Tuesday, 29 May 2007

Bank Holiday

My daughter is on her knees next to the sofa, fringe hanging over her book as she sings a little song to her soft penguin. Rain spears resolutely past the windows outside. Inside, my wife and I are bickering. Me because its half term, her because she’s back at work tomorrow. It’s the usual holiday problem. I am leaving the childcare to my wife a bit too much and she wants to spend the time together. My wife and daughter tend to gang up on me. It’s not their fault. They love being together. But there’s an exclusivity to it. “I want mummy” my daughter wails when mummy’s at work and she is tired or has barked a knee. “Mummyyy!!” is the call first thing in the morning. When I’m telling her off she wrinkles her face and puts an arm out towards mummy. “But she was sticking her fork into the table!” I say. “Oh well” my wife says. “It’s a bank holiday”.

Since it’s a bank holiday I drive hundreds of miles to Hay on Wye to meet one of my literary heroes, Dave Eggers, author of A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius. If only he knew the risks I had taken to be there. It is a beautiful journey in the sunshine but in the rain the motorways are deathly skidpans – water lies everywhere and the car wobbles when it hits. I acquaplane crazily from lane to lane. My wipers don’t seem to have a high enough speed to cope.

At Hay everywhere is muddy and everyone walks around with the Guardian and Guardian festival bags. I’m in the Eggers queue, near the front, because I know how to loiter just before the authors arrive. What do I say? “It’s my favourite book!” No, it’s not my favourite after all. It’s one of my favourites, along with the Nabokovs and the DeLillos and the Faulkners and the Prousts. But “It’s one of my favourite books” sounds slightly begrudging. “I’m a writer too, and...” NO! It’s just journalism and a blog.

In the end I smile and say please and thank you and he looks up after signing the book with an absent-minded “Thank you” of his own, as his agent leans down and whispers in his ear, clandestinely. I trudge out of the tent into the wind and mud and buy a punnet of strawberries from a bedgraggled farmer in wellingtons, pleased to find someone who looks more miserable than me. Inside Dave Eggers is grinning at the next customer, warm and desired and with the prospect of a nice meal in the authors’ tent with attentive agents and publishers.

I walk to my car in the charity car park, veering sideways in the wind, Guardian bag flapping, wondering just where it all went so right for him.

17 comments:

Elsie Button said...

We are at the festival now! Have spent the week so far sitting in (£50!!!!) deckchairs with Betty and friends drinking beer, and eating scotch eggs (did you find the amazing handmade scotch eggs?) and strawberries, trying to spot famous people, whilst Tom goes off to loads of different talks of people i have never heard off.

I just showed Tom your post and he says that he had a very similar experience with Dave Eggers at the festival a few years ago and he wanted me to ask you if he still has unusually muscular arms?

i have the bag too - currently with nappies and bibs in.

Stay at home dad said...

Lucky you! After dragging my wife and daughter there for three years they refused to go this year so I'm making forays instead...

No I didn't find the scotch eggs, but will have a look when I go back at the weekend. No comment on the arms - he had a jacket on...

@themill said...

Wouldn't you just love to walk around with a copy of The Torygraph and see what happens?

Stay at home dad said...

No! It would be horrible. People would attack you with G2 sections and cotton bags ...

Andres Carl Sena said...

you are a writeer, a good one. keep at it.

The Good Woman said...

Every post written in the south that I've read today involved torrential , life-threatening rain. Makes me feel quite happy to be in Scotland where we've only had showers and the odd spot of hail.

I am interested to know SAHD, when your book gets published (there is a book right?), what would you like people to say to you at signings?

mutterings and meanderings said...

Ah, SAHD, next year it might be you ...

Pig in the Kitchen said...

My children always wail for Daddy when they are with me, and for me when they are with Daddy. Never misunderestimate (I love Bush-isms) the manipulative power of children.

I read recently that it's not necessarily the best writers that get published, but the most persistent...

And perhaps you need a snappier title for your blog? 'The Unbearable Tedium of Being a Stay at Home Dad', 'A Heartbreaking Slog of a Thankless Job', 'The Dad, the kid, his Prius and the School Run'... Just ideas SAHD, just ideas...;-)

Stay at home dad said...

ACS - thank you!

TGW - no there's no book. But what I'd like them to say is: "I know a great pub round the corner. It's on me - I'll take you there after you're done."

M&M - yes it might be, it really could be...

Pig - I have to hope you're right! Very amusing I'm sure. How he got away with tht title I've no idea. But he is very good...

lady macleod said...

I am pea green with envy. Hay on Wye! I have always wanted to go there since I read a description of all the bookshops. Sounds a paradise, but I do fear I might never get out.

debio said...

Every time I've been to Hay in the past the weather has been good - I think I would be hardpressed into enjoyment in the wet.
First time we went my daughter, then age 7 or 8, met her hero Ray Mears. Been trying to get her on one of his UK adventure holidays but always so booked up...

rilly super said...

I've visited Hay quite a number of times stayathomedad, but I have never been to the festival, that journey over a bank holiday weekend being particulary daunting not to mention spending a day surrounded by people who write books that actually get published, sigh, but I think your description, and the delicious irony of the guardian sponsoring a literature festival has certainly made me reconsider

Stay at home dad said...

Your ladyship, if you go I recommend a sunny day!

Debio - I would have thought you might like a bit of rain in your situation. Yes, nice to see your heroes, or maybe dangerous, I'm not sure...

I Beatrice said...

Oh my SAHD, just to have made-it there at all is brave, in my view!

I enjoy your writing and urge you to keep at it. We all have these little blips (for my own of today, go if you can be bothered, to my 'Just Blogging' page.

But when the bug bites,there's nothing for it but figuratively to scratch - and go on scratching no matter what!

Gwen said...

I have heard that most writers love it if you tell them how much they like your work. I'm not sure about Dave Eggers though. Please keep persevering with the writing. I'm sure that you will do well.

Stay at home dad said...

Rilly, why not book for next year when Dulwich Mum and Wife in the North will be appearing...

Stay at home dad said...

Yes you're right I Beatrice, thanks for nudging...

Thanks Gwen too. Yes I suppose the simple route is probably the most sensible one.