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Reflections of a working writer and reader



Miss Havisham of Hay

The adventure begins here:

It was then that I began to understand that everything in the room had stopped, like the watch and the clock, a long time ago… I glanced at the dressing table again, and saw that the shoe upon it, once white, now yellow had never been worn. I glanced down at the foot from which the shoe was absent, and saw that the silk stocking on it, once white, now yellow, had been trodden ragged. Without the arrest of everything, this standing still of all the pale decayed objects, not even the withered bridal dress on the collapsed form could have looked so like grave-clothes, or the long veil so like a shroud.

I had to think of Dickens’ description of Miss Havisham – the jilted bride from Great Expectations – when we arrived at the Lioness Hotel on the outskirts of Hay on Wye today. For the proprietress was her, or someone very similar. A phobic lady indeed, allowing her own dark internal landscape to pervade the rooms and hallways of the establishment where we are to spend the next few days.

The reception area was a darkened room, and Miss Havisham (I can no longer think of her by any other name) in her yellowed bridal gown, bikers’ boots, sunglasses and tattered lace gloves did her best to make us feel welcome. She was a little tearful, but over a long and rather full lifetime I have learned not to take these things personally. She’s obviously experienced trauma at some time in the past.

We decided to put to one side something that otherwise might interfere with our own great expectations of the stay in Hay.

However, on discovering that we were double-booked at the Lioness with a couple of young aristocrats, I was preparing to throw a fit and demand my rights. Only the growing awareness that everyone else – my own partner and the aristocrats in particular – seemed to feel there may be something to gain from the situation, led me to a change of mind for the time being.

The aristos – the marchioness and marquis of Wilsey – seem to have adopted us and have already offered us a lift to the festival site tomorrow in their pale yellow helicopter. With surprising alacrity on my part I have adjusted to the overcrowding of the double room we all share. The other couple are quite young, punkish in a delightfully old-fashioned way and frightfully upper-crust. Terribly skinny, especially her, mindful of all those programmes on eating disorders we’ve watched on the telly. According to her husband (taking a nap at the moment, snoring quietly and mumbling something about his irritable skin condition) she is the kind of woman who always wants something in her mouth.

We haven’t met the other guests properly, although they are there, in the background with their double-barrelled (sometimes treble-barrelled) names, their horsy laughter, their golf-clubs, and their pearls.

Festivals are great, aren’t they? I love this feeling of being taken out of the ordinary, every-day routine of life and plunged into the stream of unpredictability.

2 Responses to “Miss Havisham of Hay”

  1. Lee says:

    Lovely, vivid post. But as to sharing rooms and Miss Havershams, this doesn’t bode well for festive spirits.

    jb says: I can rise above.

  2. Seb says:

    This is a beautiful post and, much like a Dickensian serial, I can’t wait to find out what happens next! That’s terrible news about the double-booked room though. It’s fortunate you have such interesting room-mates… If there’s anything you need me to sort out while you’re enjoying the festival, just drop me a line.