Encounters with Hay's own Mistoffelees

Hay Festival is:

Inspirational: Because on arrival at my host's, Francine Stock (writer, broadcaster and Hay Director), I was directed to their tin shed at the bottom of their garden for the night!  A rusty, corrugated iron affair, alongside a pond that had become home to a nest of sparrows in the elbow of the porch overhang.  Lovely as a bird watching spot but to sleep?  Hay hospitality?  They seemed serious.  However, inside it was a revelation.  A contemporary home with every comfort.  No wonder it had been on George Clarke’s Amazing Spaces.

Inspirational for me also because who could not fail to be inspired by what Hay offers?  An array of some of the most interesting thought leaders of our time, be they actors, authors, politicians, scientists, teachers and the like.  Not necessarily famous on the world stage but all with diverse, rich opinions and prepared to engage in discursive, far reaching and sometimes challenging conversation.  Appealing to young and old and everyone in between.  Set in some of the most rich, green and beautiful countryside Britain has to offer and with an environmental ethos to be proud of.

Gratifying: Because it’s not always easy for myself nor my Compassion in World Farming colleagues to get our messages heard.  Life on Earth and knowing why our food depends on it, is incredibly important.  Our industrially farmed animals are out of sight and out of mind and the precious life of a farmed animal is very distant from the sanitised pack of meat displayed on the supermarket shelf.  Thus to be given a platform at Hay to share why our obsession for cheap meat is not only a travesty for farmed animals but is also driving wildlife decline (a story told in my book Dead Zone: Where the Wild Things Were) was much appreciated.

An experience further enhanced by recording a great podcast with Rosie Boycott (journalist, writer and also Hay Director) who put the issue so simply ‘if we farmed Labradors on an industrial scale and treated them in the same way we do pigs, who are known to have greater intelligence, personality and character, there would be a public outcry’.

Embarrassing: Because something rather surreal also happened to me, caused by a rather lovely domestic cat!  It was over early breakfast at Francine’s where she noticed one of her cats sitting proudly out on the lawn and began to share the story that this cat, who stole garments from the washing lines of their neighbours in London.  Hard to believe but true.  On further peering through the French doors she noticed that the cat was in fact sitting alongside some such items in their garden at Hay.  To my utter horror and embarrassment, they turned out to be my own underpants and socks that the feline thief had taken from the open window of my tin shed home.  You couldn’t make it up.

 Roll on Hay 2019!