Jenny Valentine is Creative Wales Hay Festival International Fellow 2017/18, travelling to each Hay Festival edition to meet with young people and explore the experience of adolescence. Here the award-winning writer offers her second dispatch from Hay Festival Querétaro 2017…

I am sitting at the accidental head of the table in a small dark restaurant in a pretty street in Queretaro. It is late. Huge plates of food are being passed around. Mescal is served in a gourd-bottomed bowl. A man plays guitar very close. If I reached out my right hand, I could play it with him.

At this table there are distinguished novelists, climate change scientists, investigative journalists, historians, philosophers, mathematicians. They are discussing the fortune tellings they have just received from a budgie.

“Mine was called Lucas.” A BBC journalist. Longtime hero of mine.

“Mine was definitely called Antonio.” A scientist. New hero of mine.

Antonio and Lucas – one blue, one green – have been introduced with no little ceremony and quite an air of seriousness. Their keeper carries them in a painted wooden cage and explains in a soft voice how this is going to go. Each has a tiny door through which to escape onto the fortune-telling platform. The keeper holds a box of tiny folded papers. The budgie meets the client, considers the matter, apparently, and then plucks at one of the folds with its beak.

“I’m going to have an important meeting in September,” somebody reads, without a hint of irony.

“Bells are going to be a theme in the next few weeks,” says another.

The chieftan and committed rationalist in our midst puts his head in his hands in despair.