I have a confession to make. We’ve lived here for nearly six years, and The Wife was born in South Wales and her mother still lives here. So, we have had many opportunities to go to the Hay Festival. And this year was the first time we actually managed it!
An awkward distance
This was the first problem. According to a popular mapping website, the journey from home to the festival site was under an hour. But, we bought a week long ticket for the park and ride, so parking, catching the bus and getting into Hay itself added another fifteen to twenty minutes. Then there was security, venue changes, queues, etc. Factor in a bit of tractor-time (our route is all one lane A roads) and we ended up leaving between ninety minutes and two hours before our first lecture. In the end it was an annoying in-betweeny distance. Too close to justify paying out for an expensive B&B yet the daily travelling was a grind!
On the positive side
It was brilliant. I experienced the same feeling as going to a rock concert – that feeling that you’re home, among people like you. In the current times of Trump, Brexit and anti-intellectualism this was a real tonic. Just to be somewhere that thinking, debating and reading are normal was lovely. The talks, to be honest, varied slightly in quality. But they were, in the main, given by people who are good at writing books, not at public speaking. To keep it positive, honourable mentions go to Andy Stanton, Eleanor Rosamund Barraclough and Tony Robinson! Although it was tiring we, all five of us plus mother-in-law, had a really good time.
Time for a crossover
I don’t know if my readers are aware but I run two blogs. My other (not-so-secret) identity is writing The Penguins Knee – my life as a house-husband and father to three boys with Aspergers.
With this is mind, my boys found it a contradictory experience. They all loved being in a place of books, with the chance to see and meet some of the authors they know. On the other hand, it was a new place with big crowds. These crowds were very variable. When the talks were all in progress and during the weekdays it was pleasant – no queues for food, not much jostling, a chance to sit down and catch your breath. However, it was possible for literally thousands of people to come out of talks all at the same time. Which, for our Aspie boys (and us) can get overwhelming. Also, going up every day overloaded them – they needed more pyjama days interspersed with festival days.
On the up-side, they did get used to the place and find the food stalls they could eat from, the quiet places to recharge and generally settle into it. Overall it was an enormously positive experience for them. (Not so much for our bank balance but most of that was on food and books!) They all loved their time there.
Now that we’ve learnt the ropes we’ll definitely be going back. When the program is out I think we’ll be far more selective about when we go, where (or if) we stay and which talks we go to.
Did any of my readers go to Hay? What do you think?