Journeys

Yesterday, I drove up to the Hay Festival of Literature and the Arts for the day. Hay-on-Wye is an interesting place, a small town full of bookshops. It’s separated from my part of Wales by the Brecon Beacons, which makes it a lovely drive.

When I left home, the weather was cold, very windy, and raining; a pattern of weather that we’ve had for a few weeks now, and which has finished off most of the sunflowers I’d planted. I think my sweetcorn and French beans are in danger of going the same way 😦 Once I’d crossed the Beacons, though, it was quite different – beautiful sunshine all day!

I almost immediately bumped into a couple of old friends, which was great. I moved on into the town to browse for books. I picked up a few that are really interesting, including Primitive Revolutionaries in China. A Study of Secret Societies of the Late 19th Century by Fei-Ling Davies. Published in 1971, it’s a fascinating insight into the society and power structures of Qing-period China, in which the poor and/or low-status professionals and merchants combined to protect themselves. It also inspired an article, Tong Aesthetics, by Hakim Bey who, as you’ll see from the About page, has been an inspiration of mine for quite some time.

The reason for going up to Hay was to catch a talk with Colin Thubron, the travel writer. He was discussing his latest book, To a mountain in Tibet (review, review). The mountain in question is Mount Kailas, sacred to three religions. I’ve been fascinated by this mountain for years. During my MBA, I dated a Chinese girl, a Han who had grown up in Xinjiang. During her teens and early twenties I gather she’d been a bit of a tearaway, and had travelled around Western China and Tibet with friends, hiking and moving around in the backs of trucks, drinking around bonfires in the desert… In the course of her adventures, she had circumnavigated the holy mountain, and was obviously moved by the beauty of Tibet. She recommended Kekexili to me, as it reminded her of the Tibet she knew. I really should watch that again soon.

Thubron did this journey when he was 70. travelling into Tibet from Nepal with “a sherpa, a cook, and a horse”. It was really fascinating to hear his account of it all. It really was a spur-of-the-moment decision to go, having just bought a ticket online that morning. For some reason, it wasn’t sold out, but it deserved to be! When I collected my ticket at the box office, someone mentioned that Julian Assange had just been added to the speakers for next weekend, so I quickly bought a ticket for that. The modern jianghu…

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