Packing for Hay

God, I feel bloody. Don’t know why. Hardly touched a drop last night, as the skinflint landlord of The Turks Head proved unwilling to stretch my credit, and if it hadn’t been for Sir Sidney Nolan, Australia’s greatest painter standing me a few pints, I don’t know what I would have done. Gone without, I suppose, as so often.

Mind you, when you get to be my great age, unexplained ailments can overtake one at any moment. Here’s an extract from my diary which I found this morning:

Tuesday, June 01, 2004


It is always a huge privilege to be invited to speak at the Hay Festival of Literature, one which has been long denied me. This is a woeful oversight which I have taken somewhat to heart. What do you have to do to get invited?
Imagine my surprise and delight, then, if you will, when my old sparring partner Stephen Spender asked me to share the platform with him at this years festival, subject; ‘Whither Socialist poetry?’
I agreed at once, as this is a subject to which I have given a great deal of thought. On the morning of the event, a car driven by an ex-ostrich farmer from South Africa came out to the house to pick me up, and I was whisked into the saloon bar of The Blue Boar, where I spent a most pleasant late morning, afternoon and early evening in the company of some roofers from Chepstow, who had just been paid on completion of a job of work, and whose free-spending habits reconfirmed my commitment to the working class.
Unfortunately, a pork pie I took for my lunch must have disagreed with me, because by the time of the talk, at 8 ‘o’ clock, I was most unwell. I was sick over Spender’s brogues, and had to be helped from the Festival site.
Now Stephen isn’t talking to me. I’m told that my chance of being asked back have lessened somewhat, to put it mildly. Moral; in future, (and both Ledbury and Cheltenham have put out feelers for next year), I shall avoid solids before my talk.

I’ll be staying in Hay for much of this year’s Festival, and hopefully filing blogs for my loyal readers. I’m packing my valise this afternoon, and heading off in the morning. My needs are modest and few; a change of underwear and my shaving gear, a third class return ticket from Moreton-in-Marsh to Hereford, and fifty quid lent to me by my brother’s companion Eric, who sold a Welsh dresser of questionable provenance to a couple of bug-eyed Yanks at the weekend, and who is subsequently in funds. Cheers Eric! Sing Ho! for Hay!

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