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Posted by Kate, May 30, 2010

Hay day, Hay day

Kate arrived at the Hay Festival of Literature and Art in pouring rain – a bit of a tradition for both the festival and the area (and Kate loves both). This picture makes the festival look bizarrely empty, but that’s the effect of Kate’s photographic incompetence as yesterday was a record-breaking day for the festival with over 2,500 more people than on any previous day.

First up was Bill Bryson talking about his new book, Home. He was modest, charming, informed and funny… just as Kate expected. The book’s an exploration of our slow struggle to get comfortable – to live somewhere warm, adequately-lit and smell-free. Favourite quote: “My first book was The Lost Continent. My wife said maybe my last book could be The Lost Incontinent”. Favourite anecdote: the reason we say people are “barking mad” is because ergotism makes you mad and also gives you distinctive barking cough.

Second up was Quentin Blake talking about the House of Illustration about books, and about painting on hospital walls. He was modest and charming too. He spoke quite a lot about how reliant he was on a close and careful reading of texts to prompt his illustrative imagination… and then demonstrated that he was entirely brilliant at imagining things himself. Favourite quote (when drawing, as requested by small child, “Matilda and The Enormous Crocodile together“: “It’s easy for these writers, you know. They say hundreds of teeth… and there you are, having to draw them.” Favourite anecdote: Roald Dahl sent Quentin Blake one of his own old sandals as picture reference for the BFG’s footwear.

Third up was Alain de Botton (hilariously mismatched with the quite awful Jerry Hall as his questioner). Favourite quote: “The most offensive question you can ask a child is ‘What did you do today?’ ”. Kate knows that Alain de Botton is not everyone’s cup of tea. She likes some of the books, and not others. He is better – more modest (bit of a theme, here), less orotund – in person than in print, perhaps.

Kate tweeted all three events, possibly rather over-enthusiastically in the case of the Alain de Botton one.

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