Waving not drowning

The usual thing, when visiting a friend, is to settle down with a chat and a cup or something or even better, a glass of something.

Visiting my pal Sabina in tropical Zummerzet those things are secondary to going down the back garden.

While her garden is large, well-kept and full of colour and beauty, for me it’s the pond at the end that holds enduring fascination.

For Sabina has established a reputation as a very gifted newt-charmer.

First time I ever visited, when she told me she had loads of newts. I stared down at the pond, which showed no visible signs of life apart from duckweed. Naturally, I challenged her to prove it.

“You don’t really want to see the newts do you?”

She was obviously not used to displaying her amphibia.

“Of course!”

She seized a handily-placed net and with the first dip of a net – bear in mind this is a pond which must be 12′ long – she brought up a fist-sized glob of mud and fallen leaves which began moving to reveal three glistening, gently-wriggling newts!

This newt-charming has happened on every occasion I’ve visited, so recently, on one sunny August day when we met to celebrate our birthdays, I inspected the duckweed-covered pond as usual then said “Actually…I won’t ask you to disturb the newts this time.”

I’d seen them and Sabina had nothing more to prove from the newt-charming point of view.

As we stood chatting – Sabina with her back to the pond – I was distracted by a mysterious twitching in the duckweed. As I watched, there seemed to be some sort of struggle as the duckweed bulged and twitched – then a little newt hand emerged, fingers stretched out in greeting!

It was unbelievable.

I just burst out laughing.

“Look behind you! One of your newts is saying ‘hello’!”

She turned to see the small wet newt hand waving. I think an ungainly newty back leg emerged soon afterwards.

“Do you think they are feeling left out?” she laughed.

She fetched the net and with one fell swoop, brought out a bundle of muddy, waving newts – some palmate newts and a Great Crested with a lovely spotted orange underbelly – for me to inspect at close quarters.


It was a brilliantly quirky start to a memorable day. Although Sabina and I we weren’t born in the same year, we share the same birthday so we both thought we should celebrate with a day out – a bit of a jaunt… probably the seaside.

Sure, there was Minehead not far away but a bit closer was a special place I’d always meant to revisit. I was taking a bit of a chance, relying on memory to celebrate our birthdays at a place which seemed rather heavenly on a sunny day with the kids 20 years ago.

East Quantoxhead isn’t on any tourist trails as far as I know. Certainly no-one would bother taking the narrow lane down the side of the pub in the village unless they knew that the sea and geologically-notable beach at Kilve lay at the other end of it.

The lane was narrower than I remembered and the tea garden was still there – dog friendly, which mattered in those days.

There were little groups of people about enjoying the sunny weekend. Most seemed to enjoy the ease of strolling about on the low grassy headland. Not us. We were heading for the rocks and specifically the smooth flat limestone platforms of my memory.

“Oh it’ll be really good,” I’d wittered on… “we might see fossils and the rocks are quite flat so ideal for a picnic and glasses of fizz.”

The reality was somewhat different. The layers of rock were flat but tilted at angles – although we did find a couple of comfortable ‘seats’ and laid out the picnic between us.

We toasted our birthdays, drank prosecco, ate birthday cake and chatted, sitting there on the foreshore on a blue and breezy day.

Beneath us and behind us was a breathtaking display of 200 million year old blue lias Jurassic limestone and shale.

In front of us the Bristol Channel was doing its best impression of melted milk chocolate in the brilliant sunshine.

Nothing was exactly as I remembered, but plenty good enough.





Kilve + the Bristol Channel

Kilve + the Bristol Channel

Technical details:

The cliffs and foreshore give good exposures of Lower Jurassic Blue Lias. There are rhythmic sequences of black shales, marls and limestones. Joint patterns and faults point to both normal extensional, and reverse compressional faulting. Ammonites and trace fossils can be seen.

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When a policeman on duty yells at you like a sergeant-major on a parade ground:

“OI!   YOU!!   OFF  THE  ROAD!!”

………….you actually get off the road a bit sharpish, even if you’re riding a Boris bike and have been mistakenly got involved in some sort of military parade through London.

We didn’t mean to go showboating on closed roads in front of tourists packed ten deep on the pavements of the Mall, honest guv.

It was supposed to be a pleasant, if somewhat random,  Saturday morning Boris bike tootle to Hyde Park from Covent Garden. Picked up some bikes near the back of Covent Garden, down to the Strand and round abouts, then a swap at Trafalgar Square, along Pall Mall (I think) and then stopped to hear a super regimental band playing in a yard at St James’s Palace.

Traffic had been halted and there were people standing listening to the band play The World In Union, which was very apt as we had tickets to the big England v Wales Rugby World Cup match at Twickenham that evening.

Unexpectedly, the band marched out of the yard and along the road, so we hopped back on the bikes – honestly, the saddles of Boris bikes are like luxuriously upholstered like *sofas* – and followed on behind two police horses.

I wasn’t expecting to turn right on to the Mall. Or for it to be closed off to everything but the procession, the police horses and.. er… us.

It was a rather self-conscious slow pedal, suppressing giggles and probably blushing a bit, studiously avoiding riding too close to the horse in front or through fresh horse muck.

I wasn’t sure why everyone had turned out or why we were following the band or where we were going but with police controlling the crowds on the pavement, we didn’t have much option but to keep going, smirking and feeling a bit surreal.

If there was an occasion which demanded an ostentatious Peter Sagan wheelie, this was it. If I could’ve, I would’ve but in the real world I was riding a two-tonne (hyperbole alert) Boris bike with my handbag in the basket on the front and anyway, who am I kidding? The only wheelie I’ve ever pulled was a three-incher.

The only other time I’ve cycled in front of an audience was at a stage of the Tour de France in Brittany, where early in the day, we’d found a deserted spot on a hillside to pull the car over in readiness for the race coming through later. We got the bikes out and cycled into the nearest village to get some breakfast and buy stuff for a picnic lunch.

French villages are never less than appealing, so it was nearly two hours later that we set off again for the car along a road which was busy with people walking to see the race. When we turned on to the bottom of the hill, it was now closed to traffic and busy with Tour supporters and officials.

We had to cycle up the hill laden with carrier bags clanking with wine and baguettes, saucisson and fromage to cheers from a loud and friendly crowd which was clearly cycling-starved. “Allez Les Anglaises!! ” will live with me for a long time.

Anyway, as I said when a policeman yells for you to get off the road, you kind of do, without hesitation, deviation or repetition and in much less than just a minute.

But as I got off and pulled my bike in tight to the kerb, and Captain Sensible followed suit, the policeman shouted again.


By now, there was traffic behind us so we were heading it all up at the lights before we resisted the temptation to follow the band into the front yard of Buckingham Palace and instead nipped off down Buckingham Palace road.

Don’t ask where we rode after that but somehow we docked the bikes at Hyde Park within 30 minutes and took out another couple to have a ride around the park, including a refreshment stop at the cafe on the Serpentine where the herons are as tame as the ducks and the geese.

I don’t care what people say about London but it still has enormous charm for me when I’m on a bike or on foot. Being in a car is a nightmare but the slower forms of transport are ideal on summy warm autumn days.

The Santander Cycles app for mobiles was very good. You can plan a journey and it gives you easy, moderate or fast routes and tells in real time how many bikes are available at each docking station.  It cost me £2 to register for the day and that was it!  Because we docked the bikes within 30 minutes each time there was no further charge.

One downside was the ten minute wait before you could get the next bike out.  The other downside was that it was impossible to follow the route on the map when cycling but I read that someone has invented a useful little widget for the handlebars which would give you simple ‘sat nav’ style directions for turnings Blu-toothed to the app on the phone in your pocket.   It’s being crowd-funded at the moment so there’s hope that it will be in production next year.

The Santander Cycle scheme goes out as far as Hammersmith now, which is great and takes in Putney but I think there’s scope to extend it even further. It would be fab to ride out to Kew Gardens and Syon House. Maybe one day.





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‘Ere be cuttlefish.. or maybe not

Cuttlefish are incredible. I know that’s a sweeping, meaningless statement but when you’ve met a cuttlefish or two, you do appreciate them.

Without being overly anthropomorphic, you can commune with a cuttlefish. This film tells you a LOT about them.

Snorkelling in the Caribbean at St Lucia four years ago, I was watching fish when a flotilla of cuttlefish hove into view.   They were lined up in front of me, five of them, in formation, holding their positions at eye level with me.

It was a surprise, to say the least these creatures appearing out of the blue to observe me. I was meant to be the observer surely?

I’d just spent a wondrous ten minutes or so watching fish having fun – swimming into a shallow pool at the edge of the rocks and being washed out by the waves – only to swim round to experience the whole thing again…and again… and again…

So it was a very new experience having creatures observe me as I lay still in the water, camera in hand.

I’ve blogged about it before and there’s a bit of film here on YouTube so I won’t repeat myself but suffice to say that when I spotted a cuttlefish in Akumal Bay, I was unfeasibly thrilled and expected much the same behaviour.

The Akumal Bay cuttlefish was very different. It was about two feet from the seabed when I spotted it and looked like a Disney version of a sea-creature – about a foot long, sparkly pale pink and silver with a silver-white frill all around it and two enormous eyes. It was holding its tentacles primly together in a neat arrowhead at the front.

I stopped swimming and just lay watching. It saw me and turned from sparkly baby pink to turquoise, mauve, pale green and pink.   I retreated a little to show I wasn’t threatening it but giving it space.

The expected communication did happen. It swam up a bit and continued changing colours from second to second – an astonishing display. I swam forward a fraction and it retreated a little but rose in the sea to just below my eye level.

It was only about four feet away now almost directly in front of me, then it did a curious thing. I’m quoting from my diary now so you get the full gist… I called her “she” with no scientific evidence whatsoever other than she was an incredibly girly-pink cuttlefish..


“She did a curious thing with her tentacles. She loosed the arrowhead of tentacles and curled some upwards and some downwards giving a splayed-out effect before bringing them neatly together again.

“Then she brought her body into a curved vertical position in the water before going horizontal again.  All the time, the two big eyes were regarding me with, I felt, a degree of curiosity and intelligence.

“I stretched out one hand to her and waggled my pink painted nails. I felt her behaviour deserved some kind of reciprocal recognition. She wasn’t in the least phased and continued the constantly changing colour display including a turquoise the colour of my swimming cozzie.”

I’m not sure how long this went on. Time just stretches out when extraordinary things are happening. She swam closer and I swam very quietly alongside her with minimal movement for a short distance. So beautiful and so close!  If only I’d had the Go-Pro camera but I had nothing with me to record it.

Very shortly, she decided she’d had enough and literally shot off faster than a speeding bullet. Ok well faster than I could discern anyway!

As I was returning to shore, I saw her again in the next sandy clearing in the rocks. She was posed about a foot from the sea floor again. This time, I left her alone. We’d had our fun and she’d made it clear my time was up.

The turtles were one thing, tolerating my presence and allowing me to swim alongside for brief periods  – this beautiful communicating creature was quite another. I was convinced it was a cuttlefish so I looked it up on the Caribbean Reef website.

“The Caribbean Reef Squid…. Often mistaken for a cuttlefish… etc etc…

So I was communing with a squid! My Little Disney Princess Squid. An amazing, curious and communicative creature.

I may never order calamari again.


More about the Caribbean Reef Squid

From the Marine Invertebrates of Bermuda by Kelly M. Mackay:

It has been suggested that the Caribbean Reef Squid has its own ‘language,’ with visual signals constituting a vocabulary and syntax (Moynihan and Rodaniche, 1982). This suggestion exvokes many responses in the scientific community and poses such questions as, “do signals provoke different responses?”(Hanlon and Messenger, 1996), “are combinations of patterns designed for particular reasons?” and “can individuals ‘converse’ with one another?” (Moynihan and Rodaniche, 1982). Answers to such questions may lead to important revelations in squid society and behavior. Though limited knowledge is known on the various forms of visual signalling, much more research needs to be done to show the wide-ranging implications it can have.








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Turtling around


I like to have a day off on my birthday.

Being at work kind of spoils the celebration of still being alive because you have to behave professionally, not drink and there is a total ban on swimming cozzies and jumping in the deep end.

A week is way preferable to one measly day, but when I was proposing a week’s cycling tour of France or Italy (either would be good) absolutely no-one was interested in coming with me!

Back to the drawing board of the internet, I buried the massive disappointment of not having a holiday with my bike by researching and booking a hol to a place where I could be with the next best thing – turtles.

Ok there are turtles in the Mediterranean but not many and they are often pursued by boats full of tourists. I didn’t want to be one of those. I wanted to swim with turtles on my own. This might be possible in Mexico.

And so it came to pass that at 6,45am on Akumal Beach on the 2nd August, I slipped a T shirt over my cozzie, got my surf shoes, mask and snorkel on and swam out into Akumal Bay.

The Caribbean was calm, the sun rising over the outcrop of rocks at the mouth of the bay but the water was cloudy in the shallows. It just started to clear when a shadow cruised into view, circled and descended in front of me to the sparse sea grass below.

Out of the gloom I realise that one green turtle had swum in to land next to another green turtle, which it greeted with with a friendly head-bump.

Here, I realised, be turtles!

They are benign, handsome creatures with rounded off square heads, big dark kind eyes and shells which varied from beautiful patterns in shades of tan and caramel to big battered algae-covered dustbin lids with associated hangers-on.

Unlike hammerhead and hawkbill turtles, green turtles are vegetarian.They spend all day grazing on tasty tender sea grass.. But in the early morning and late evening, they become more active, swimming around, hanging out with mates and generally turtling around.

I was in a very soggy version of Cloud Nine. Turtling expeditions – maybe 4 – 5 hours a day every day were a joy. I got to know individuals.

There were differences in their shells, in their head markings and the largest and oldest turtle that I saw always had three long green torpedo-shaped remoras on board. The other name for remonas is shark suckers. They enjoy a symbiotic relationship with other creatures because they are full-time cleaners.

Other turtles were accompanied on their day-long buffet by small silver fish that flashed about in front of their faces, hoping to snaffle any tasty morsels that the turtles disturbed as they were eating.

Some turtles had a habit of using both front flippers to excavate the seagrass, sending up clouds of sand and sending the hangers-on fish into ecstasies of excitement.

I’m not a diver so watching turtles was perfect as every two or three minutes – depending on the size of turtle – they would glide up to the surface beside me – take a gulp or two of air – and then descend to continue feeding.

The early mornings, when it was just me and the turtles, were magical. Turtles would be swimming through the water parallel with me at about the same speed before a few breaths or circling around to visit other turtles.

They knew where other turtles were located, no doubt about that. The touch-noses greeting didn’t always work. One such encounter I watched, the turtle missed the nose and buried his into a shoulder whereupon the other turtle turned away in a huff. It was exactly like the moment when a mwah-mwah embrace goes horribly wrong among the middle-classes when someone goes for a three instead of a two.

It’s a great life being a turtle. OK you come in for your fair share of attention from the buoyancy-jacketed tourists who’ve bought a Turtle-watching Trip but you really don’t care. You can always swim away. If fish annoy you, you can slap them out of the way with a flipper.

The remoras are well behaved. As the turtle rises throught he water to take air, they reposition themselves under the shell so that they don’t break the surface. As the turtle descends again, they return to their stations on the top of the shell.

They know their places.

The turtles were the main focus for me but only a tiny fraction of the whole of Caribbean reef life. The acquatic community is fascinating; a whole society of creatures with vastly different characters. There are the territorial fish, the curious fish, the sneaky dangerous fish. Barracuda, for instance are the fishy equivalent of finding Christopher Lee in your wardrobe.

I was happily filming a couple of turtles on the sea bed when I turned towards a shadow in my peripheral vision. The shadow was the dark thick rust-coloured rope joining up a series of buoys but in the shadow, there was the long pewter shape – five feet long to be precise – of a resting barracuda. His flat silver unemotional eye was upon me and his mouth was opening and closing slightly showing needle-sharp teeth.

I could see him very clearly because those teeth were only two feet away from my face. I’d seen barracuda before, a group of half a dozen glittering four-footers, streaking fast just beneath the silvered underbelly of water. They can swim at speeds up to 25mph when they are chasing prey before tearing it to bits.

The barracuda didn’t move but I was far too close for comfort! I withdrew gracefully, rather like I did when I was swimming over a four foot wide Caribbean whiptail stingray.

Respect is the key when you’re the alien swimming with the locals.

Just realise I haven’t mentioned my communing with a cuttlefish.  That’ll have to be a whole other blog.  Oh and there were the giant rainbow parrot fish..


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Walking with cats

It’s a great pity cats won’t go for a walk.  They might accompany you down the drive but they don’t seem to favour a proper walk, up the path, across the road, around the woods down to the pub and back.

It’s not as though I haven’t tried to persuade them. Lily just looked at me and rolled over on to her back in the compost-scattered unfilled plant trough that she has made her outdoor home.

Leo seemed much more enthusiastic. There was a miaow and a walking along, through the gate, a pause by the car on the drive and then a walk over the lawn and along the road.

He stopped but started again when I said  (with vain hope, I must admit)  “Heel”!

The walk was about 1 mph which is distracted toddler speed – a bit slow for me – but I stopped and waited for him where the path converges. He caught me up looking puzzled but when continued onwards he just remained there, standing covered in pathos.


Nah. He wasn’t. He gave a high pitched miaow “But don’t go!”

He was about 200 yards from home but that seemed to be the edge of his territory.

I carried on walked, glanced over my shoulder to see if he was following but no, he’d set off down a different path. He’d find his way back home, no doubt.

Returning home from the opposite direction I saw the silhouette of a cat standing at the path ‘crossroads’ in the distance.  I couldn’t quite believe it – this was about an hour later.

“Leo? Is that you?” I shouted.

There was a distant mew in reply – and another one and then another one.

“Have you waited all this time?” I asked him. He kept on miaowing so I took it that he might well have done.

“Come on then, let’s go home,” I said.

I thought we’d have a companionable stroll back over the grass to the path and home, but no, he leapt ahead. When I say leapt, I mean flew in an arc through the air as though I’d just attempted a drop kick making contact with his ample purry posterior. He landed, sprinted ten paces with his ears back then stopped.

When I caught him up he leapt forward again, strolled for a few paces, sniffed a nearby bush then rolled over and wriggled around on the warm tarmac covering himself in dust.

He looked happy. It was a “You carry on. This is nice. I’m staying here” expression.

Some people, I hear, take their cats out on leads.  I’d just like  to know… how?

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Happy Purrthday

Happy Birthday Leo and Fat Lily!

They are five years old. As always with a birthday you ask “Oh where has the time gone?” “It doesn’t seem like five years” and other predictable stuff that people say about every birthday when they are getting older. Like climate change, time is definitely accelerating.

Here they are enjoying riotous partying.


Yes. I know. Cats just don’t know how to appreciate birthdays. You can give a dog a present, wrapped up in paper. He will rag the paper into tiny pieces all around the room, seize the gift and carry it about triumphantly, eyes gleaming, mouth in a rictus grin, drooling at the edges.

It gladdens your heart to see it. It’s rare that any of your nearest and dearest ever react quite so positively – even at Christmas. I’m not counting the year that Aunty Betty tried vodka for the first time. The drooling wasn’t pretty and she rather lost control of her knees.

In spite of the frankly disappointing gaiety from birthday kitties, I am very pleased to be a cat person now.

They are not generously life enhancing in the same way as dogs but they do enhance life exclusively on their own terms.

Surprisingly, they do come and greet you when you return home. They are curious about what you’re up to and they settle in your general vicinity even if not directly lying near the back of you neck on the sofa, luxuriating on the lap or requesting a tummy tickle upside down in “Max Adorable” position.

I’ve just been wandering around in the garden with the camera accompanied by Fat Lily. She’s one of those curious characters who doesn’t want to appear overtly nosey. She will show interest in your drink but only lick the edge of the glass when she thinks your back is turned.

She’s a pain sometimes. She emits her  “Eh-ow” half miaow repeatedly, indicating she’s ready to take up the restricted position on lap between me and lap top (there’s a coincidence) and I go to lift her up but she trots away and lingers coquettishly in the study doorway.

I know damn well she hasn’t changed her mind because she’ll be back in two minutes asking again. The thing is, she doesn’t want to be lifted. She has to leap to lap of her own accord, when she’s ready – at the precise minute when she’s ready. That entails me ceasing typing and waiting while she decides on the moment. Sigh.

I don’t really know how she’s even wormed her way back into my study taking into account that she quadruple-pawedly destroyed my Dell laptop.

You think you’re going to be as disciplined and stern with cats as you were with dogs. *

They have other ideas. When I arrive back home late after a looong car journey the cats come to say ‘ Hello.’ I give them some Dreamies and some cat cuddles for a minute or two, then it’s time for bed.

They have other ideas. The door closes and there is plaintive miaowing from the landing for several minutes adopting the tone “How could you do this to us? We’ve hardly seen you and you’ve shut us out.”

“Tough” I think, sinking into the blissful bottomless cotton wool of dreams.

Then comes the scritch-scratching… a couple of seconds… a silence… then prolonged scritch-scratching which I realise is the ruination of a recently-laid wool carpet!

I scorch through the dreamy cotton wool like a rocket , fall out of bed and stumble to open the door.  I feel a furry rush around my calves. They have entered the room like fleeting wraiths.

Back in bed, I think I’ve escaped but within moments surprisingly heavy paws are kneading…ow!…my….ow!….thigh….ouch!.. and there’s ingratiating purring going on in my hair.

It’s another skirmish in the ongoing battle for dominance. Okay, puss-cats, you’ve won this one but I live to fight another day. Yeah right. Happy Birthday.

*not very

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Hei Hei Hay!


It’s Hay Festival again. I won’t go droning on and on with the usual bountiful enthusiams. Suffice to say that it’s worth an annual pilgrimage even if you’re only slightly interested in books, book people, films, culture, hedonism and breathtakingly Welsh countryside.

Unusually, I went up to Hay-on-Wye on Sunday without any pre-booked tickets.  I thought I’d just busk it and take my pick from what was available.

Even if you aren’t attending any of the talks, there is still more than enough to keep you occupied. You can relax in a deckchair in the sun with the paper or a new book (pre-loved) for 50p from the massive and excellent miscellany at the Oxfam bookshop. Or you can treat yourself to something shiny and new or author-signed from the main Festival Bookshop accompanied by a Shepherd’s ice-cream cornet – a double damson perhaps.

You could stroll down the road to Hay town and buy a couple of still-warm Welsh cakes, fresh from the griddle in someone’s front garden. In Hay there is a whole world of bookshops and quite a few pubs, plus the river if you fancy a bit of canoeing. Second thoughts, canoeing options are limited. Basically in Hay you can only canoe if you bring your own but canoes can be hired at Glasbury a mile or two upstream.

But back to the festival. It always helps when the sun is shining. The best view of the site is from the top of the Macmillan car park (raised £200k for Macmillan Cancer over the years) and you can’t help but stand and consider just how perfect everything looks with creamy blobs of sheep seemingly placed perfectly on impossibly verdant fields.

This year they had a ‘returned tickets’ board where, for a goodly donation to charity, you could pick up a ticket that someone else couldn’t use.  I took up a ticket for Ian McMillan’s How to Write A Poem workshop, which was hilarious, inclusive and punctuated by his Barnsley banter.  We were all involved in making up an epic poem featuring a ghostly hairy hare with a hare-dryer but there were also big laughs in creating a whole load of ‘consequences’ style random poems which were ridiculous and surreal. Some are here on the BBC Get Creative website

I busked it again with a ticket for Germaine Greer, the Grande Dame of Feminism. She is always thought provoking and didn’t disappoint again this time.  She might not have the answers but she hits a lot of nails on the head…

“Girls are being lasered until there’s not a hair left on them. They are like newts!”

I had a good snigger at her Jane Fonda diatribe.

“..And there’s poor old Jane Fonda. I mean, it’s cost her a fortune. She’s got a back full of steel, a replaced hip and a replaced something else… I don’t think it’s a brain – I think it’s a knee.

“You just think, Jane, there must have been more to life. Think of the things with her money and clout she could have done. I remember when we thought she was going to save the whale.”

She is certain that women generally have less self-confidence than men.  Boys’ mothers are “convinced that everything they do is fantastic – even if they are obviously dorks!,” she said.

“The girls need re-enforcement from their fathers and that’s much harder to get. It’s harder to get his attention and it’s harder to be taken seriously.”

I stupidly left it too late to get a ticket for the final event with Stephen Fry,  Sandi Toksvig and the director of Oxfam talking freedom. I wasn’t particularly heart-broken. I was cosy enough in the Friends tent with my second Pimms and oodles of time to read.

People-watching is de rigueur at the Festival. Each year there seem to be more Londoners than the last but it’s a change to see the yummy mummies with their impeccably-spoken children. The only Welsh accents I heard were from some of the women working at the Festival, which was a shame but maybe I just wasn’t over-hearing the right conversations.

The one thing I’d like to tell Peter Florence, esteemed Director of the Festival, is to get the message our there that at Hay, we are all of one mind, so don’t be shy or restrained.. ..talk to people!  It’s always interesting to hear what people thought of their last talk, which celebs they have spotted, what they’re currently reading.

Interestingly, the guy at the long table in the food tent had just been to see Andrea Sella, the excellent chemist and communicator that I blogged about when he blew my mind with his massive test tubes and explosive experiments at Cheltenham Science Festival. The guy who saw him at Hay was impressed too, although here was a technical problem with the lighting that meant the experiments weren’t as clear as they could have been.

I had the distinct impression that the Festival has got bigger, better and prettier. I loved the strings of lights over the top of the lawn tent and at the entrance – also loved the new fish café and the option to have crab salad and chips!

Going back for a more limited visit tomorrow (Weds) to see Jack Dee and then the wonderful Alan Bennett…and then there’s next weekend, a bit of H for Hawk, some Lewis Carroll early on Sunday and to close the Festival, my fave virtuoso violinist, our Nige.

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