Mexico : diario de la poesía #1 - Hay Xalapa begins

I know I have to start writing about the first day in Mexico after the first day, or it will all pass me by. Such is the pace, it feels I've been here many days, not one. And at the end of the first event I did, a man asked me about this blog, said he read it, it was inspiring, or something like that, and so I now I realise people read it, so I have to keep doing it.
I flew to Mexico City from London watching shite action films I'd been saving, 4 and a half of them. I met Nell Leyshon, also here with the British Council for both Hay Xalapa and Cervantino, and we immediately hit it off. An extraordinary woman from the first, funny as hell, kind, humble, passionate and genuinely interesting. Boded well. We were plopped in the airport Ramada in Mexico city, and talked later into the night over Chalapas, despite being knacked.

The next morning we were bussed down from Mexico city to Xalapa, with other translators and authors including the brilliant Tom Bunstead, covering the beautiful, open plains and mountains of the country. We immediately felt the full force of organisational fury from Hay. It is so amazingly organised, with an ocean of volunteers and organisers, who absolutely ensure you are where you need to be and when. I've never experienced such size in a festival. I had time to use the swanky hotel gym and go to the biggest supermarket I've ever visited, which had an in house bakery and a pork scratchings aisle, before I had to depart for my first event.

Nell and I were not allowed to make our own way, so a poor Spanish speaking student Itzel had to ferry and walk us through the town. We tried to gently escape, the narrow, colourful colonial architecture of Xalapa, its frequent arts centres, live public music and friendly laid back vibe taking us off the rush route to prep me for the event. 

This was the launch of the Enemies anthology, after a few years work, and the book really delivered. Just a beautiful book, so proud of it really. I was on a panel with Rocio Ceron, a force of nature, and Pura Lopez Colome, just an incredible generous and vital person and writer. I spoke in English and the others in Spanish, so I had a nodge in my ear that connected to a live translator. It led to some funny moments that only I could hear as the translator flapped to keep up. Our discussion was really rich, I tried to be funny, failing just enough that I ended up feeling really humbled by the concentrated questions from a large and attentive audience, and some overly kind words at the signing of the anthology afterwards. Pura and Rocio did amazing jobs, and the Hay people really delivered a large audience, many of whom were students and were taking notes, which made me laugh. And the last question was about this blog.

Nell and I nipped back to the hotel to try and grab free swankfood before heading back out for an opening thing, like a wine thing, which will never be my type of evening. I saw Rocio, a few nice people, had a chat, scarpered quick with the Mexican dead pan lead singer of the ropey band started covering George Harrison, and we killed the night talking about journalist murders in this state of Veracruz with other friends and eating Mole chicken.