Hay Ho

Walking in the Rain

For the first time ever, we managed two nights with the grandparents without breaking anything.

There was one near miss, but that was me. I opened the oven and the door fell off. Apparently the screw had been loose for a while, so my clumsiness merely prompted my Dad to fix it.

No tins of paint were splashed across the floor.
No irreplaceable glass heirlooms were shattered into tiny shards of history.
Not one cereal bowl was chipped – I fed them in plastic ones just to be on the safe side.

I even managed to get them up into the hills for a family walk.

This took a combination of bribery (chocolate) and threats (early bedtime) but they went.
And despite getting soaked, and I mean soaked in a way that only being stuck near the top of the exposed hills of the Malverns with thick, black clouds all around can soak you, they enjoyed themselves. As I knew they would.

And there was Hay.

Mike was supposed to be coming too, so I’d booked two tickets for two children’s events, thinking they could go to one each, with one of us accompanying them.

But Mike had to work, and it was just me and them. So I sent them in on their own, saving a bit of cash and giving them the chance to feel grown-up.

This meant they got to see –

- a hilarious stand-up kids’ comedian, whose jokes I’ve now heard many times
- extracts from Cressida Cowell’s latest Dragonese book (due out at Christmas, so Ben tells me)
- the inside of a weird, white, recumbent giant, into which they disappeared for nearly an hour and where they were somehow persuaded to write a poem (Ben) and a story (Hannah).

I, on the other hand, got to see –

- the insides of two different cafes
- the outside of a recumbent giant
- tantalising schedules of author talks, which I’d have been interested to hear, but which the two small people would never have sat through without disrupting everyone else’s enjoyment

It wasn’t the plan, but a trois is a little different from a quatre.

I consequently felt a little disappointed with Hay. It’s much smaller than I’d expected, about as big as one of those GLC festivals that were always being held on the South Bank in the dying days of Ken’s old job.

But there was no live music (not in the daytime anyhow) and no sense of ad hoc literary gatherings popping up as we strolled about.

Perhaps, just like when I arrived at university expecting to sit up all night discussing philosophy and ethics, but found that the men there, like they were back at home, just wanted to get into my knickers, my expectations were unreasonably high.

It was very well organised, not over-crowded, and everything seemed to be starting on time. But I had the impression of an event that knows its market and is content with just that.

I was only there for a few hours over a couple of days, and my attention was mostly fixed on keeping the kids fed, watered, entertained and within sight. But I was expecting more of a buzz and a sense of exciting things happening in little corners that you might miss if you don’t heft your backpack onto your shoulders and trudge across the mud to have a butchers.

It’s always fascinating to sit and watch people though, and I got to do a lot more of that than usual.

And chez les grandparents, Hannah revealed her Grandpa’s place in her heart when she said she wanted to go downstairs before bed because,

“I want Grandpa to give me a midnight kiss.”

(She meant a bedtime kiss – but I prefer her version)

About Beta Mum

Here you can find the ramblings of a trapeze artist turned journalist who ran away from the circus to join the BBC. Cathy "mine's a Kir Royale" Keir then spent thirteen years working in Jersey, Guernsey and Devon, before downgrading to what you see before you. She has contributed articles to The Guardian, The Stage and Television Today, Junior Magazine and both the BBC and Bad Mothers Club websites. She has two children who think women can’t be prime ministers. She blames herself.
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5 Responses to Hay Ho

  1. lady macleod says:

    The grand parents are there and the oven door falls off?! Holy Hannah!

    I am disappointed to hear the bad review of Hay. I have always wanted to go there – all those books, but something always came up. Perhaps for the best?

  2. Beta Mum says:

    Lady M – I expect there are different experiences of Hay for different people. I, too, had always wanted to go. Perhaps taking the children was an error, especially without Mike.
    And it wasn’t just that the grandparents were there, it was at their house, and their oven door!

  3. Yes, I have found that children and literary festivals in general do not mix. Despite the events laid on for them. Probably because it necessitates too much concentration for parents.

  4. Like your posting’s title! Sorry the festival proved disappointing in some ways. Great though that Ben and Hannah wrote a poem and story. Sounds like you did get a lot out of it, despite being minus one. We’re hoping to manage something, goodness knows what exactly, at the Edinburgh Book Festival. I’ll bear in mind all you say about literary festivals. And by the way, when I went to university, (to study English) I had exactly the same experience you describe.

  5. I love the Malverns. I spent two summers in the area when I was a student, picking strawberries. We were in the triangle twixt Herefordshire, Worcestershire and Gloucestershire at a farm at the foot of the hills on the Herefordshire side.

    Went to Hay often, but never while the festival was on, unfortunately.

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