Wednesday, 8 June 2011

A week of pigs, books and robots!!

A great week last week....

A trip to the Royal Bath and West Show in Somerset....a riot of rare breeds, side shows and country crafts.


Then onto the Hay Festival at Hay on Wye...a wonderful tented field of books and music nestling in the valley below Hay Bluff. You can read my interview with Martin Chilton of the Telegraph here;

www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/hay-festival/8526354/Hay-Festival-live.html

I was lucky enough to get a few tickets to the sell out Eoin Colfer event...fantastic and very funny!!

In the afternoon I joined the lovely Lucy Christopher, author of Flyaway, for a panel event sponsored by the RSPB (celebrating 100 years of the RSPB in Wales!). The children in the Hay audience were great and asked loads of really interesting questions.

Then I heard Philip Pullman talk about the dire state of library funding in England and also about his ideas behind his novel, Jesus the Good Man and the Scoundrel Christ. There was resounding support for libraries from the audience and Pullman spoke about the importance of getting libraries into schools...and also for children to be able to enjoy books within schools without always having to analyse the text. I couldn't agree more...I think the last half hour of the school day should be set aside for a story.

Finally, after a comfortable night at a farmhouse B and B, the farmers kindly showed us around the farm and also their robotic milking machine. I'd never seen one in action before. The farmers no longer have to herd the cattle into the milking parlour twice a day for milking. Instead the cows choose when to go into the cubicle to be milked. A computer reads the tag on their collar and determines how much feed each cow needs depending upon how long she has been in milk. As the cow is eating her food, the milking machine directs laser beam of light at her udder to work out where to put the suction cups! Then the milk flows through individual filters and the milking machine can determine if there are any abnormalities in the milk. When the machine detects that each quarter of the udder is empty, it releases the suction cups. It all sounds very high tech and non-labour intensive, but the farmer told me that the system only works well if the cows are well looked after and checked throughout the day and night.

So after a bit of a manic month of Scottish tours and festivals...I can now look forward to getting down to some writing again...hooray!!