One of the advantages of living in a small town on the Welsh borders which is known internationally for its secondhand books is that, once a year, the world comes to us in the form of the Hay Festival. It started as a quite small affair, but now it is huge, attracting well over a hundred thousand visitors for the ten days it is on - and there's another festival, How The Light Gets In, at the other end of town centred on the Globe Gallery, which attracted another thirty five thousand people this year. Or thereabouts.
For the locals, it's also the busiest time of year in all the shops and pubs and hotels and camp sites, but I did get to see a few good things in my time off.
Steven Moffat spoke about his career in television, in one of the largest tents at the Festival. I really couldn't miss that! Since the BBC are now partly sponsoring the Festival (previously it was on Sky) there are snippets of the interviews on iPlayer. As the showrunner of both Sherlock and Doctor Who, of course he was asked a lot of questions about the shows. My favourite was: "Why is Doctor Who filmed in Cardiff?"
"Because Cardiff," came the instant answer, "is the place on the planet that looks most like the Future, in Space!" Then he added; "Or at least, it does now," before admitting that it was a decision of the BBC, right back at the beginning in 2005.
I like Cardiff - and I can visit places like the Art Gallery there, which stood in for the Louvre in Vincent and the Doctor - I've walked up those same staircases!
I also got to see Jonathon Porritt, who has written a book looking back to the present from the sustainable world of 2050 (so in a way it's SF) and showing how to get there from here. There were long queues for his autograph in the Festival bookshop after the talk - though I felt I couldn't really justify spending £24.99 on a single book, so got something cheaper by George Monbiot instead - I've been wanting to read Feral, about the re-wilding of the countryside, for a while now.
And there was music. Friends went to see the Afro-Celt Sound System, and said they were great, and I went to see the Horsemen of the Apocalypse, mainly because I knew absolutely nothing about them, and they mentioned a lute in the programme. In the end, it was a strange hybrid of lute and guitar called a lutar - because the lute had been damaged by a certain German airline when the musicians were touring, which they seem to do a lot. They talked about playing in Poland, and Italy and touring a musical instrument factory in South America somewhere, in between playing beautiful, complex music on lutar, guitar and percussion.
As well as the main Festival, and the Globe Festival, there are also events happening round the town itself, and I managed to get to a relaxed evening in the patio garden at Tomatitos Tapas bar, to listen to Alan Cooper and his friends Simon on guitar and Di on cello. Alan plays fiddle very, very well. They also had a new CD out, which I treated myself to, and Chris the bookbinder was there with copies of a local poetry magazine called Quirk, which contains work by several people I know, as well.
So I got to see one fun talk, and one serious talk, and some excellent music, out of the hundreds of events that were on over the ten days. And I browsed the vintage fair (sadly very soggy - the weather was awful) and saw my friends selling artwork and silk scarves, and a woodwork workshop where children were using proper woodworking equipment to build their own stools, and the Big Skill craft fair across the river which had a master thatcher, and needle felting and knitting and pottery and pyrography and spinning and weaving and photography and art work of all sorts... and I never had time to think about writing - I was too busy having new experiences!