Monday, 16 January 2017

Ceilidh at Kinnersley Castle

And what a wonderful location!

There won't be a Burns Night Ceilidh in Hay this year so fans of Scottish tradition and men in kilts will have to go a little further afield!
The ceilidh will be held on Friday, January 27th from 8pm and it's a fundraiser for Michaelchurch Escley Primary School. Tickets in advance are available from Jules North on 07866 170360 and cost £15 for hot food, whisky on arrival and dancing till midnight with live band, Spindrift.

Sunday, 15 January 2017

Greenpeace Meeting at the Globe

Upstairs in the Globe, building work is going on, so we met in the cafe downstairs, which was full for the event - one family had come from Hereford to find out more, and the organisers had come down from Builth Wells (though Janet is originally a Northern lass, and her husband Pete comes from Devon). They had come hoping to set up a new local group in Hay, so they wanted to explain what being an activist with Greenpeace is all about.
There are lots of ways to get involved: the usual signing petitions and writing to your MP, manning an information stall in the high street and, the sort of thing that gets Greenpeace onto the news - the Actions like occupying the roof of the Houses of Parliament or climbing up the Shard.
It was made very clear that anything a member does is their own personal responsibility. Greenpeace was originally set up partly by Quakers, so they felt that personal responsibility and non-violence were essential to the ethos of the organisation. Greenpeace holds regular training days for non-violent action - how to de-escalate encounters with police or security, or simply angry members of the public. They also hold training sessions for climbing (to get up the Shard or onto the roof of the Houses of Parliament) and boats, so that when they are planning an Action, there is a pool of trained people to draw from.
The main way Greenpeace communicates with members now is via their webpage -
This gives information on what local groups are doing, and the national campaigns, and there's a blog.
The issues they tackle tend to be global in nature - someone asked what the Greenpeace position was on badgers, and they don't really have one, though members of Greenpeace may also be involved in protecting badgers. Instead it's Saving the Arctic, Protecting Forests, Defending Oceans, and Tackling Climate Change.
Pete was involved in the climb onto the top of the Houses of Parliament in 2010, just before the Copenhagen Summit on Climate Change. The motive was to impress on MPs returning from their summer breaks how important the issue was, and to do this they practiced passing ladders over a wall, across a roof and up another roof in under three minutes, because of the armed police on the premises. One member of the group had a banner, and her job was to approach the police, when they appeared, proclaiming they were Greenpeace, and not to shoot!
Janet has gone further afield, when she was chosen as part of the international group that went to stay in the Amazon jungle with the Munduruku people to protest the building of a dam across one of the main tributaries of the Amazon river. That dam will not, now, be built, but others are planned in the area. Janet's story is told in the Greenpeace magazine Connect, which was being given out at the meeting.
They were also asked about the Greenpeace position on the Swansea tidal barrage, which they were in favour of - one member of the audience pointed out that people in Cornwall were very much against the barrage, because the stone to build it was coming from a Cornish quarry and would cause a lot of damage to the environment there. As someone else said, there's a lot of stone in South Wales - why couldn't it be built with that?
The idea was to start a local group in Hay, and quite a few people signed up for that - the first meeting will be at the Globe on 16th February, but before that, there is an Action planned in Hereford on Saturday 21st. They will be meeting outside WH Smiths around mid day to man an information table outside a national business which is involved in the palm oil trade - details to be revealed on Tuesday.
There were people in the audience who were already involved in activism on various topics - one man gave out postcards from the Campaign Against Arms Trade, to be sent off to MPs to protest about weapons being sold by the UK to Saudi Arabia.
Another chap is involved with the Candlight Cinema at the Globe. They show a film once a month made by independent film makers on thought provoking topics. The next one is on Thursday 26th January (cost £5) and is called One Track Heart: The Story of Krishna Das - the man who became the lead vocalist with the group Blue Oyster Cult, as well as being a world renowned spiritual teacher.

Saturday, 14 January 2017

Knights Templar at Cusop

The Hay History Group went across the border to England for their meeting last night, in Cusop Village Hall. Despite the snow, the hall was packed.

Alan Nicholls and Mari Fforde started the meeting off with a bit of a double act - it was a bit like watching newsreaders chatting together as they read the news - "And what have you got for us now, Alan?"!
Alan has been doing a lot of research, and has a new book out (price £15.00) on Hay Parish. He has also managed to trace his own ancestry back to a Welsh Prince in around 900, though he will have to do more research to make sure those links are right!
One delightful piece of information he turned up was in a will held in Canterbury - people who owned land in more than one parish had to have their wills proved (and saved for posterity) at an office in Canterbury, and this 17th century Mr Watkins had left 20 shillings for the building of two bridges over the Dulas brook, one of which we had crossed to get to the hall that evening (obviously they've been rebuilt since!). This was the first mention he could find of the bridges, so he assumes that the brook was forded at those points before that.

Mari said that she hopes work on the Castle will begin around April, and will be going on until 2019. All the floorboards in the attic have been taken up so that the architects can see the joists and assess how strong they are, and she's also planning a large tapestry to hang in the area which will be the entrance hall. This is the part that was damaged by fire, and will be an open hall up to the roof in the rebuilding. There are 18 families who were associated with the Castle, and she wants to choose 9 of them to represent on the tapestry by their coats of arms, finishing off with Richard Booth's - the final choice may be down to which are the prettiest!
She also said she wanted to do a documentary about Matilda de Breose, which should be interesting. She thinks that Matilda was the power behind William de Breose, one of the most hated men on the Marches at the time after the massacre at Abergavenny Castle.

And then we came to the meat of the evening - a talk given by Gill McHattie on the Knights Templar. She was anxious to dispell some of the myths about the Templars - who were arrested throughout France on the same day by King Philip the Fair, an amazing level of organisation for the period, as they had no warning at all. It was King Philip who spread many of the rumours taken up enthusiastically by the likes of Dan Brown, and mostly wrung from the Knights themselves by torture. And the date of that mass round-up was Friday 13th 1307, hence the bad reputation Friday 13th has had ever since!
They were monastic knights, and their Rule was drawn up by St Bernard of Clairvaux, a keen advocate of the Crusades, the first Grand Master being one of Bernard's cousins, according to some recent research. The beginnings of the order are shrouded in mystery - the first documentation appears later, when they were already a major movement throughout Europe - but they attracted members of aristocratic families, who moved in the most important political circles of the time. And they became enormously wealthy, which provides a sufficient motive for King Philip to get rid of them, in France at least - and he had a tame Pope on hand in Avignon to issue whatever orders he wanted.
One Papal Bull, ordering Robert the Bruce to round up and torture Knights of the Order in Scotland, was returned. Twice. Robert had just been excommunicated by the Pope, so he didn't see why he should follow any Papal orders!

Gill McHattie has been doing research around Herefordshire, and showed slides of some of her findings (she's also written a book, copies of which were available on the night). Most people who know about the Templars know about Garway (by the way, she says the myth of there being 666 pigeon holes in the dovecote there is rubbish).
It was by no means the only site associated with the Templars, though - they also had a manor at Bosbury, close to the Bishop's Palace once occupied by St Thomas Cantilupe, the 13th century gatehouse of which survives as part of a farmhouse there. Unusually for the tomb of a bishop at that period, St Thomas's tomb in Hereford Cathedral has armed knights carved around it, who may possibly be Templars.
There was a circular chapel in Hereford itself, built on de Lacy land - the de Lacy family had strong ties to the Templars. The foundations were found during building work in the 19th century. Garway was originally a round church, too, to imitate the Holy Sephulcre in Jerusalem, though it was rebuilt in more conventional style by the Hospitallers when they took over. And the chapel at Ludlow Castle is round, too.
Elsewhere there are grave slabs, marked with a foliate cross, sometimes with the outline of a sword, and sometimes with the circular cross used by the Grand Master. No names were inscribed on the grave markers - the Knights were supposed to be known only to God.
And finally there was the mystery of the Grand Master's seal, showing two knights mounted on a single horse. Traditionally this has been claimed to show the vow of poverty that the Knights took when they joined the Order, but as Gill pointed out, in reality they would have been tripping over horses! Each knight had a battle trained horse, plus one or two riding horses, plus a horse for the squire, and baggage horses - and it's part of the Rule that the knights went from the first church service of the day to look after their horse! So maybe it was to show that the Knights fought practically, in the battles against the Saracens, and spiritually, as monks?
It was a fascinating talk, and I learned a lot about hidden corners of Herefordshire.

Friday, 13 January 2017

Greenpeace at the Globe

Some people from Greenpeace will be at the Globe at 4.30pm on Saturday, to talk about their campaigning experiences. Rick Guest walked from Herefordshire to London last year, dressed as Gandalf, to protest about fracking, and ended up at the Houses of Parliament, for instance. Others have run a high street stall giving information about environmental issues.

Thursday, 12 January 2017

Going to see the Tempest

I had a wonderful day out on Tuesday! A friend was going on a coach trip to Stratford-on-Avon to see the Tempest, and invited me to come with her.
I've never been to the RSC before, and the Tempest is one of my favourite Shakespeare plays, so I jumped at the chance.
This meant an early start to drive into Hereford - the coach was waiting in the car park round the back of the football ground. We headed down to Ross to pick up some more passengers, and then across to Stratford, arriving around 11am. The coach stopped next to this charming little statue - Bottom and Tevye from Fiddler on the Roof, making music together, given by the State of Israel!

I took the picture through the coach window, which is why it looks a bit odd.

We were a little early to order lunch, but we had an extremely nice breakfast at Cafe Rouge on Sheep Street, just round the corner from the theatre.
The performance began at 1pm, and they were having the camera rehearsal for the following day's live broadcast, which was shown at Booths Cinema in Hay. We were up in the Gods, looking down on the stage, and though I noticed the camera moving around on a long arm, it wasn't intrusive. There was a school party just behind us, and they weren't a problem either - chatty while the lights were up, but very quiet during the play.
Though I'd never been to the RSC before, my sister had come with our school, back in the 1970s, and must have sat about where I was sitting on Tuesday. She suffered from vertigo, and had to go downstairs to stand at the back of the stalls, where she ended up explaining the play to a party of Americans. It was the highlight of her weekend - especially as she'd never seen Hamlet before!
We were looking down into a stage defined by ship's timbers - with the most incredible lighting effects when the action started. Ariel appeared on stage, but was also performing with motion capture, so that projected animations moved as he did, flying across the stage. At other points in the play, the stage was covered with flowers, mariners from the wrecked ship sank through the sea, Ariel was reminded of his imprisonment in a cleft tree, and trees appeared in the background, all done with the lighting.
It was a far cry from the production Susan had seen in her youth, with John Gielgud as Prospero and Margaret Leighton as Ariel, when the special effect denoting the sea was a long piece of material being shaken up and down across the stage! It was nice to see a picture of Margaret Leighton as Ariel from that production in the stairwell as we went downstairs after the show.
Simon Russell Beale, as Prospero, was not John Gielgud, but he did play a very good Falstaff in the TV production The Hollow Crown.
It was also interesting to see Simon Trinder as Trinculo, comic relief with Caliban - he also played Frannie Bliss the policeman in the TV production of Phil Rickman's novel Midwinter of the Spirit. Caliban was played by Joe Dixon, who had previously been the Chancellor of Gallifrey in the Doctor Who episode The End of Time! Stephano, the drunken butler following Caliban round the island, was Tony Jayawadema, who had previously been Tony in the film A Street Cat Named Bob, which I saw before Christmas - I think he was my favourite character in this production!
One of the Spirits had previously appeared at Bristol Old Vic in the production of Jane Eyre I saw last year, and Oscar Pearce, who played Antonio, Prospero's wicked brother, had a minor part in Captain America: The First Avenger! He did a good double act with Sebastian, the King of Naples' brother, played by Tom Turner.
It was a magical performance; the lighting and special effects were stunningly good, and it was a wonderful day out.
When the coach dropped us in Hereford, we drove home to Sibelius on the radio, and finished the day off with a meal out in Hay. Tomatitos was closed for the winter season - they're only opening towards the end of the week - and Kilvert's was closed for renovation, so we ended up at Red Indigo, for a very good curry.

Wednesday, 11 January 2017

Last Post

As I approached the war memorial this evening, I heard the unmistakable first notes of the Last Post played on a bugle.
The memorial was flanked by two British Legion flag bearers with their flags lowered to the ground, and a small group of people stood in a semi-circle with their heads bowed as the bugler played.
There was a moment's silence, another short bugle call, and the flags were lifted.

I don't know what they were commemorating, but it was quite an eerie scene, under the full moon.

Monday, 9 January 2017

Woodland Management

The strip of woodland along the River Wye, through which the Offa's Dyke Path goes, has a new owner, who has been getting down to some serious woodland management. There are piles of logs where trees have been thinned out, the brambles have been cleared, and the path has been widened in places - probably to allow access for the tracked machinery which has been down there (some sort of mini-digger, I think). It's still woodland though - they've only taken a few trees down - and they also did this:

Just right for a little sit down!