Sunday, 25 February 2007

The Duck Egg Lady

I saw her today, walking her huge Alsatian, and she asked me if I wanted half a dozen, because the ducks have started laying like mad! And by the way, did I know of anyone who wanted to sell a goose?
I love duck eggs.

Saturday, 24 February 2007

Polish Connections

I was in Marijana Dworski's shop today when a Polish couple came in to enquire about the name.
Dworski is a Polish name, but Marijana was born and brought up locally. Her father was the potter in Clyro - the little stone hut he used as his pottery was recently knocked down and a new house is now onthe site. Mr Dworski came to this country at the end of the Second World War, but most of his family were in Croatia, and Marijana still has relatives there. His parents wanted him to be a lawyer; he wanted to be a potter - so he stayed here, and flourished.

Meanwhile, there seems to be a fault with the computer at the Children's Bookshop - Judith is having trouble getting her emails through. Normal service will be resumed as soon as possible.

Friday, 23 February 2007

Knitting a Welsh Dresser

Stitch and Bitch went well last night, back in the Wool and Willow shop.

Joyce has been contacted by someone from Great Ormond Street Hospital. Last year, teams of knitters created a twenty five foot high knitted Christmas tree, which was exhibited around the country to raise money for the hospital and for a hospice in North Devon. This year, they want to create a full sized gingerbread house, with all the furnishings. As we are a Welsh group of knitters, they approached us to ask if we would knit a Welsh dresser for them.

Having looked at the instructions, and ascertained that it all had to be hand knitting, Joyce realised that there wouldn't be time for us to do the whole thing ourselves, so she asked the group if anyone was prepared to do the smaller sections, and got a couple of volunteers straight away. The finished house will be exhibited at the Wonderwool exhibition at the Royal Welsh Showground in May, and knitters who contribute to it will get free tickets.

Wednesday, 21 February 2007

Wheelchair access

Hay is not, it has to be said, a wheelchair-friendly environment. Most of the town is built on a hill, the pavements are narrow and the shops tend to be in historic buildings which are difficult to convert to allow wheelchair access. Bob Gardner, from the Children's Bookshop (who died last year), used to complain regularly about cars parked across the dips in the kerbs which were the only places he could cross the road, and the clutter outside one of the antique shops that forced him into the road.

However, things are looking up for wheelchair users on the Riverside Path. There's a new kissing gate at the entrance to the Warren, with enough space to allow a wheelchair through and still stop the sheep from getting out, and a new ramp is being built down to the river's edge for disabled fishermen. This is quite a large scale project - just before the snow, a lorry load of stone was dumped on the top path, and this had to be moved with a mini digger down to the bottom path and put into place on the new ramp with another little digger. Tree trunks have been used from the trees that fell down in the winter storms. And all this with the minimum of disruption to the dog walkers and other users of the riverside paths.

Meanwhile, Julian Jones from the Radnorshire Wildlife Trust is giving a talk on Wednesday, February 28th at 7.30pm at the Baskerville Arms Hotel in Clyro, just across the river. The title is Big Oaks, Dormice and Curlews - all of which Radnorshire has in abundance.

Tuesday, 20 February 2007

Dogs in Shops

I overheard this in one of the bookshops. "Isn't it wonderful?" the man was saying to his friend. "I was just in Tom's Record Shop, and someone opened the door and said 'there you go, Molly', and this dog came in. It belonged to the shop, and they'd just brought it back from a walk."
This is typical of Hay. When I worked at the Children's Bookshop in Backfold (now the Wool and Willow shop) Bic and her friend Clare used to come regularly to take Islay for a walk during the school holidays. Bic is the youngest daughter of Mr Lee, who owns the Chinese takeaway, and when I last saw her she was going off to Reading University to study law.
Islay and Molly aren't the only dogs who are attatched to shops around Hay, either. Janice takes her pretty little Sheltie Mab to work with her. She's worked all over Hay, for Richard Booth, and Boz of Boz Books and Mark Westwood and others, and is usually seen now at the Antique Centre.
Then there's Holly at Rose's Children's Bookshop - any dog who chews a Noddy toy can't be all bad! (Holly is actually quite shy.)
There's usually a black labrador at the Hourglass Gallery - the owner of the dog lives at the back of the shop, and doesn't actually work there.
Then there's Rita at Bedecked in Backfold, and one of the assistants at Marijana Dworski's bookshop takes her dog in, too.
Of the other shops in Hay, nearly all of the non-food shops allow dogs to come in the shop, including Country Supplies (where Islay gets some of her treats, so she likes going in there), and Jones' Hardware.
Addyman's sometimes has a cat in the shop, so they're not keen on dogs coming in.
A few years ago, the Guardian ran a series of maps in its Saturday magazine, showing the distribution of different things across the UK - most likely to have a microwave, for isntance. They did one for dog ownership, and this area had one of the highest percentages of dog ownership in the country. None of us were surprised.

Saturday, 17 February 2007

Celia Boyd - First Dry Rattle

It's wonderful how someone you've known for years can suddenly surprise you.

I first knew Celia through the Hay Arts committee - she resisted being chair, but was a driving force while I was secretary. She was instrumental in organising several fund raising concerts (including a Gilbert and Sullivan evening in which she played one of the Three Little Maids From School - not one of Hay's finest theatrical moments). She talked of being an actress in her youth, playing roles such as Shakespeare's Mistress Quickly.

I had no idea she was a published author, until today, when I walked past Pemberton's. This is the only shop in Hay that sells new books, and half the window was taken up with advertising for Celia's new book, First Dry Rattle, the first in a trilogy about the English Civil War, following a young surgeon called Thomas Fletcher. It's set in Worcester, and leads up to the battle of Edgehill - the title is taken from a Kipling poem about the battle, and describes swords being drawn.
She's also written a children's book called Young Ravens, set in the Second World War, and First Fashionings, Social Conditioning, which is Georgian.
She's even contributed to the Cambridge Guide to Children's Books.
Now she's working on the rest of the trilogy about Thomas Fletcher.

Wednesday, 14 February 2007

Timbuktu - one of the 7 Wonders?

The Mayor of Timbuktu, Said Mahmoud, seems to be an energetic chap - he's putting his city in for a competition to be considered as one of the modern Seven Wonders of the World. Of the ancient Seven Wonders, only the Pyramids of Giza still exist. The Canadian film maker and explorer Bernard Weber, who started the competition, plans to make a film of the seven finalists. At the moment they're down to a shortlist of twenty one.
Points in Timbuktu's favour - it's the only site in central Africa under consideration, and they have unique mud brick architecture. Apparently the sand in the wind gradually scours the buildings away, so only mud buildings, which can be constantly repaired very easily, can survive there.
The Hay twinning committee are obviously enthusiastic about this new venture by the Malians. Other contenders are the Colosseum in Rome and the Alhambra Palace in Spain.

Tuesday, 13 February 2007

Bits and Bobs

I went to the Launderette yesterday, and in the interests of fairness, I have to admit that everything worked perfectly, and everything was clean (Yay!)
However, as I was taking stuff out of the washing machine, I was asked "Is that one all right?" by a lady who was waiting to use a machine that she had seen working.

The snow has now gone completely, but before it went, I saw a firecrest on the riverside path. Islay had ambled off up the side, so I stopped to wait for her, and spotted what I thought was a wren in the undergrowth. Then I noticed it didn't have the little sticky-up tail that a wren has, and then it turned round and I saw the vivid orange stripe on its head.
The last time I saw a firecrest was in similarly cold and bleak circumstances at Pwll-y-Wrach, near Talgarth, at the waterfall.

And speaking of Talgarth, it is surrounded by road works at the moment. I went into Brecon this morning on the bus, and there is the Bronllys and Talgarth bypass, which is at the stage where they are connecting it to the existing roads by means of roundabouts, so there are traffic cones everywhere and temporary ramps, and temporary traffic lights. Then the cycle path from Talgarth is being extended to Three Cocks (which is a good thing for cyclists), and as well as that, the road just outside the Talgarth Beast Market is being widened and fiddled about with, which means more temporary traffic lights. This was combined today with the busiest Beast Market I've ever seen in Talgarth, with cars and pickup trucks and trailers for transporting sheep parked everywhere - and the roads in Talgarth are narrow at the best of times.

Sunday, 11 February 2007

Tales of the Three Tuns

Some people came into Broad Street Book Centre today who used to be regulars at Lucy's when they came to Hay. Since Mary was in the shop at the time, they got talking.

The fire started them off. Mary took Lucy in that morning, and she sat at the side window upstairs all day watching her home burning down. What amazed Mary, though, was the fact that national newspapers started calling only a couple of hours after the fire started, and knew that Lucy was with her.
It was the day after the fire that surprised me, though. I'd heard the rumour that Lucy had kept stacks of bank notes in her old clock, but I'd never given it any credance until now. Mary was the one who went into the pub, the day after the fire, to recover what she could for Lucy - and the first thing she asked for was the marble clock over the mantlepiece. Everyone knew the clock hadn't worked for years - what they didn't know was that Lucy had been stuffing £20 notes into it. So Mary took that out, and three biscuit tins from out the back, which were blistered from the heat of the fire, but the contents were still okay, and more from under the till.... Lucy didn't believe in banks.

Lucy was known by all sorts of famous people who came to Hay for the Festival. She was fond of Jools Holland, who used to send her birthday cards. She didn't like Jeffrey Archer, though, and wouldn't have him in the pub.
One year, Julian Clary was doing a show, and a seat at the front had been reserved for Lucy - and he wouldn't start his act until she arrived. At the end of the show, the performers are always presented with a long stemmed white rose - and he went down and presented it to Lucy.
Years before, Lucy was serenaded by Mick Jagger. Lord and Lady Betjemen lived near Hay for years, and after Lady Betjemen died, the house was rented out to Mick Jagger. He used to come down to Kilverts when they had a grand piano in the bar and play it. One evening he was doing something for charity, and invited Lucy. She shut up the Three Tuns early - and he dedicated his last tune to her.

Now she comes up regularly to see the progress in the building works, and some people are hoping that the new owners will allow her to pull the first pint when the pub re-opens.

Saturday, 10 February 2007

Life in Snow

Snowmen have sprouted all around town - and one rather lovely snow woman, a snow sculpture which sadly collapsed overnight, before I had chance to take a photo.
On the second day, it snowed more heavily than the first, but it didn't seem to freeze over night. Today has been a day of slow dripping and thawing, but there's still plenty of snow on the ground. Mr Pugh, a near neighbour, measured 10 inches of snow on his back lawn.
Everyone optimistically put out their rubbish on Thursday night as usual, but the bin men haven't made it round yet. The recycling lorry has made it along Broad Street at least, but not up Bear Street or Heol-y-Dwr, where the snow is thicker on the road. We've even had a snowplough in the car park!
I took Islay out for a walk round yesterday around lunchtime. As we trudged past Carlesgate, I saw a man come out of one of the houses, and drive away. When I got to the main car park, there he was, picking up his child from school. It's less than a five minute walk, for Heaven's sake!

Meanwhile, Closing Down Sale signs have appeared in Mark Westwood's windows today. He is the Hay expert on scientific books, though he sells lots of other things as well.

Thursday, 8 February 2007

Winter Wonderland

We have snow.
Islay loves it - monochrome dog in a monochrome landscape, and it certainly looks beautiful, if a little dazzling, over on the Offa's Dyke path.
Of course, it means that we're almost cut off from the outside world. Half the shops in Hay didn't open today, and when I finally remembered it was market day, only the cheese stall was there.
Stitch n Bitch won't be happening again tonight, either. It's starting to look as if we've been cursed - something's gone wrong every Thursday this year. The Open Door craft session (2pm - 4pm) isn't happening either. They only do alternate Thursdays, though.

Wednesday, 7 February 2007

Hay and Timbuktu - Twins!

Front page news in the B&R today - the twinning committee has chosen Hay over Glastonbury and York as the twin town to Timuktu!
It was a UK photographer, Stuart Redler, who started the whole thing off, according to the paper, when he discovered that most people in the UK didn't know that Timbuktu was a real place. He said that the people of Hay seemed to have a greater understanding of what they could gain from the twinning process, particularly in cultural and educational links.
I hope this means that we get to hear more kora music - the griot who came over was brilliant.

Tuesday, 6 February 2007

Riverside Walk

There were workmen down on the Riverside Walk today, cutting down a few trees that had fallen over, or were leaning at precarious angles after the recent high winds. They had a lorry down there with a chipping machine that they were feeding branches into. Binky the bull terrier (who is an absolute sweetie) was quite happy to go past, but the loud noise worried Islay, so we turned back.

Some visitors to Hay think it's strange that we have two paths running parallel to each other along the riverbank. In fact, there is a good historical reason for this. The lower path, nearer the river, is the access to the fishing platforms. It is also known as the Bailey Walk, after Sir Joseph Bailey, who was Lord of the Manor, and resident of the Castle, in the 19thC. The local people of Hay had always had access to the riverbank - there's still the remains of a spring where locals came to draw water, right down by the water's edge, near the Loggin Brook and the Church. This was also the place where barges moored, when they came up river. However, when the tramway was being built, it threatened to cut off the people from the river. So Sir Joseph built the footpath, and donated it to the town as an act of philanthropy.
The upper footpath started off as the horse drawn tramway, and became the railway line. It closed shortly before Dr Beeching's Axe, in 1961. The last stationmaster lived until his 90s in a house overlooking the line, an old fashioned gentleman who would always raise his hat to a lady. Now the railway line has become part of the national cycle network, route 42, as well as a footpath.

Monday, 5 February 2007

Where on Earth is... Llanigon?

I mentioned Llanigon previously, and then realised that only people with a good map would be able to find out where it is.
Llanigon is the next village along towards Brecon. It's possible to walk it - I used to live in a longhouse above Llanigon (past the sign saying "Lost - This Way"), and I used to walk down from there. It was more pleasant to cycle, though, apart from the steep hill at the home end of the journey.
Llanigon has a primary school, a community hall, a church, and the Old Forge Garage, which also hires out vans. Once upon a time, it had a Post Office, now the Old Post Office B&B, which does rather good vegetarian food.
And that's it - no shop, no pub.
St Eigon's Church is, I think, the only church in Wales with that saint's name, and it's a wonderfully ambiguous name. According to which legend you believe, Eigon could have been the daughter of Caractacus, who went with him to Rome when he was captured by the Romans. There she met St Paul, who taught her Christianity personally, and when she returned to Wales, she set up the very first Christian church in these islands. In support of this story, there is an Iron Age hill fort in Llanigon, at Plas Celyn Farm, which is reputed to be one of the places where Caractacus lived.
The other (more mundane) option is that Eigon was male, and a monk who followed St David. When St David sent out missionaries throughout Wales, Eigon ended up here, and built his church.
Sadly, with all this legendary controversy, the church building itself is quite boring, though the yellow altarcloth is made of the very same material that was used for Rowan Williams' cope when he became Archbishop of Canterbury.
When the Hay Festival site was moved further out from the centre of Hay to its present position, there were local mutterings that they may as well call it the Llanigon Festival now.

Sunday, 4 February 2007

Change round in the shops

Well, it's official - the Oriental Rug and Textile Shop is closing, after 20 years of trading. The owner is retiring. The shop itself is on that odd bit of road just down from Monica's clothes shop and round the corner from Lion Antiques. It's an odd little building, sort of squished into a corner. His closing down sale starts on Feb 9th, and he invites everyone to "come along and haggle!"

Meanwhile Mark Westwood, who specialises in scientific books, is rumoured to have sold his shop to Andy Cooke. (I heard this from Mary Fellowes, so it must be true! Mary knows everything that goes on in Hay.) Andy used to run The Bookshop, on the corner of the Pavement by the chemist's, until he fell out with his partners. Then he turned up at the Book Warehouse on Forest Road, and now it seems he wants his own shop again. I used to help with Followers, a sort of Sunday School but on Tuesday afternoons, run by the vicar in the hall next to the school. Andy Cooke's two sons went to Llanigon School at the time and were regulars at Followers.

In Backfold the Bone China Tea Room has a For Sale sign up, too. It, and the little flat above, are being sold off. One of the more colourful characters who used the flat was a Tarot card reader and Fortune Teller, quite a jolly man with a bristling beard, who went on at length about the "good vibes" in the building. He was obviously unaware that it was built on the site of an old slaughter house, where a local butcher in the 1930s committed suicide with a shotgun. (At least he'd had some thought about the clearing up afterwards). The fortune teller disappeared suddenly, leaving his black cat Merlin and a string of debts behind him.
Another tenant was Steve Sage, who had the Sage Bookshop there. His stock was always interesting (I worked for him for a while), but he did tend to fill the shop with cigarette smoke, which tended to put people off.
The shop has been a craft shop at least twice, as well.

Friday, 2 February 2007

Farewell, British Legion

Stitch n Bitch met at the British Legion again last night - briefly. For the third week running, the staff swore they'd had the heating on all day in the back room, and for the third week running, the radiators were stone cold, and we were too cold to take our coats off. After half an hour (mostly to wait for any late comers) we gathered up our bags and walked out.
We wont be going back. Tracy said that she'd had similar problems last year, when she was running Fringe events in there during Hay Festival. And then they wonder why no-one wants to book the room.
We decamped across the road to Kilverts, which was warm, and they had coffee, and decent real ale (Butty Bach and the Rev. James last night), so we actually had quite an enjoyable evening.
Next week, we'll be back in the Wool and Willow shop, though, for the foreseeable future.

When I took Islay out for her evening walk, I ran into the chap with Bob the greyhound (I often know the dog's name better than the person - imagine a blushing smilie here). He was on his way to the launderette to pick up some washing, which is how we got onto the subject of machines that don't work. He's been having the same problem as me - "They were just the same as when they went in, only wetter," he said.