Monday, June 07, 2010
Yes, the clouds which drifted over the valley on Sunday were a rather more ominous slate-grey colour but, rather amazingly, not a single drop of rain fell. The day started with what would turn out to be one of the funniest things I heard all festival, and it wasn't even from one of the speakers, but some young guy sat next to us. Here's the conversation as I remember it...
Him: "Are you going in for Richard Herring?"
Me: "Is that who's guesting on The Early Edition? Then, yes, I guess."
Him: "I saw him in Newport, it was a grotty place but he was great."
Me: "That's the lot of the touring comedian, I think, playing grotty places."
Him: "Are you in stand up then, that sounds like the voice of experience."
Me: "Oh no, that just seems to be the way for them."
Him: "I'm in a double act actually."
Me: "Oh have you been to the Edinburgh Fringe then?"
Him: "God no, never been north of York. Can't see the point."
We hadn't actually pre-booked anything for the Sunday, but enjoying the ambiance (and, it has to be said, catering, of which there's lots) we got tickets for the final Early Edition before leaving on Saturday. It wasn't so early on Sunday, in fact - 2.30pm - but when you're on holiday that's no bad thing. The show, which has grown out of the cancelled Late Edition but since flourished in live form at Edinburgh, is hosted by Marcus Brigstocke (here sporting a rather dashing goatee for his role as King Arthur in Spamalot) and Andre Vincent, and they were joined by Carrie Quinlan and, er... well I forget actually, but definitely not Richard Herring, as it turned out. In a week dominated by events in Cumbria, it may not have been a classic time to spin comedy gold from current affairs, but luckily Brigstocke's nemesis Peter Hitchens had written a column with the headline "Actually, the Israelis weren't tough enough"; a piece which elicited the most wonderful use of the phrase "shit the bed" to denote incredulity I have ever heard.
We then caught the little shuttle bus into the centre of Hay, and while the bookshops were great (they're why the festival is where it is, of course), none were as wonderful to me as Mostly Maps, a shop which does as described. Not just any old maps though of course, but really old, really beautiful maps, and all original. Some from the 17th century! As I said rather grandly on Twitter: "my cup runneth over, my pockets alas do(th) not." Some of the maps weren't so expensive - ones from the 19th century were often under £30 - but the really evocative ones from 1650 and earlier could set you back the best part of a grand.
Tucked away in the Hay Fever (kids') tent was a brilliant exhibition curated by House of Illustration, who'll soon open their doors as the country's leading museum of illustrations. They'd asked the very top illustrators to create a picture containing all of their favourite things - book, place, animal, comfort etc - and it provoked some really beautiful pictures, sketches and collages. Unfortunately, I suspect its positioning meant that not as many people saw it as it deserved...
And that was Hay. Or, a very small portion of it, but a lovely first time that is unlikely to be my last. Hearing Charlie Higson talk about writing, about reworking and improving and beautifying did actually spark a little interest in me of trying to write fiction again which isn't something I've done for, well, probably about ten years actually, so at least in a very small way I think Hay can feel it has done its job pretty successfully.