Posts Tagged ‘Memorial’


Tickets and stuff

Tickets and stuff

Four weeks ago, I entered an online prize draw to win complimentary tickets for two people to five events at the Hay Festival. I know someone has to win these things, and I keep entering on the off-chance… but I never really thought I’d win this one. Then the email came: “Congratulations, Phillippa…” and I nearly junked it as spam. Luckily, I didn’t.

Along with the tickets came a Friends pass, which gave us access to the Friends tent and priority access to the events. And a beautiful slip of paper confirming I didn’t have to pay a penny.

Hay Festival

The Hay Festival site

The venue is lovely – 15 minutes walk outside Hay town centre, but there’s a shuttle bus for £1 a day if you’re feeling lazy. Lots of houses along the road had set up stalls for antiques, tea and cakes, funky clothes, jewellery… we didn’t get a chance to see them, too busy rushing backwards and forwards to events. Next time…

Literary bunting

They know how to do bunting in Hay!

So we (Kristin and I) arrived at 10.30 after sharing the driving from Nottingham, and went in search of breakfast. A strange tea shop obliged – it’s tiny, but has enough bunting and union-jack-ery inside to decorate Nottingham’s Council House. The chocolate cake was delicious though.

Got the bus to the site, collected tickets, spent an entrancing hour listening to Alain de Botton talking about the positive aspects of religion that atheists shouldn’t throw out with the rest of it. Hilarious to hear Richard Dawkins described as ‘mood music from Oxford’. I wrote pages and pages of notes, and have a lot to think about as a result. I think I’ll wait till the book’s out in paperback though, £18.99 is a bit steep.

Amazing Grating

Spotted this grating underfoot… had to take a photo… passersby thought I was weird. I guess they’d be right, at that.

Had a look around the site, found a shop selling notebooks with a map of Lundy on the cover. Didn’t buy one, but plan to make one as soon as I have a spare moment. Then into Hay for lunch, and lots of shopping. Of course. Missed a couple of the events we’d booked, but we didn’t pay for them, and one cannot go to Hay without visiting at least a few bookshops.

Brave New World

Brave New World… in Korean. There has to be some irony there…

I found a few gems, but didn’t get anywhere near my previous form – the other five or six times I’ve been to Hay I’ve invariably gone home with over 100 new books. This time I managed to keep it down to ten. My favourite is Brave New World in Korean, which cost me £2. Unfortunately I couldn’t find a Korean-English dictionary.

I also got a book on logo design, two pamphlets from Cambridge University Press on manuscript proofreading/layout and indexing (priced at 2/6, which prompted me to try and explain Old Money to Kristin, unsuccessfully), Alain de Botton’s Consolations of Philosophy, and every book by Alice Oswald that I didn’t already own… more on that shortly.

Sheep Poo Paper

Yes, it is really made from sheep poo. I fully anticipate my mother setting up in business before long…

At one point we walked past a shop window and, glancing in, I saw it was a bookbindery. Wow! So of course I went in, drooled over the beautiful notebooks on sale for far too much money, chatted to the bloke, then saw a display of very odd cards and bookmarks. Had to buy a card for my mum – who has a flock of sheep – not so sure now it was a good idea!

Back to the festival site for a talk on the UK and Europe, given by three Cambridge professors who were very full of themselves. Kristin (sensibly) power-napped, while I wrote a poem about one of the profs. The Q&A session was interesting, so it wasn’t a complete dead loss.

Alice Oswald

Alice Oswald

Then… Alice Oswald performing Memorial. The Old Bat has a new heroine. It’s a fantastic book-length poem, to start with. She calls it ‘an excavation of the Iliad’. It’s an elegy for the men who died in the Trojan war. The words name them, bring them to life, and kill them (brutally, in most cases). Then they paint images that somehow find reflections of man’s brutality in nature… and each image repeats, driving home the message and forcing you to think about it in light of itself, to think about the beginnings in light of the endings, to understand.

Oswald performed the poem, almost in its entirety, from memory. She stood for an hour, speaking the words in a calm but impassioned and relentless tone, no pauses or stumbles, telling us about these men. It was literally (and I use that word advisedly) spellbinding. I have never seen or heard anything like it.

And, fellow Nottingham poetry-lovers, she’s COMING TO NOTTINGHAM sometime soon-ish! I don’t know details yet, but she said Matt Welton has booked her to appear at Nottingham University. You Must Go.


I’m still buzzing!

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