Friday, 29 June 2007

Festivals and Flooding

The marquees are going up in the car park under the castle for the food festival tomorrow. If it's anything like last year's, it should be good.
The Food Festival isn't the only Festival coming up - Hay Music Festival is coming back for it's second year, with folk, roots, reggae, ska, blues, jazz, rock and world music - which is quite a varied line up. I'm so far out of the music scene that I've never heard of any of the bands, but like the Food Festival, it was popular last year.
Meanwhile, the sun is out here, and the river is hardly up at all. The swan's nest on Booth Island has been washed away, but that's about it.
The Severn is a different matter, though - there have been a lot of problems around Worcester and Gloucester.
The only problem the Hay area has had recently has been a power cut to the surrounding villages - Cusop, Clyro, Clifford, Llanigon and so on - on Tuesday afternoon, and that was because an electricity pylon went up in flames!

Monday, 25 June 2007

More pipeline news and other bits and pieces

We've missed the worst of the weather sweeping across the country today, but it's still been raining for most of the day, and the Dulas Brook was red with mud when I passed by.
There have been several complaints about this - all of them blaming the pipeline. Athene English was on the front cover of the Brecon and Radnor the other week. Along with other residents of the Dingle, she was complaining about the run off from the pipeline building, and the mud from the wheels of the pipeline vehicles which is washing off the road straight into the stream. It's starting to have an effect on the Wye - and silty water affects the salmon, which is quite a serious thing.

Meanwhile, the dryers at the launderette now cost 50p for 10 minutes, rather than 20p for 5 minutes - which means I don't have to hoard my 20ps any more (it took about 4 of them to get the washing properly dry). Fortunately I had a couple of 50ps in my purse today when I did the washing.

The British Legion is cracking down on membership - membership cards have to be shown at the door in future.

Country Supplies have had problems with a homing pigeon. It hung around for three days, constantly trying to get in, and then getting trapped when it did. They think it was trying to get at the bird food they sell before it set off back to it's own loft, wherever that was.

Looking for a Gay Farmer!

I was passing the Addyman Annexe yesterday just in time to come in on the tail end of a conversation.
"There must be a gay farmer somewhere!" Ann was saying, to various shaking heads.
"There's a gay farmer in the Archers," Derek pointed out.
"But that's not real."
"What? Ambridge isn't real? Surely not!"
At this point, Ann noticed me grinning in the background, and said "You can put this on your blog! A nationwide search for a gay farmer...."
"....and he's got to supply a picture of himself standing outside the farmhouse," the other chap in the doorway said.
So, there's a £10 bet riding on this - are there any gay farmers out there who would like to make themselves known?
(NB Owners of garden centres don't count!)

Sunday, 24 June 2007

You look away for five minutes....

I've been on holiday for a little over a week (great fun, a good re-enactment show, and I recommend The Stables in Antrim for a good meal out).
Anyway, I've come back to Hay to find quite a few changes.
One of the little shops by the side of the Blue Boar, for instance, did have an artist's workroom in it until the Festival. Now it's been taken over by Drover Holidays, who do bike hire, and guided walking and cycling holidays, so the shop is full of bicycles! The owners live at Pemberton Minor, down the cobbled alleyway beside Kilvert's - I saw them yesterday evening washing down the bike wheels outside.
Up by the Castle, Nancy Palmer-Jones is looking to retire, and is trying to sell Nepal Bazaar as a going concern. As she says in her advert, it will take an unusual person to take it over, as it is quite a unique business. It's not just a case of importing clothes from Nepal (and other places). Nancy has always been a passionate advocate of fair trade, and keeping jobs in the villages.

There's also been sad news. The chap at the jewellers on High Town died suddenly - his funeral was on Friday.
And King Richard is in hospital. I understand he's had a stroke, which was then complicated by pneumonia. Prayers are being said for him in Hay church.

Happy news - Rob Soldat's book A Walk Round Hay is now on sale! He brought my free copy round a few days ago, since I typed the first draft for him.

And up-coming events - signs have gone up for the Food Fest/Sioe Fwyd, organised by the National Park. Last year there were some wonderful stalls from local food producers, as well as entertainment by local school choirs, and it looks as if it's going to be similar this year. That's going to be on 30th June.

And on 6th - 8th July there's going to be a beer festival in Hereford, organised by CAMRA.

Wednesday, 13 June 2007

Swans - and traffic

I took Islay down by the canoe landing stage this morning and had a look at the empty nest - and much to my relief, there were mum and dad swan, along with five cygnets.
So they'd just gone swim-about yesterday.

Meanwhile, jolly fun around the Bridge Street turning this morning, as several Western Power vans turned up to do some work around the back of the Three Tuns. They had one workman on point duty, waving lorries and cars round the junction, with lines of cars having to reverse to let lorries (and the ten o'clock bus) turn in a very tight space.
It was all clear by half past ten, though (as I look out of my window to check).

Tuesday, 12 June 2007

Junk Swap

There was a Junk Swap in the Parish Hall last night. I had nothing to swap, so I didn't go, but it's a great idea.
You fill up a bin bag with the sort of thing you would take to a charity shop, and some other stuff that charity shops wouldn't accept, like for instance the perfume bottle you opened and used a couple of times but didn't like, or that half tin of paint left over from a job. Take it in, have a cup of tea while the stuff is set out on tables, and then browse around to see what you might like to take home.

Empty Nest

Looking over the side of the bridge yesterday, I noticed that the swan's nest was empty, and there was no sign of the swans on the river.
There was no sign of them today either - and if the cygnets had hatched, they would have stayed around, as they did last year.
I think something horrible has happened.

Sunday, 10 June 2007

Summer Nature Notes

One of the wonderful things about living in Hay is that you only have to walk for five minutes or so to be out in the countryside - and this evening I went along Nantyglasdwr, picking wild strawberries from the hedgerow. The air was still, and heavy with the scent of elderflowers, roses and meadowsweet.

Saturday, 9 June 2007

Day of Rest

The Sandwich Cellar will be closed tomorrow - Sue and Malachi have worked for 19 days straight through, and they need a day off.
Though Malachi still has to mow the lawn....

The Fleur de Lys lady will be closed too - her son has come up from London and they're having a quick family get-together before he has to go back.

Joyce and Myra at Wool and Willow have been looking in catalogues for small cabinets to display Judy's beaded jewellery - and they're all very expensive. I remembered that Mary Fellowes got a local chap in to make cabinets for some of the expensive books in Broad Street Book Centre, so I asked her who had done it.
"Oh, that was Mike Harley - he's semi-retired now, so he only does little jobs that he feels like doing. Two years ago his ladders got stolen, and he took that as a sign that he should stop doing outdoor work. Sometimes he works with Frankie the painter - he's semi-retired too, and only works in summer, and only on jobs where he can go at his own pace and potter about."
So the plan is to go up to Alen at Backfold Books and ask her how to get in touch with Frankie (she's just had him in to spruce up all her paintwork), and then ask Frankie how to get in touch with Mike, who has a workshop not far from the Rhydspence Inn. Yes, looking him up in the phone book would be easier, but this is Hay.

Friday, 8 June 2007

A Few Updates

The rug shop has now been sold, so the Closing Sale will be finishing very shortly. It'll be interesting to see what takes its place.

Last week there were tents and stalls all over the terraces of the Castle - this week signs have gone up on one of the terraces saying "Danger Keep Off". The wall there is unmortared, and is starting to sag noticably, despite the wooden baulk that's been keeping it up for years. I hope Richard gets the same men in who did the Backfold wall to rebuild it. They did a really good job there.

The launderette has put its prices up. It's now £2.50 for a wash, but the dryers remain the same at 20p per five minutes.

On the way to Hereford the other day I got talking to an American gentleman who had come up to Hay from London for the day! He was taking the last bus of the day. He wanted to know all sorts of things about the area.
Was there a shop that sold local woollen goods? Yes, Wool and Willow on Backfold.
What about in Hereford? Not that I know of.
What crops grow in this area? I told him about the potato tractors that converge on Dorstone during the harvest, and the cider orchards.
Is cider alcoholic? Yes.
Are there any vineyards? There's one near Bromyard, and there may be others.
Is this a good area for herding dogs? We talked about border collies (Islay was with me, so she got her dubious ancestry given out again - half border collie, half something else we're not sure of), and spaniels and other gun dogs.
He asked me about Arthur's Stone. The bus had stopped on the awkward corner just out of Dorstone and before the cottage called Coppy Sally to let other traffic past (it's a very narrow road there) and he saw the brown sign pointing up the hill. I had to admit that this was nothing to do with the famous Sword in the Stone, but is in fact a prehistoric burial mound - with wonderful views, and a very good example if you like burial mounds.
Then the bus driver chimed in and asked me if I knew what the satellite dishes at Madley were for, and I had to admit that I had no idea. I'm sure I was told once, but I've forgotten.

Tuesday, 5 June 2007

African Dance Party and the Festival

The last thing I went to on the Fringe this year was the African Dance Party at the Parish Hall.
It was a bit late starting, but that was okay, because we wanted to see Doctor Who before we came out (the end of a two parter, and very good indeed).
Fortunately, it was a fine evening, and tables had been put outside while the setting up was being done inside. They'd also got some decent real ale in.
The Seckou Keita Quartet were playing - and they were brilliant!
The lead musician was a kora player from the Gambia - and he really bounced around the stage as he played. About halfway through the set, he demonstrated how the kora is played, with one thumb doing the bass line, one doing the pattern of the melody and the two fingers improvising over the top, with the rest of the hands holding the handles of the instrument. And then he sang over the top of that as well!
He started the second set solo, on a double kora, which sounded very like a harp. Then he grinned and said, maybe next time he came he'd have been to the gym, and he'd be able to jump around the stage with that kora as well!
He was accompanied by a violinist, double bass and drums, and the other members of the group come from Senegal, Egypt and Italy!
It was a brilliant night out (and we bought the CDs!).

I've been talking to other friends, who went to different Festival events. Marina thoroughly enjoyed Peter Falk (Columbo), who is 85 now, and wasn't quite sure where he was - but was still very interesting to listen to.
David Attenborough was also fascinating, but his whispery voice is getting more whispery with age.
Tony Benn's talk was packed out - but the lady who went to see that complained of the queue to go in getting mixed up with the queue to come out of the previous event. She's only 5' l", and felt in danger of getting squashed. She went up to Llanigon for a violin concert in St Eigon's church as well, which she said was very good.
The Beethoven concerts at St Mary's were very popular - Jerry the music man sold a lot of boxed set CDs afterwards, and was also on hand at the Bryn Terfel concert.

So that's it for another year. The tents are coming down, and the crowds have departed - but the Sandwich Cellar is still busy with coach parties, and Wool and Willow are preparing for an exhibition at the Minerva Centre at Llanidloes.

Monday, 4 June 2007

Unpleasant happenings

The Golesworthy family attended a double funeral just before the Festival started - the old couple died within a few days of each other.
Towards the end of the Festival, the Granary, which is owned by the Golesworthy family, was broken into, and the day's takings were stolen.
This is something very unusual in Hay, especially so close to the burglary at The Old Curiosity Shoppe at the Castle.

Meanwhile, I've had another letter from Yeoman's Canyon bus company:

"I am sorry you feel the way you do regarding dogs on our service vehicles. We do not wish to prove awkward in this situation but we are looking at things as a whole. Your dog may be well behaved but there are some dogs that are not and passengers complain.
I have informed the Council so that it can be entered in the new timetable book."

I'm looking at things as a whole, too - what is so different about Yeoman's Canyon that they refuse to carry dogs, when every other bus and train company I've travelled with, all over the Midlands and the North West, are happy to carry dogs? I can't believe that they are the only bus company to have 'incidents' with dogs, as they claim.

Brian, who wanted to take his dog Belle on the bus, has also been onto the Herefordshire Council official who deals with the contracts for the bus routes - without much success. They gave the impression of being totally powerless in the situation. Even though they decide who is granted a contract, and they give a subsidy to the bus companies for certain routes, they said that bus companies have the power to refuse to carry any group of people (or dogs) if they want to.

Bumping into famous people

It's well known in Hay that famous people are likely to be wandering around town during the Festival, browsing in the bookshops and taking in the atmosphere like anyone else whose visiting.

Last week, Mary Fellowes (of Rest for the Tyred and Broad Street Book Centre), popped up to Spar for a bit of emergency shopping. On the way out, she slipped on some ice cream on the step, straight into the arms of a bearded gentleman who brushed her down and made sure she was all right. She asked him if he was enjoying the Festival, and he said he'd been wanting to come for years.
Later, the same bearded gentleman was seen browsing in Broad Street Book Centre.
The lady who'd seen him is one of the stalwart members of St Mary's Church, and when she saw Mary, she said "I see you've had a famous person in the shop."
"Really? Who was that then?"
"Rowan Williams - the Archbishop of Canterbury! He's on a private visit, very low key. He came into the church to look at the flower festival and we met him then."