something in me tells me I should just get changed out of my sopping clothes and go out. But I am wasted.
It's the what the driver said that stuck in my mind. We were talking about the hay festival and Hay on Wye, the town. "Can't move for bookshops" he says. "there's the second second first world..." he stops and starts again "there's a bokshop that is the second first...." he start again " it's the worlds bookshop first no the second bookshop". I try to help him "oh the worlds first bookshop was here". he grips the wheel of the land rover tighter "no! its the second second bookshop in the world. No No No". This is all getting a little intense I thought. "Beautiful weather" I say as we swish through the ribbon like lanes. There's a long long silence. We arrive and before I unleash my seatbelt he leans over veryclose so I can smell his minty breath "It's where the first second hand bookshop in the world is..." he says, clearly relieved. As I am too. .