I am moved by Lady Percy. CLICK HERE - see if you agree.
Otherwise my novels, short stories, verse, family, music, memories,
vulgar interests, detestations, responses, apologies, and - more
recently - learning to sing. I hold posts to 300 words* finding
less is better than more. I re-comment on comments and
re-re-re-comment on re-re-comments.
* One exception: short stories.

Monday, 27 May 2019

Hay at its peak

We've been going to Hay Festival since 2003. Yesterday was my best day ever.

Something of his Art: Walking to Lubeck with J. S. Bach. Horatio Clare. Retracing a 250-mile walk the young JS Bach - full of his genius - made to visit the then star of German organ music, Dietrich Buxtehude. A fusion of physical exercise, reflections on nature, on the mind of one of the world's greatest composers and on modern Germany.

Infinite Powers: The Story of Calculus. Steven Strogatz. Calculus is a mathematical method of grasping curves; the basis of understanding our modern world. In physicist, Richard Feynman's, words: the language God speaks. Too tough for you? Strogatz, Cornell professor of mathematics, simplified it wondrously, even for this uneducated dumbo. Best of all he answered the question: Why?

The Silence of the Girls, Pat Barker. A reworking of Homer's Iliad by one of Britain's calmly brilliant authors. Feminism for all of us.

Chaucer: A European Life. Marion Turner. Yeah, he wrote Canterbury Tales and tends be known as the Father of English Literature. Usually pictured as bearded, wearing an old man's smock. But he had a life too in London, France and Italy. Sold wine, acted as a diplomat (perhaps as a spy), turned English into a vivid means of communication. Oxford professor, Turner, reveals the wider Geoffrey.

(See pic) Between my booking Simon Armitage ("will be reading his stuff") and my seeing him, he became Britain's Poet Laureate. His session, packed to the rafters, turned into a wildly enthusiastic love-in. Used his flat West Riding accent (he was born - and lives - 12 miles from where I was born) as a frame for the slyest of good humours. Emotionally moving but in a modern way. New collection: Sandettie Light Vessel Automatic. A very English occasion


  1. "The Silence of the Girls, Pat Barker. A reworking of Homer's Iliad by one of Britain's calmly brilliant authors. Feminism for all of us"
    Oh my goodness, I recently finished reading this amazing novel. I love your description of the writer as "one of Britain's calmly brilliant authors" ... I agree! It struck as simply superb writing and story-telling!

  2. RW (zS): You're ahead of me; I haven't read The Silence of the Girls (VR, of course, has) but I got a good impression of it through Pat Barker's reading of extracts and from her interview at Hay. What I have read, though, is the trilogy that made her famous: Regeneration, The Eye in the Door and The Ghost Road. Detailed and moving. The Observer (Sunday newspaper) named it as "one of the ten best historical novels" and I wholeheartedly agree. I can highly recommend it.

  3. I'm hoping that my artist friend Clive (who has done art for so many of my books) becomes even better known because he has now collaborated several times with Siimon Armitage. Well, I expect it will help them both! Good company for each.

    It's interesting how many books by women but rethinking Homer are popping up. I've got one next to my bed now--Jeanne Larsen's Homer-riffing poetry collection, "What Penelope Chooses."

  4. Marly: The last two British poets laureate (Simon and Carol Anne Duffy) have been comparatively well-known in Britain, a country which doesn't usually pay much attention to poets. I say "comparatively" advisedly since both hardly qualify as celebrities. Nevertheless both have had posts at universities (Simon briefly in the USA) and both have been fairly regularly referred to in The Guardian, as has their predecessor Andrew Motion.

    The duties of the poet laureate are almost non-existent; he/she may or may or may not write about national events. This "light hand" is particularly important with regard to the Royal Family, not a subject that would tempt most modern poets.

    Apart from a year's supply of port (I think this has been modified to some other type of booze) the stipend is a notoriously stingy £6000 pa which Simon says he will give away. Before his "elevation" Simon regularly received commissions for poems which, almost out of perversity, he responded to. Memorably to a request for a 1000-line poem and I wish I could convey to you - in an authentic West Riding accent - the way he casually mentioned this at Hay ("At the time I think I didn't have any idea what a thousand lines looked like.").

    The fact that I am able to write this re-comment is because these recent PL stewardships overlapped my sudden, late-in-life adoption of poetry (verse is how I refer to my own amateurish output) as a means of expression. Resulting in my profitable encounter with you in Beth's collection about the Annunciation.

    Certainly my best wishes to Clive whose work has all the necessary imagination to complement such an imaginative field as poetry.