Hay-on-wye, May 30th 2001
1300 unnumbered seats were available
I decided to turn the trip to Wales into a motorcycle trip so on Tuesday 29th of May 2001 I fired up my bike at 7.00 a.m. and drove to Calais, France where I took a Seacat to Dover (it takes 50 minutes to cross the channel that way). I decided to take a scenery route along the English coast. When I arrived at 11.00 am in Rye, East-sussex, I found the road to Peasmarch even though some locals deliberately sent me the wrong way. Just when I was thinking "mmm, gotta keep my eyes open here, you never know", I saw a Mercedes S-class coming towards me in a place called Playden. A quick look on the number plate confirmed my suspicions to be correct. John was driving the car, Paul was sitting besides him. I tried to turn my bike as quick as could but I had to let about 10 cars pass before being able to make the U-turn. It wasn't possible to overtake the cars safely before getting to the centre of Rye, so there I had to make a guess where Paul could have gone. To the left (towards London & the local airport) or to the right (towards the town centre). I choose left and clearly took the wrong choice because I didn't see the car anymore. Anyway, it was a pretty good start of this event. Figure it out, I was hardly 5 minutes in Rye and I already saw Paul! I guess it must be hard *not* to see Paul daily in that corner of England. I moved on after another pass through Peasmarch.
Paul is obviously in great shape these days
By the time I arrived in Portsmouth my old Beemer, which left the Berlin Spandau factory in April 1977, started to develop mechanical problems. Apparently, because I drove pretty fast (+160 km/h) to Calais to catch the Seacat and then drove pretty slow in those English coastal cities like Hastings, the air-cooled engine was overheated and started to loose transmission oil from the crankcase between the clutch and the gearbox. I put the idea of visiting the port of Gosport aside and decided to repair this old lady I was riding at a motorbike shop. After adding enough gearbox oil I moved on at once to Wales. I arrived at the youthhostel by 8 pm.
On May 30th I arrived in Hay-on-Wye at 9:30 am. Only half a dozen of fans, like Naoto Ito, were waiting already. At 12:30 Paul arrived in a silver-grey Jaguar S-type. John was sitting besides him. They drove onto the car parking to go to the press photo session. From that point on security guys and stewards came to tell us numerous times that camera's were NOT allowed and that we would either have to leave them at the entrance or even better, to leave them in our cars ourselves. Right. I was glad to wear my full motorcycle gear. Motorcycle trousers can contain lots of camera's :-)
By 13:30 we were guided towards the tent were event took place. The security guys from this firm called 'Steady as Rock' who were supposed to search us for camera's would better have called themselves 'Leak as a sieve' because they hardly *looked* at us! When we had taken our seats in the auditorium we were informed that Paul would answer some questions from the public. To get a question answered, one had to fill in a form, which I did. Shortly before 2:30 pm Heather Mills arrived and took a reserved seat in the first row at the side. I was sitting on the second row right in front of the stage so I had a good view in Heather. She was wearing a pink coat. If these rumours about Heather being pregnant ever would turn out to become true, Paul's child would be younger than his grandchild (Arthur) haha..
Paul came on stage after being introduced by Adrian Mitchell. Paul consistently introduced all the poems he read, which gave a good insight on each poem. He started with a series of poems linked to Liverpool. The audience started to laugh when Paul told the story about a nude woman he drew in his childhood and his parents found the drawing in his breast pocket (then he read 'Dinner tickets'). From what followed I especially remember 'Jerks of all jerks' (about the murderer of John Lennon) and 'Masu Masseur' (about Paul's meeting with masseurs all over the world, some of them do pretty weird things like singing 'Yesterday').
After Paul had read all 17 poems, he was 'interviewed' by Adrian Mitchell who selected the questions from the audience. First to have her question answered was a Russian girl who travelled all the way from Russia to see Paul. She asked about Paul's favourite Russian poet, Paul immedeately made a funny face as if he didn't *know* any Russian poet, which made the audience laugh again. The Russian girl stood up (she was sitting in row 1, right in front of me) and was asked on stage where she gave a kiss to Paul. When she came off stage again she looked like she had just ... well, anyway, she looked very happy ;-). A few questions later Adrian picked out my question too. He said: Paul, there's this Belgian guy, at least I think he's a guy, who wants to know 'what about beat poets' and 'have you ever visited the City Lights bookshop in San Francisco'? Paul started to comment on the influence of beat poets like Allan Ginsberg and said he'd never been to the bookshop before.
This was the brochure given at the 'Evening with Stella'
Untill then I had not taken any pictures yet, since I didn't want to use the flash, but when Paul announced that he would have to go, I was able to take a few pictures. Heather Mills disappeared while people were still clapping their hands so I wasn't quick enough to take a picture of her too. When they left the building we were asked to stay inside for 1 minute. A good move, since nobody was able to follow or harass Paul McCartney. Apparently Paul had told the organisations he didn't want to see any people outside the photo session for the press (he signed some autographs there) and the poetry reading. I left the building as soon as we were allowed and started up my motorbike again. Via Hereford and Gloucester I joined the M4 in Swindon to London. I was in a hurry since I wanted to see Stella McCartney when she talked about her life and work in the British museum for 300 Style readers. I arrived at 8:15pm at the British museum, only to find out that the reading was *almost* over and after bargaining with the security people for a while I was allowed inside the auditorium, but on the same moment we heard the audience clap their hands and everyone came out quickly. I had missed Stella. I went out again and waited for things to come. I was lucky enough to get a program of the evening from one girl. I asked if Stella mentioned her dad or family but apparently she didn't. She talked purely about her work. After about 10 minutes I spotted Mary McCartney coming out of the museum. Aha! I took my camera as quick as I could and when she passed me by I gave her a thumbs up which made her smile very briefly, enough to take some pictures :-) I waited for another 30 minutes for Stella but I guess she was already having dinner with the press. I stayed a few more hours in London and then went back to Dover to catch the first seacat in the morning at 7:00 am. I was home at 11:15 am. The odometer on my R75 almost totalled 1600 kilometres. Not bad for a two day trip!
The Hay-on-Wye Literature Festival was well worth all the effort and I hope to see you all on
one of the coming events,
P.S. Please e-mail me whenever you like!
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