This line from the Tony Bennett song ‘The Good Life’ sums up last weekend and the second occasion Mr E and I spent time at ‘The Good Life Experience’ in Hawarden. Very conveniently (for me), this is only a few miles from our home, within easy reach of the train station, a taxi ride away or, rather helpfully again, a lift from a willing nephew (thanks Al xx). What this means, is that I don’t need to sleep under canvas and get to spend the nights in my own bed…although Mr E is desperate to ‘do the festival thing’ at least once!
Once again, we found ourselves driving the few miles to the festival with the roof down, and enjoying the late evening sunshine. First stop was one of the most eclectic little bookshops I have had the pleasure to visit…Dylan’s Mobile Bookstore, filled with racks of books we never seem to see anywhere else…poetry, art, photography (of course!), welsh myth and legend, the list goes on, and just like last year, we took several books home with us later that evening. After a quick hello to Tom of Vinyl on Demand (VOD), we made our way to the food stalls and enjoyed the most fabulous south Indian chicken and coconut curry.
As we made our way to the main stage, we caught the tail end of a performance by gritty Manchester poet, Mike Garry. His rendition of ‘What Me Mam Taught Me’ a poem he wrote for his Mum’s funeral was both poignant and humorous in equal measure.
Then it was time for the main event, John Cooper Clarke. Amazingly, at 67 years of age, this punk poet machine-gunned his audience for over an hour, regaling them with anecdotes and poems since his career began in the early 70s. Sometimes irreverent, sometimes sailing a little close to the wind, he entertained the packed tent with renditions of Evidently Chickentown, I Wanna Be Yours (used by the Arctic Monkeys) and of course, Beasley Street and left you in no doubt, you had witnessed culture at its’ best!
Saturday morning dawned with the brightest blue sky and sunshine as Mr E and I hopped onto the train at Caergwrle and just twelve minutes later alighted at Hawarden, wandering down to the festival site. We’ve both driven through the village countless times, but it’s not until you are on foot and your pace slows down do you see things you’ve never seen before (the water pump and the gateway to the ‘house of correction’ being just two of a number of interesting things).
After a quick coffee stop, we killed time looking at some of the rather eclectic stalls in the Market Place and Makers’ Row waiting for a ‘ping’ on the phone to let us know that good friends Gaynor and Phil had arrived. It’s fair to say that whilst Perryn and I had thoroughly enjoyed our first festival experience last year, this year was made even more fun by having excellent company to share the experience.
There were talks on a variety of topics, including bee-keeping (and honey whisky making ‘Bees’ Knees’ ); culture (Timothy Leary & KLF; Michael Morpurgo), cookery (Brazilian Chefs Samba Grill), floristry (Wild at Heart) and of course the Gin Palace where we sat in the sunshine whilst music from the Flintshire Male Voice Choir and Booka Brass Brand washed over us. We reached the conclusion that collectively we had experienced lots of interesting experiences we wouldn’t ordinarily come across every day.
The evening was a given over to a variety of music, DJ 78, Booka Brass Band, Diabel Cissokho – who played the most unusual stringed instrument we’ve ever seen (the Kora I think), Fanfare Ciorcarlia from Romania and toward the end of the evening, the Hooton Tennis Club (brilliant set!). Given Perryn’s passion for music, I’ve learned that it pays to have an open mind when it comes to music…and I loved most of it.
Last year, I lasted until 9.00pm, when I realised I couldn’t walk another pace…this year, our pretty cool nephew (who had looked after all the dogs during the day) came to pick us up at 11.45pm…clearly I am getting used to coping with festivals (or I am sitting down a bit more and saving my feet!).
A stunning start to Sunday (here’s hoping for an Indian summer!) saw us once again driving to Hawarden, grabbing a coffee and a bacon bap before I set off to create a floral crown with Wild at Heart. What a fabulous way to spend an hour on a Sunday morning, the floristry team were patient, sociable and incredibly encouraging, and I was pretty pleased with my effort. I will be definitely be making use some of the techniques learned for props for photoshoots in the future.
During my creative spell, Mr E attended ‘Howl Sixty, Ginsberg in Wales’…he was the first to admit it was a little ‘deep’ for Sunday morning! He then dropped in to listen to Hugh Miller talk about Japanese Wood Craftsmanship at the Academy… I was fortunate enough to join just before it started and we sat through a passionate talk about the Japanese approach to woodworking and design which inspired on so many levels.
Catching up with Gaynor and Phil, the guys went their separate ways, Phil to a talk on entrepreneurship, Perryn to another woodworking talk. Gaynor and I made our way to the gin tent deckchairs and enjoyed a wonderful hour or so in the sun, soaking up the atmosphere, talking to people who just stopped by to chat (and enjoying another gin of course!) to the backdrop of children laughing as they played on an improvised slide made out of hay bales, coupled with music from the main stage it made for a very relaxing Sunday morning.
We wandered down to the lake to watch the coracle regatta (think sailing in a walnut shell!), which consisted of racing and water polo and generally lots of fun. Basking in the sunshine and enjoying a late lunch, it was soon 3.00pm and we said our goodbyes and set off on the short journey home.
So…we’re very tempted to book the ‘early bird’ tickets for next year…Cerys Matthews and Charlie Gladstone can you guarantee the fabulous weather again?!
Until next time
Footnote: As I hope my images show, the festival is a photographers’ paradise! The majority of these images were taken using my Fuji XT2 with either the 16-55mm or 50-140mm. It’s still early days but I already love the upgrade from the XT1, particularly the focusing paddle and the multi-way flip-out screen, I also like the locking dials which make sure I don’t inadvertently change my settings and the Acros B&W film simulation setting is rather nice too!