Rebellion is pure poetry

1st July 2005 at 01:00
Recently I decided to escape the classroom and take a literary sojourn to the Hay Festival. Unfortunately within 30 minutes of my arrival someone decided I was perfect steward material. I discarded my carefully chosen pseudo-Bohemian crushed-velvet-with-Liberty-print ensemble and donned a fluorescent yellow jacket with complimentary whistle and headset.

I'd envisaged sipping Pimm's under the shadow of Hay Castle as I plucked strands of poetry from the fertile Welsh air, but reality is a humbling adventure; there was no Pimm's, no poetry and nothing remotely fertile.

My five days turned out to be the equivalent of a hallucinogenic GCSE English oral assessment. The pupils were not stuttering 15-year-olds but respected household names, who nevertheless have a thing or two to learn before they'd be awarded a good grade: Goldie Hawn - would you please stop flicking your damn hair.

John Humphrys - I thought you'd be the thinking woman's Kilroy-Silk but your presentation was too self-satisfied to be convincing.

Ian McEwan - please don't leave other pupils' presentations halfway through, and no, you can't use the fire exit, not even as a secular metaphor.

Roy Hattersley - is it really necessary to bring your dog to the classroom?

Christopher Hitchens - the taboo words "fuck you" might ingratiate you with some of the audience but unfortunately you're now required to re-sit the whole year.

My own stewarding performance had been grade A until the night of the annual Hay Quiz, which was due to start at 8 for 8.15. I arrived at 7.55 and suddenly discovered the meaning of the word humiliation. The head steward was a fellow teacher and was not happy. He huffed and puffed to such an extent that I was worried he might phone my mother.

Half an hour later my humiliation caused the rebellious teenager in me to surface. I'd been treated like a very naughty pupil so would now act like one. I sneaked out to the nearest off-licence and bought a bottle of mineral water, a bottle of vodka and a bottle of tonic. Outside I chucked the water away and refilled the bottle with a vodka and tonic mix.

Throughout the rest of the evening I looked like I was keeping to the stewards' rules of no drinking on duty, but instead got thoroughly plastered.

Rebellion might be pointless and shallow but it's a bloody divine sensation. I almost wish that I'd been discovered so that I could have kicked over a table, stormed out and joined Christopher Hitchens in his taboo lexicon.

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