THE HAY METROPOLIS – PAUL CARTLEDGE

THE HAY METROPOLIS – PAUL CARTLEDGE

 

As I write this short blog, I am wearing my Herodotus t-shirt: ‘HERODOTUS’ is emblazoned in capital letters above an Ionic column on the front, ‘Smarter than You’ on the back. This is in tribute to my ‘Herodotus 2500′ talk on Monday May 29th, event no 188 on the Good Energy (nomen omen) stage.

This wasn’t the first time I’d made Hay, far from it. The first time, I dimly remember, I was housed in a small hotel slap bang in the centre of town and took the complimentary bus to and from the Festival site, in all weathers. But since then my ambitions – and connections – have grown far grander: I consider myself extraordinarily fortunate to have been several times the guest of Clare College Cambridge (my own college) alumnus Paul Greatbatch and his equally remarkable wife Elizabeth Haycox, owners of the focal Richard Booth Bookshop. Thanks to them, I’ve woken up to breakfast with the likes of Mervyn King, if indeed Lord King has any likes, been treated to glittering parties and dinners, at one of the latest of which I found myself sitting with Jesse Norman the MP for Hereford on my left, and opposite my hostess Corisande Albert (a former Greats student of one of my best Oxford mates, Oliver Taplin) and (Lord) Terry Burns, and on my other side a salt of the earth Welsh farmer who regaled me with stories of Dylan (Thomas, not GQ’s Jones) and the recording of Under Milk Wood, and of his grandfather’s exploits with the Welsh Regiment in WWI…. Where else in the world could one encounter personally within the space of 24 hours as I did – not necessarily for the first time – Clemmie Burton-Hill, Yanis Varoufakis, (Lord) Martin Rees, Gillian Tett (a Clare alumna), Owen Sheers, Blanche McIntyre, Philippe Sands, (Baroness) Helena Kennedy … the list is endless.

And that’s not to mention the lovely Colm Toibin and my old mucker Bettany Hughes with whom I not only danced but also shared a BBC R3 platform in their ‘Free Thinking’ series to discuss ‘Women’s Voices in the Clssical World’ and to read – in the original Greek – some of Euripides’s Medea tragedy. I’ve long learned to respect and admire hugely the enormous ingenuity of the Festival’s co-founder and leading/guiding spirit, Peter Florence. He’s been good enough to introduce me most generously at the start of several of my talks, but an even finer knack of his is to cajole and flatter one into doing far more than what you thought you had originally been signed up to do. Over the years for example I’ve been ‘in conversation with’ Adam Nicolson, another Hay stalwart (our podcast is still sadly available online), or taken part in other panel discussions like the ‘Women’s Voices’ just mentioned, or been sound-interviewed and videoed for various more broadly educational purposes.

In fact the three minutes I spent doing a ‘Haylevel’ (!) video on the Odyssey for A-level students yesterday was probably the most valuable three minutes I spent on this last visit. I got back to my home in Cambridge only at 2 a.m. this morning (thanks, GWR) – but this was as nothing. I am still buzzing with all I learned and saw and felt over my 24 hours in Hay – the metropolis as it happens of my maternal grandmother, Christabel Wallis, and of course the world.