Making Hay While the Rain Falls

Hay Festival

Hay Festival Deck Chair © 2012 Mufidah Kassalias

Life on the road, especially without a laptop or mobile phone signal, makes for a much trickier time of things when it comes to keeping up with my blog and communications in general. Whilst in Wales I took a few photographs and wrote in my journal, but had no way — other than the often-closed public library — to transform any of these into blog posts. Now that we’re in Lille, France and I’ve been reunited with my laptop there is much to catch up on …

Okay, so that was about two weeks ago! Since Lille we visited Paris and Fontainebleau en route to Vichy where I’m now sitting in our tent looking out at the darkening skies as the approaching thunderstorm heralds a change in the weather. But more of this later; for now it’s back to Wales and the Hay Festival.

We spent almost two weeks in Hay-on-Wye in Wales, first of all camping in unseasonably warm, sunny weather before being rained out of our tent on the sixth night. If you’ve ever woken up with water seeping up through the floor of your tent you’ll know it’s a rather soggy experience, but we were fortunate to be camping at Black Mountain View Caravan Park where the owners, James and Nerys, were both extremely helpful in offering to dry our self-inflating mats in the boiler room, as well as allowing us to hang our tent in the barn to dry before folding and packing it away. This could have been the end of our trip had Caroline (co-owner of The Granary café that Sean and I worked in for a few days) and her husband Gary not invited us to stay with them in the nearby village of Clyro.

Sadly my Merrell walking shoes were not so fortunate: despite being waterproof they somehow managed to get soaked inside, and as it was such a wet morning I only realised this once we’d arrived at The Granary to work. Knowing my feet were in for an uncomfortable morning, Sean popped back to the car to pick up my boots and I swapped cold, wet shoes for dry boots. Bliss. I then put the shoes in a bag to be dealt with later and all would have been well had I remembered to take them out of the bag that evening to dry out in the warmth of the house in Clyro, but it wasn’t until three or four days later that I remembered and in the intervening period the shoes had begun to smell damp and musty. A sad moment indeed. I’ve now dried them out but still need to do something about the musty smell so plan to wash and sun dry them on the first hot, sunny day.

After the heavy rains that swept us from Black Mountain View to the house in Clyro it continued to rain much of the time; but on the afternoon we visited the Hay Festival site the sun shone and we wandered around soaking up its rays and the literary atmosphere. In between events people could be found enjoying a delicious Shepherds ice cream or settling down to a good read on one of the many benches and deck chairs peppered around the site. I snapped a few shots of unsuspecting festival readers and this one of the guy with the mirrored shades is one of my favourites.

Reading 'Bird Sense' by Tim Birkhead

Reading ‘Bird Sense’ by Tim Birkhead © 2012 Mufidah Kassalias

The philosophy and music festival, How the Light Gets In, which runs alongside the literary festival is also a relaxed affair and takes place at The Globe, an in-town venue with enough green space to accommodate a number of marquees that house everything from music to various gastronomic delights — including delicious Pieminister pies such as Pietanic (fish) and Jubilee (coronation chicken), which Sean and I enjoyed before heading to the music tent to listen to The Goodtime Family — a band we had stumbled upon in the town earlier in the afternoon.

The Goodtime Family

The Goodtime Family Busking in Hay-on-Wye © 2012 Mufidah Kassalias

In the midst of the festivities, and while the rain continued to fall, Sean started looking for a venue to run a couple of creative writing workshops. After a few of days of being referred to this person and that, we managed to find a spot at Richard Booth’s Bookshop, the largest bookshop in town. We then spent the next few days promoting the workshops — designing and producing flyers without our usual technical set up of laptops, laser printer, paper cutter and laminator — which was quite a challenge given that we were in a small town over the Jubilee weekend with a closed library and no print shop. But Hay is the kind of town where you get to know people very quickly and before we began looking for an alternative to the library a guy called Matt invited us to use his laser printer, which turned out to be in his freerein office just outside of Clyro — so not only did we get some much-needed printing done we also said hello to some sweet, friendly horses. And so we slipped into the Hay groove, getting to know the locals and running a couple of good creative writing workshops in a lovely, inspiring venue in the centre of town, dealing with the challenges of the weather and making hay while the rains fell.

Richard Booth's Bookshop

Richard Booth’s Bookshop © 2012 Mufidah Kassalias

16 responses

  1. the rain in the tent adventure (or misadventure depending on how you see it at different points of time) is something that happened to us once and even though it was an uncomfortable night then, it is an experience that we look back very fondly now :)

    but yeah hopefully that remains a singular episode in the rest of your trip. Hope to hear and see more of your trip soon !

    • Yes, we already look back at the (mis)adventure with fond memories. We have a new tent (which we had already ordered before the flooding incident) and so far it’s holding up really well in the heavy rains we’ve had here in Vichy. It’s got a much higher rated water resistance with integrated groundsheets (one for the main tent and the other for the bedroom. Will hopefully post more very soon :-)