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Reflections of a working writer and reader



Sky Arts Party at Hay

We had non-transferable tickets (they were like gold dust) and went along legally to celebrate Hay’s 20th year and see if there was any food. We took the hotel proprietress, Miss Havisham, along though she had nothing suitable to wear and anyway would not have changed out of her tattered wedding gown for a corporate party (or for anything, actually). Her tiara was impressive, if a little greasy; and she clutched a bouquet of seeds.

The heavies on the gate wouldn’t let her in so she legged it around the back of Wyecliffe Gardens in the rain and we smuggled her into the main marquee through the bevy of smokers’ around the back flap and gave her a rubbing down with a dry towel. After that she was as good as she’s ever going to get. There was champagne on all night and while most of the punters were watching the skinny girls from the corps de ballet of the English National Ballet performing a kind of serial bossa nova dressed in classic tutus with men’s shirts and school ties, we began a serious drinking jag while attacking the shellfish, oysters, roasted vegetables, rare beef, smoked salmon, beetroot salad, buttered potatoes, feta, stilton, wensleydale, ryebread and strawberries.

It was dead good.

The marquees slowly filled with bright young female things in mini skirts and wellies and wide-eyed young male things in dicky-bows and wellies and the champers was brought to them by waiters and waitresses who were not prepared to take no for an answer. Not that many of us tried to say no. Miss Havisham, at one point, had a glass in each hand and a couple of spares under the table while she hopped from foot to foot to the slow beat from a string quartet high on Eleanor Rigby.

We had to restain her when the corps de ballet returned and she joined them on the tiny stage, trying to pinch their bottoms while singing at the top of her rather croaky voice. There was never any real danger, I hasten to add, because the toothpick-thin girls who made up the corps, didn’t have enough fat between them to fashion even one decent-sized arse.

A good night, then, and a fitting finale to our sojourn in Hay on Wye. The rain was still coming down but the nice people at Sky had provided a few rather large men with even larger umbrellas to escort us to, and return us from, the distant portacabins which were used as temporary lavatories.

The next morning Miss Havisham was mawkish and tearful again and insisted on kissing us before we left for the long journey home. Terrible teeth.

4 Responses to “Sky Arts Party at Hay”

  1. Lee says:

    Love this post – probably far more than I’d have enjoyed being there.

    jb says: Depends who you’re with, I always find, Lee.

  2. Lee says:

    Well, yes, you have a good point.

  3. anne says:

    Who you’re with can make all the difference, indeed, but this whole escapade sounds more like a rock or folk festival than anything to do with books. One can get mud, music, food and drinks anywhere there are fields and organizers, after all.

    jb says: Publishers want writers to be like rock stars, Anne. It will probably turn out to be one of their biggest mistakes.

  4. Agree with Lee.
    What fun reading this, John. By the time I got to the end, I knew you would have nothing nice to say about poor Miss. Haversham’s treasured teeth! Thanks for the laugh. 🙂