The Road To Hay..


The imminent arrival of our second child, has grounded all vacation involving flights for the foreseeable. And, so, Saffron Darby and I, took the opportunity to escape to the wilds of the Gower, Wales, with a layover at The How The Light Gets In festival on our return to Bristol.

But the road trip, and, moreover, attending a festival, need not mean giving up one’s sartorial comforts, in fact far from it. They can, in fact, provide just the opportunity to dress as you might otherwise feel too self conscious to do otherwise – it also presents the annual challenge of how little we can pack, and how little we can make do with.

Given the rural environment, and the absence of one’s estate to stroll around each day, there is very little call for a suit, albeit, if I had made a choice of which Porter and Harding Thornproof tweed to make use of for my next set of tweeds, I’d almost certainly have packed them.

But it makes a nice change to down tools from time to time, and focus on other garments in the wardrobe: garments which I would consider of preppy in style i.e. blazer or jacket, open neck shirt, or button down, chinos and brogues – and, of course, wellies, which was the footwear of choice for the How The Light Gets In festival, as it had rained every day since it opened, rendering the riverside campsite a quagmire.

The trick, as with any holiday, is to pack just enough clothes. Garments which can all be alternated with one another, and, provide four ensembles from the get go, or variations on a theme, depending on the application, or, indeed, weather. For example; two pairs chinos, two shirts, one pair shorts (tailored), one jacket, one pair brogues, one pair wellies (Hunter hessian riding wellies which I came across in Lane Crawford in Hong Kong) and a kaftan (a man must have something to relax in come the evening, or lounge in on the terrace during the day if the weather is extremely hot).

Now, whilst there was still packing to do, a lorry load of luggage, and a small child, to shoehorn into the car, it was difficult to resist that holiday feeling, and, so, I dressed as if we were going out for dinner, obviously: jacket, shirt, chinos and Car Shoes (the original by Marchio Registrato and still the best). Now, I should point out that it was cold and overcast when we awoke, and got ready, but 40 mins of packing later, I was sincerely regretting my decision by the time we left No. 73 and felt like I’d done a days gardening!

When asked how the weather was on our holiday, I mean it most sincerely when I say that it did not rain every day – a veritable bonus where the staycation is concerned. And, we survived the week in the clothes which we had packed, bar one laundry load owing to my daughter using Daddy as a climbing frame, rendering one pairs of chinos unwearable after only one day.

We walked, we strolled, we dug for gold and enjoyed all that the Welsh weather had to throw at us..then we arrived in Hay-on-Wye!

The mud was deep, the cars skated across fields into their respective parking spaces, and our hosts at the Riverside Campsite, Roger, Bill and Becks to whom we are indebted, literally passed us our wellies from the boot of the car in order that we might disembark, ankle deep in mud, and not lose a shoe in the goo!

And facilitating our wellies was not the only luxury which our hosts afforded us, no siree Bob! For, upon announcing the activities which Bristol’s local tailor was looking forward to during our stay; including staying in a riverside luxury yurt for the first time, bathing in the ice cold, and rather fast flowing I learned to my surprise, river Wye in the morning, but, above all, enjoying a cigar under the stars.

Then, as if orchestrated, our hosts produced from underneath the counter in their reception yurt, a package of hand rolled Cuban cigar, fresh from the motherland! How could I resist? Albeit I had earmarked a smoke for the evening ahead, it was too good an offer to pass up, and so I lit-up with gusto, then and there!

And what a smoke she was, truly indicative of the cigars which are rolled on Cuba’s plantations for the locals; dark, rough hewn and full flavoured but incredibly smooth. I would typically enjoy a cigar after dinner, which this year was provided by Wild Hare Events, who had set-up camp with their onion-shaped yurts and a Mash-style dining tent, serving beef curry, coq au vin: does festival dining get any better?! This cigar, however, I enjoyed from arrival and up until lunch. Then after lunch, before and after dinner and into the evening, until, I was indeed smoking her under the stars.

Now, I’m sure the cigar helped, but by simply donning one’s chinos, a check shirt, hessian wellies and a blue linen jacket, I was labelled the best dressed man on the site. So, regardless where, regardless the weather and regardless when, as, let’s face it, we can’t guarantee the weather on a staycation at any time in the calendar year here Blighty: there is always an opportunity to uphold, and, moreover, make the most of one’s sartorial leanings when we are on the road.

Brown in Town