Months ago, a friend and I had booked tickets for our kids to see one of their favourite authors and so we headed up through the damp Welsh countryside to the London literary outpost for a day of intellectual thought, musings and trying to grab the last seat in the cafe as we sheltered from the thundering rain.
The Teenager was suitably impressed that his talk would be held in the Google-sponsored tent (result) and at home later told me in reverential, hushed tones that the author had been ‘mint’ and had inspired him to read more (another result).
Anyway, we wandered around and settled down in the tented area for a picnic lunch, eschewing the over-priced venison burgers and alfalfa salad. I was dismayed to note that almost everyone, and I really do mean everyone, was in Hunter wellies and green wax jackets. My own boots were letting in water and squelched every time I walked.
Children with long, wild hair were happily munching on celery sticks and holding onto their crowns, made in the kids craft tent. Our kids, on the other hand, made a nuisance of themselves by pilfering the free cheese samples, going back again and again, claiming they needed yet another freebie for various fictional elderly relatives.
With two of our kids safely offloaded into the Google tent, we had a coffee, having sneaked into the ‘Friends’ tent. Apparently if you pay £25, you get priority booking and have a special ‘Friends’ queue at each event, a kind of highbrow ‘Fast-Track’ ticket you can buy at amusement parks. ‘Friends’ proudly displayed their special ID badges and elbowed past us at high speed.
It’s suitably apt that Hay is twinned with Timbuktu. It really was an out of the world, strange experience. Apparently the late singer-songwriter Ian Dury rewrote the lyrics to ‘Hit Me With Your Rhythm Stick’ at Hay in one of his last concerts – the famous line reading, ‘From the gardens of Babylon, all the way to lovely Hay.’ We ended our great day with chips from the chippy made famous by the DJ Chris Evans, who marveled at the fact they use a spray gun to slather the chips in vinegar. Who says we ain’t highbrow?