This will be the last of Hay as I’m getting a distinct sense of Hay-on-Wick, so won’t summarise the presentations as there were some 500 of them.
Well, maybe one or two: outstanding was one by an American named David Bodanis about a book called Passionate Minds, about Voltaire and his girlfriend, Emilie du Chatelet. Great talk, but the book won’t be out in the US until October and Amazon UK won’t give a date, which is a bit of a cheat. A book festival is surely about available books, not future ones.
Another was by Alan Plater, playwright, novelist, jazz freak and freakily funny. He squeezes jazz into all his plays, no matter how tangentially – one of my favourites is called The Beiderbecke Trilogy, in which, although I’ve seen it twice, I still can’t find anything to do with the great Bix except possibly the incidental music. Alan was a big mate of the late great Ronnie Scott, and I suspect wrote much of his stuff. (Example: a dyslexic Japanese who every 7th December attacks Pearl Bailey.)
An increasing problem with Hay is its size: it gets bigger every year, and now the speakers, instead of mingling as they used to, are cloistered like Trappist monks or rock stars. Two years ago we met Bill Clinton for free: this year the only way you could get to see Al Gore was to pay £35 ($50) – and he was only a VP. We abstained, but he was a sell-out anyway. (Then the shysters had the nerve to charge a fiver to watch him on CCTV.)
When just leaving for Hay, I get this incredible piece of news – that my book on the French Riviera is about to go paperback. Wow! This never happened to me before. I’m not even sure what it means, except that presumably the hardback sold well – and, more importantly, that my commission rate goes down.
I also finished the amazing ‘Liverpool’ book that CJ gave me and which inspired last week’s posts. ‘Amazing’ because the author’s life story continued to mirror my own: born in Walton, Liverpool, lived through the Blitz, went to Alsop’s, joined RAF and was posted to an RAF station at Padgate, a small village in the north. (I won’t say what happened next in case CJ wants to read the book himself, but I can say that the author and I were eventually surgically separated.)
What’s even more odd is that when, (as parents do), I took CJ to college, his campus happened to be at – dramatic pause – Padgate. And on precisely the same spot on which my – and the author’s - old RAF station had once stood. Weird, no?