Tuesday, 30 December 2008

Is Hay Ready for Revolution?

This is what the poster asks in the window of Addyman's Annexe. Beside it is another poster which proclaims "Off With His Head", with a picture of Richard Booth's crowned head rolling into the bottom corner of the poster. And there's a display of English Civil War books.
Time for me to be 'diligent against sedition', as it says on the list of Regicides.

Tuesday, 23 December 2008

Plans for the Church

I met Betty on the Warren this morning, and we walked back with the dogs together. It was a beautiful morning, with wonderful light effects over the town from the low-lying sun - the sort of morning when you wish you could paint in oils to capture it.
I mentioned that I'd taken Islay to church. "It's a shame they don't do more with that building," Betty said.
"Oh, but the Vicar has plans," I told her. I'd heard all this from Jackie over the Fairtrade lunch. One of the reasons she won't be able to do much with Fairtrade next year is that she's helping to fundraise for the church.
"You know the bit behind the pews?" I said. "They want to put a glass partition up, and have it for coffees after the service, and they want toilets put in, and a kitchen, and fire exit - and if they do all that, they'll be able to seat 200 people for concerts and things."
Betty made approving noises. "We need something like that in Hay," she said. "I'm involved in U3A*, and it's really difficult to find anywhere that seats over 100 people. I don't suppose that new Community Centre will ever get built. Sometimes we go to the Swan, which has a lovely dining room - but I don't find them very friendly. Still, it's best to have a foot in two camps, because the Golf Club is always up for sale, and we need to have somewhere in reserve if they ever do shut down."

*this is the University of the 3rd Age, which gives regular lectures and classes, and tends to be very well attended.

Monday, 22 December 2008

Fairtrade Christmas meeting

The Blue Boar was very busy when I arrived - the bar staff were rushed off their feet. I was being treated to lunch, and we were having a committee meeting while we waited for the food to arrive.* The main business was to fill in a form so that Ruth's name could be taken off the bank account and I could be put on. Jo had met Julie earlier in the day so that she could do her bit - and it wasn't too hard to fill in. Jackie had to sign it to say that she knew who I was - and I decided not to muddy the waters with pseudonyms when they asked if I'd been known by any other names over the past three years. I don't think 'Elen Gethin the Spinner' was what they had in mind.

Sadly, Jackie won't be able to do as much for Fairtrade next year - but she is involved in all sorts of other things around Hay, as well as her job, and she and her husband want to do some creative stuff as well, and there just aren't the hours in the day. She's active in Hay Church, and the local Carers, and puts together The Zimbabwean, a weekly paper that is distributed in Zimbabwe, and edited by an exile who currently lives in Southampton. By the wonders of computer, he can get the news stories together there, and then send them up to Jackie to put them in some sort of order - and then it has to be printed in South Africa somewhere and got across the border into Zimbabwe, which is often easier said than done.

Fortunately (or it would just be me and Jo!) Julia has said she'd like to come back to us now that her Fairtrade bag business is up and running, and there are a couple of other people that we're going to approach/armtwist/pressgang in the New Year.

*The sausages in onion gravy were good, and the prawns and salmon looked jolly nice as well - and I'll definitely have the chocolate mousse with ice cream again!

Saturday, 20 December 2008


Islay was very happy when we went round the Thursday market. We stopped as usual at the plant stall so she could get her biscuit and I could have a chat; she said hello to Rob Soldat on the fruit stall and Ben the sheepdog on the stall that sells old garden equipment and other good quality 'junk', and then we went down towards the Clock Tower.
Islay's whole back end started wagging - the Greek man is back, with his olives and feta cheese. He remembered her, too, and gave her a little square or two of his cheese.

*Greek for 'Good!'

Friday, 19 December 2008

Latest from the Brecon and Radnor

Hay isn't really what you might call a crime hotspot, so when something does happen, it's quite a shock.
This week major news on the crime page of the B&R was the assistant manager of Chattels, who helped herself to around £5,000 from the till, and some jewellery. Obviously, she's not the assistant manager there any more, as this actually happened last year, but has only now come to court. She won't be sentenced until the New Year.

The second story that caught my eye is not really connected with Hay, but I used to live up near Erwood, and I used to enjoy visiting the craft centre at the old railway station there. Mr Cunningham, who ran the centre, was taking part in a concert at Talgarth Town Hall when he collapsed and died. He'd been playing the violin, and was turning the pages for the pianist when he died. He really made Erwood Station a wonderful place to visit, and his family have said that they will continue his work, promoting arts and crafts throughout Wales.

Tuesday, 16 December 2008

Raising the Profile of Hay

News of the Revolution has reached Private Eye, which published a little article last week - for more details look down the links on the side bar for Paul at Oxford House. There'll be another meeting of the Revolutionary Council of Ministers at the Council Chambers on the evening of the 18th December - I can't go, unfortunately; I shall be enjoying myself at the Three Tuns with the rest of the Cinema staff.
And when I bumped into Boz the other day, he said he was going to be the Revolution's Matthew Hopkins, the Witchfinder General. "I'm going to get myself a Shetland pony and go around looking for witches," he said. He didn't say what he'd do if he found any!

Meanwhile, other developments are stirring. There was a big meeting in April at the Granary, to discuss the prospects of getting more publicity for Hay and the surrounding area, and now they're ready to move on, with another meeting on 14th January at the Globe, at 10am. It's being organised by a chap with the wonderful name Punch Maughan. He's the Director General of the Brecon Beacons Tourism Group.
He sent me the minutes of their last meeting for this area (they moved on to Llandovery after Hay), and it makes some good points.
The website, they said, is dated and not user-friendly.
Fewer visitors are coming, and this is partly because Richard Booth is no longer so proactive in getting publicity, partly the credit crunch, more people are buying books over the Internet, and the Festival is not in the centre of town any more.
While the Festival is good at raising the profile of Hay, when the visitors are here, it takes a bit of an effort to move out of the Festival site up to the town.

On the plus side, we have a lot to offer besides the books - the Wye Valley Walk, Offa's Dyke Path, Golden Valley nearby, the Black and White Village Trail and the National Park. We have good parking, and visitor-focussed businesses are open all the time.

I won't be able to go to that one, either, but I'll be interested to hear what's said - I'm sure I can find out from Mary!

Sunday, 14 December 2008

And the Winner is...

Ann Brichto was pleased when I saw her yesterday - Addyman's Annexe won the Christmas Window Competition, with an intricate cut-out townscape. "It took us hours to cut it all out," she said.
She did think that Derek's window down at the main shop was better though - he's done Christmas in the Trenches, with real sandbags and barbed wire.
Meanwhile in Rose's window, Bill and Ben the Flowerpot Men, who arrived last Christmas and have been re-dressed throughout the year, have been swept away and replaced with some penguins.
At The Bookshop, the murder mystery window, complete with headless corpse covered with a bloodstained sheet, has been made more Christmassy by the addition of snow, and several books on How to Survive Christmas, propped up against the corpse.

Saturday, 13 December 2008

First Fairtrade Fair

And if Chris Armstrong has his way, it will be the first of many! He's already booked a weekend during Hay Festival for us to do it all again!
It wasn't an auspicious start, with the day dawning wet and drizzly. Adele from Nepal Bazaar contacted us in a bit of a panic the night before, saying that her husband (who was going to cover for her) was ill and she had to go to a funeral - so could we please mind her stall? The funeral was for Romy, who used to exhibit her paintings in the little shop under Nepal Bazaar which is now Spellbound. She died very suddenly of cancer, on the night of the Nepal Bazaar fashion show, which was in aid of the Macmillan Nurses because of her.
Adele brought along some rather nice gingerbread and chocolate biscuits to say thank you to us.
LoveZimbabwe phoned Chris at about 9.30pm, saying that they could come after all - because the latest consignment of pottery had literally just arrived. She came with another Zimbabwean lady, who was selling jewellery to fund orphans.
And it's a bad weekend for funerals, because we didn't get the Mayor either. Mary Fellowes, the deputy mayor, turned up instead. She said she and Peter had tossed for it, and he'd gone to Dickie Elkington's funeral in Hay church.
The samba band gave her a good introduction - and they were really pretty good, all kids from Gwernyfed School.
"It's like the United Nations in here," Mary said in her speech, looking round at stalls representing Timbuktu, Zimbabwe, Georgia, Indian quiltmakers, Nepal, Zulus with Zimele, Burmese - some lovely scarfs sold by Athene, and Tear Fund covering pretty much everywhere else.
Hay School were there, too, as they have Fairtrade status. The children had been making biscuits, and newspaper bags like the ones from India which Nepal Bazaar were selling. Some of the children spread out on the floor and made some more there and then. Doing it in class seemed to have got them thinking, from the display board, where they were talking about what it must be like to make lots of bags every day, and how bad you'd feel if you didn't make enough and couldn't feed your family.
The mulled apple juice and mince pies went very well, all made with apple juice from Chris Armstrong, topped up with a donation from Maureen Richardson in Brilley.
Jo and Noel brought masses of mistletoe, all from one crabapple tree in their garden, and just about all of it sold. Noel had a wonderful sign up, saying that the mistletoe was local, organic, sustainably grown, didn't contain nuts, wasn't GM... and was grown by the Brilley Druid Co-operative. At the bottom it said "Naturally toxic."
Jo was fresh from first night triumph in the Brilley panto, Babes in the Wood, and slightly worried that the make-up for her moustache hadn't entirely come off! Ann Brichto drew it on for her, as the villain, and Derek was playing the pantomime dame. "There were two hundred people there!" Jo said - and they're doing it all again tonight. One little girl asked her in the interval if she was going to kill the Babes in the Wood - and when she didn't that night, was she going to kill them tomorrow night instead?

Friday, 12 December 2008

Denny Parry's old shop in Castle Street

I popped in to see Marina in the shop she's renting over Christmas - partly so that Islay could see that Jasper the spaniel isn't there any more, and neither is Denny Parry with the dog biscuits.
The shop is up for sale, but it needs an awful lot doing to it. There's no water or sewerage at all, and when I looked up the stairs, I could see ancient wallpaper hanging off the walls. The stairs need a bit of work, too - the bottom three steps used to be under Denny Parry's counter, and then turned to go further up. Now those steps have been taken out completely, and Marina has piled some of her stuff up the remaining visible stairs as display space, so it's more or less impossible to get to the upper floor.
It's never been a big shop, and it's a bit of an odd layout, with the ramp across the middle of the floor, and two boarded up fireplaces hidden in the wall, one for each of the two rooms that it once was. Marina said that, before Denny Parry had it, it was a cycle repair shop, and the partition wall was where the ramp now is. The front part was the shop, and the repairs were done at the back. The back part has a concrete floor, but nobody's looked under the carpet yet to see what's going on at the front.

Tuesday, 9 December 2008

Visas - or lack of them

Our Brazilian friend, and his local girlfriend, are still in Brazil, as he's been refused a visa to come back to the UK - which just goes to prove that we don't let anyone in. Even getting married hasn't helped them. Apparently, they're considering travelling on to either Amsterdam or Transylvania....

Sunday, 7 December 2008

Re-enactor's Banquet

I've been away this weekend for the Drudion Christmas Banquet, up at the farm just outside Cradley, near Ledbury. It was nice to meet up and chill out for the weekend - and it would have been a lot better if I'd been able to take Islay with me.
She gets on very well with the dogs on the farm (now four of them), and everyone loves her. I once went to bed there, leaving her on the settee with the lads, watching a werewolf movie (honestly, she was really fascinated!) - safe in the knowledge that, when she was ready, they'd quietly let her into my room so she could come to bed with me.
Getting her to the farm would not have been a problem. Stagecoach do a 50p dog ticket, and all the drivers know Islay.
It was getting back on a Sunday that was going to be impossible, since Yeoman's Canyon don't allow dogs to travel any more. For no good reason, since every other bus and train company I've ever travelled on allows dogs. The exception is National Express - but that doesn't matter so much because there is always an alternative to using their buses when I have the dog with me. For the Hereford to Hay route, on a Sunday, there is no alternative. Yeoman's Canyon is it.
So I had to get my neighbour, who is a wonderful person, to pop in over the weekend to feed Islay and take her for walks. If she hadn't been around to do it, I might not have been able to go away for the weekend at all.

Friday, 5 December 2008

Diary of the Revolution

"Day the First: Betook me to a meeting of the Revolutionary Council of Ministers, to speake together of how to overthrow that Wicked Tyrant King Richard, and so end the Sadde Declyne of this Good Town of Hay...."

I went along to the meeting at the Council Chambers last night, thinking that it was going to be a discussion about how to put the eccentricity back into Hay. When I got there, I found that Paul's idea of putting the eccentricity back into Hay was to depose the King!

Most of the people at the meeting have known Richard Booth for years, and some people who couldn't be there had made their opinions known, too. Boz is in favour of stuffing the King, rather than beheading him, and displaying the body in a glass case in the middle of town. Others favoured a bloodless coup, and the establishment of a Commonwealth (though Paul said that there was one thing wrong with the name - the original Commonwealth had come to an end).

All of us there acknowledged that, without Richard, Hay would not be anything like the town it now is - but we also have to face the fact that Richard isn't as young as he was, and has had a brain tumour, and we need new ideas for Hay to evolve, especially in the current difficult economic climate.

Paul was reminded of a time when he worked for Richard, and accompanied him to the US on a business trip. They were having dinner, and Richard had got to that stage of drunken-ness where he was weaving about in his chair. "I'm not bothered about the money," he said, "I just want a hundred booktowns." And he fell forward into his plate of food.
The waitress came over to see if he was alright. "It's okay," Paul said. "Jetlag - been a long day," and the poor girl had to help carry him out.
He's pretty much done that - there are booktowns all over the world now - but the state of the Castle Gardens (still full of mouldering books long after they used to be taken in for the winter) shows that he's starting to lose his grip.

None of us want to do anything that would really hurt or upset Richard (who is away in Egypt at the moment) but at the same time, there is a general feeling that it's time for him to step aside and make way for new blood.
Deifying him was thought to be one option (well, it's a step up from being King) - and we definitely want to organise a statue in his honour, preferably made by a well-known artist with some Welsh connection, and possibly made out of pulped books.

When Richard returns from his sojourn in the Land of the Pharaohs ("Is he looking for his mummy?" Haydn quipped when I saw him the next day), he will find that the Commons have risen against him, on account of his neglect of his once great kingdom. We think that the logical thing for him to do would be to summon all his nobility around him - all those people who bought peerages over the years that Hay has been an independant kingdom.
We also thought that Church and State together would have a better chance of toppling the King, so Anne is going to approach Father Richard, who presently holds the rank of Archbishop, and offer to make him a Cardinal. We should also offer Jimmy the Curate an important post in the new Cabinet. Dogs are going to be very important in the new regime.

We also want to have a new flag for Hay designed, and new currency. And the irony of discussing a revolution in the Council Chambers was not lost on us.

Paul has contacted Private Eye, which has maintained an interest in King Richard over the years, and they seemed quite interested in running the story. Let's face it, we need something lighthearted just now, with all the doom and gloom in the news.

Thursday, 4 December 2008

Badgers on the Roads

The closed road just outside Hay is open again - and it was something to do with badgers, but at least it didn't take a month to sort out as Marlene at the pet shop feared.

Wednesday, 3 December 2008

They Want a What?!

I'd like to start by offering condolences to Ruth's family. She was a member of the Fairtrade committee, and she died suddenly last week.

Our treasurer phoned up the Co-op Bank, where we have our account, to inform them, as Ruth was a co-signatory of the Fairtrade group's cheques.
"Of course, we'll need to see the death certificate," said the young man at the other end of the phone.

The what?!!
The last thing a grieving family needs at a time like this is the members of a voluntary committee, that the deceased just happened to be a member of, coming round to ask for a copy of the death certificate!

"I couldn't possibly do that," our treasurer said. The young man consulted his supervisor.
Fortunately Julie, who started the whole Fairtrade movement in Hay, was still on the books as a co-signatory even though she had resigned from the group. Eventually the Co-op agreed that Jo and Julie could sign something together saying that Ruth had died. Her name could then be taken off the cheques. Julie's name would also be taken off the cheques, and then the group would need to find a new co-signatory. Which would be me - there pretty much isn't anyone else.

We've got about £300 in the Fairtrade account, not a fortune by any stretch of the imagination - we're hardly going to be laundering drug money, or funding terrorists, or whatever they think we might be doing. We're just a little voluntary organisation - so are the rules that the bank were applying really appropriate? It seems like a disproportionately strict application of the rules to me.

Tuesday, 2 December 2008

Plastic Bag Campaign

It doesn't seem like a year since this got started, but here we are, and there are the ladies of the plastic bag campaign leafletting the town again to report on progress.
They're pleased with the availability of paper and cotton bags around Hay now, and they're also encouraged by changes nationally. The Welsh Assembly is on the verge of introducing a plastic bag levy, and over 130 towns are trying to become plastic bag free, including Abergavenny and Crickhowell (fairly) locally.
In the Cinema, we now charge 10p for a plastic bag, which is actually what they cost us, and it's surprising how that small charge makes people think. Surprisingly, it has been the older customers who object most - just the people who should be able to remember a time before plastic bags. One man stomped out of the shop saying that we'd all be painting ourselves with woad next! Other people come prepared with their own bags, though, and we've even been given our own bags back to use again!

Monday, 1 December 2008

Something new at Denny Parry's

I was passing Denny Parry's old shop in Castle Street, which is now up for sale, the other day, and I saw some things in the window that seemed vaguely familiar - kind of like the sort of thing Marina had in her shop by the Wheatsheaf. There was a chair, and some linen, and stars made of straw stalks, and a stand with pots of cyclamen displayed on it.
A couple of days later, I saw Marina herself, going into the shop with a tin of paint in one hand.
And now there's a notice up - Marina is opening the shop there over the Christmas season, starting from Wednesday 3rd December.
I hope it's warmer for her than the old shop!

Sunday, 30 November 2008

Badgers? More on the Road Works

Islay dived into the pet shop by the Blue Boar - she knows Marlene is a soft touch and always gives her biscuits.
"I'm not looking forward to driving home tonight," she said.
"Oh, you mean the road works?" I asked.
"They say they'll be there for another month," she said.
I asked if she knew what was going on.
"They say it's badgers," she said.
"Badgers?!" As far as I can gather, either badgers have undermined the road with their digging, and the road is being stabilised, or the authorities are putting a badger tunnel in under the road for them - or it might be something else entirely.

Saturday, 29 November 2008

Festival Weekend

I missed the turning on of the Christmas Lights last night - I was having my dinner before I went out to the Nepal Bazaar Fashion Show. I did meet Richie earlier in the afternoon, though - he was muttering darkly about the decision to hold the ceremony in the marquee for the Food Fair rather than the Buttermarket, where it's always been before.
I was slightly concerned about the 'free cocktail' part of the ticket for the fashion show. I hardly ever drink cocktails, so I had no idea what to ask for. Fortunately, there wasn't a choice - it was Buck's Fizz. We also got a little goodie bag, made from Indian newspaper, with a stick of incense and one of those tiny, taster books, by Vikram Seth, and a few flyers. The Globe was packed out - I sat by my neighbour, Pam, and she said there had only been three tickets left when she went to get one.
Adele had brought together about twenty people to act as models for her - and she'd chosen some fabulous clothes. And a huge cow bell, for some reason. The finale was three little girls and a young teenager (because I'm sure she'd hate to be called a little girl) who were wearing dresses made out of the hand made paper Nepal Bazaar also sells. They scattered confetti over the audience, and they looked fantastic.
And what a talented group of people they all are! As the compere introduced them, the words 'author', 'musician', 'photographer', and 'artist' came up again and again. Later, I saw Adele, and she was giggling about the fact that she hadn't told the compere ahead of time what the models were wearing, so he had to make it up on the hoof - "a brown, trousery - thing - and a shirt!"
Nancy was there too, looking good in a red wool Punjabi suit with lots of embroidery, and she was delighted with the whole thing. She said that Adele was just the right person to take over the business. She was glad not to have the responsibility any more, too - but she isn't retiring quietly. She's starting to do sculpture, and early next year she'll be going out to Nepal with Adele to visit some of the producers of the clothes and other goods.
Later, Jont sang (and his CDs were available behind the bar).
Later than that, downstairs, a folk band from Manchester were playing - Black Velvet Band - but I didn't stay around for that.

This morning, I headed into town to do some leafletting for the Fairtrade Fair in a couple of weeks time, while it was busy. The Brecon Town Concert Band were providing musical support, and there was a wonderful smell of mulled cider. There were three different local breweries represented in the tent, including one Jack (as long time member of CAMRA) hadn't heard of, and lots of preserves, and cheese and meat and chocolates. Jack admired my new coat with the cape, and I said I'd chosen it partly because my young man said it made me look like Jon Pertwee. "Talking of the Doctor," Jack said, "I saw Sylvester McCoy a couple of weeks ago, in the shop. He was looking a bit wobbly and walking with a stick, but he must be getting on a bit now."
Outside there were more stalls, with meat and herbs and fresh veg, and a takeaway van and coffee, and small wooden furniture and canal barge painted buckets and watering cans.
In the Buttermarket, there were hats, and woollen goods and gorgeous carved wood - and Islay made friends with everyone.
When I went into Silent Voices, the first thing I saw was a silk wall hanging of a Welsh dragon, all in oranges and browns - it would look so good in the big tent of my re-enactment group! There were some absolutely gorgeous bronzes there too, of little birds, perfect in every detail. "People think this is all there is," said Mr Havard, who was minding the shop. "They don't realise there's a downstairs as well," and he sent me down to admire the other wall hangings that the lady who made the Welsh dragon had on display. "I don't know how many sewing machines she's worn out!" he said.
Adele had recommended that I go to see Tylluan Pendry, who was doing rune readings in the little shop now known as Spellbound, under Nepal Bazaar. It's the first time I've had a rune reading, though I have a friend who is very good with the Faery Oracle, and I've had Tarot readings at various times over the years. She was lovely, very chatty and down to earth, and it was a very interesting reading. There's a good selection of books in there, too, and things like sage smudging sticks that are useful in rituals.

Friday, 28 November 2008

Knocking down the old house

The builders at Millbank are taking down the old house on the site. The roof is mostly off now.
It's a shame, because it's a perfectly good house, or was up until the garage closed.
I stood with Brian for a while this morning, watching them work. He asked why it was being demolished.
"They say subsidence," I said.
"Oh, that's an old trick," he said. "When I worked for the railways, and they wanted to get rid of an old stationmaster's house or something, because it was surplus to requirements, they always said subsidence."
Before the subsidence report was put in, an arguement was put forward that the corner around Heol-y-dwr was dangerous, and the road needed to be widened there. They couldn't take anything off the Globe side of the road, because it was a graveyard, so they said they needed to knock down the house. I seem to remember our MP was quite keen on that idea, and wrote to the B&R to defend the decision.
That corner is awkward - but the accidents that happen there are overwhelmingly the sort where cars bump into each other at low speeds and smash indicators. Maybe there have been injuries there, but I've never heard of any.
Anyway, the time for objecting is long gone (and some of us did object) and now the house is going.

Thursday, 27 November 2008

Happy Thanksgiving!

More international links, Thanksgiving not being a traditional Welsh celebration. Jackie told me today that the AWA, or American Wives Association as they call themselves, will be meeting on Saturday for a proper Thanksgiving meal. That's all three and a half of them! (One is a Brit who lived in the States for a time).

Wednesday, 26 November 2008

Road Closed

There are Road Closed and Diversion signs up along the road that goes out of Hay past Cusop. I don't know how far out of town the road works are, but I did meet several people today who had been trying to get to Hay along that road, and only found they couldn't get through when they were on top of the roadworks. As opposed to somewhere useful, like a place they could turn off for a detour. One family had backtracked to Letton to get round. "Well, at least we saw more of the countryside," they said, resignedly.

Monday, 24 November 2008


I met Jenny and her deerhounds as she was bringing them back from a walk.
"Have you seen what King Richard's done to my ivy?" she asked, without preamble, and with great indignation.
Richard has been on a hack and slash campaign against the undergrowth around the Castle recently. It looks as if he might have got a bit carried away.
"Was that your ivy then?" I asked.
"Yes, it was," she said. "I wrote a letter to him to complain, but he hasn't replied. Just wait till I see him!"

Sunday, 23 November 2008

More stuff happening over the Weekend

It really is going to be busy next weekend!
Julia is going to be in the Buttermarket on Sunday with her Fairtrade bags, along with stalls selling bric-a-brack, books, cards, aloe vera products and so on - all in aid of Clyro Village Hall. That's on from 10am to 4pm.
Kilvert's are having a mini Beer Festival, with 5 real ales plus ciders and perries.
Rob Soldat is telling stories about St Andrew at the Library on Saturday morning.
The Globe has a big sign up saying 'crunch art for the new era' - as well as all the events, they seem to be having an art festival.
And Spellbound, under Nepal Bazaar, are playing host to a visiting white witch. Tylluan Penry will be reading runes and signing copies of her new book 'Seeking the Green'. The little handout says she's 'Witchfest International's Tylluan Penry'. I've been to a couple of Witchfest events as a re-enactor (pity they didn't have any weather working witches along for the second one - the rain was appalling). The people were mostly very nice (an exception being the woman who drank most of a bottle of mead that wasn't hers as she sat by our campfire) - and it was the one show where we knew we didn't have to explain what widdershins was when we were demonstrating how the quern stone works. It turns anti-clockwise, or widdershins, to grind the corn.

Saturday, 22 November 2008

More on Phil the Fruit

There's a little poster on the door of the shop with an article from one of the national papers - I think it was the News of the World - saying that Phil the Fruit is a retired motorcycle designer. Motorbikes to fruit and veg seems like quite a leap, but then I got talking to Mary Fellowes, who said she had known Phil years ago, when he worked for a big fruit and veg company in Hereford as a rep. "We used to get all our fruit and veg for the Cafe Royal from them," she said. Which is going back a bit - but it shows that Phil the Fruit does have previous experience to draw on.

Friday, 21 November 2008

Hay's International Links

We're not just a village in the middle of the Welsh Borders - Hay has direct links all over the world.
I was reminded of that when Jackie was so excited about the American election - not only is she a real, live, American, but she comes from Illinois, the same state where Obama is senator.
Then Chris the Bookbinder asked me if I knew anyone who would like to put on a puppet show. A few months ago, the Brazilian lad - who helped to organised the Hay Castle part of the Hay Festival - went back to Brazil because his father was ill. Now he wants to come back to the UK, and his visa has been refused. If someone wanted to see the puppet show he was involved in, though, it would be a valid reason for him to be allowed back. He only had a couple of weeks to appeal the decision, though - and that may not be enough for his friends to organise anything.

Thursday, 20 November 2008

Change at the Dentist's

Steve was wandering around work the other morning looking vaguely anxious and depressed - he was contemplating a phone call to the dentist's surgery to ask if there were any places on his NHS list. The whole building is being refurbished, with the main entrance being moved around to the side (well, technically the entrance that was being used was the side entrance and this will be the front entrance). Rumour has it that a new dentist is being taken on, "and they're putting a hygenist in the cellar," said my informant. I didn't even know the building had a cellar!
Meanwhile, the little building at the back of the Council Chambers is being refurbished too, to re-open sometime in January, and I think that's where the Drop In Centre that used to share the dentist's building is going to move to.
I hope the dentist's receptionist manages to move into something a bit bigger than the tiny cubbyhole she's crammed into at the moment.

Wednesday, 19 November 2008

Winter Festival

No sooner have I said that I haven't seen any of the leaflets for the Hay Festival Winter Weekend, than they appear all over town!
So, at the same time as Nepal Bazaar are having their fashion show, Screen at Hay are showing Persepolis in the Parish Hall, and the Morriston Phoenix Choir are singing at the Community Centre.
Libby Purves and Rosie Boycott are at the Community Centre on the Saturday, and the winner of the Hay short story competition will read her story Roadside Tapestry. Marcus Brigstocke and Andre Vincent will be performing too - and around town shops are going to be holding a Happy Hour with festival discounts, there will be Festival merchandise in the Buttermarket and a nearly-new clothes sale in the Parish Hall in aid of Hay & District Community Support.
On Sunday I'm afraid it's a lot of people I've never heard of, but one event is subtitled Ten Technologies to Save the Planet, there's an interview with a soldier who has been stationed in Afghanistan and wrote a book about it (An Ordinary Soldier) and a jockey who has ridden Red Rum and Shergar. Something for everyone, as they say - and a two day workshop for children based on the Borrowers.

Tuesday, 18 November 2008

A (partial and subjective) What's On Guide for Hay

It looks like being really busy in town on the last weekend of November.
There's the Hay Winter Festival - though I haven't seen any pamphlets for that yet.
At the same time, there's the Winter Food Fair on Saturday 29th November and a Craft Fair on Sunday 30th, in a marquee on the town square.
On Friday 28th, the evening starts off with the official switching on of the Christmas lights, at 6.30pm at the Buttermarket, and later in the evening Nepal Bazaar are holding an exotic fashion show, with music and cocktails, at the Globe. It's all in aid of the Macmillan Nurses, and the lady at Nepal Bazaar said the people at the Globe had been really helpful. Tickets available at £5 each from Nepal Bazaar, each individually hand crafted after an evening spent with glue and scissors.
On Thursday 27th, there's another special event at the Globe, as the Hay medics who went over to Timbuktu are holding a musical evening. With a grant from the Welsh Assembly, they've brought over Dr Albouhary Toure, the only doctor in Timbuktu, and Mr Elmehdi Ag Wakini. Music will be provided by Dr Pete and Claire - I'm not sure if any Malian music will be happening. I'm sure serious medical things will be happening too - it's not just going to be a jolly for the Timbuktu doctor - but this will be the fun part of the proceedings.
More music at the Globe will be provided as part of the Winter Festival by Alex Valentine, who is launching his new album A Short Album About Love from 10pm onwards on Saturday 29th. That's a bit more expensive, at £9 a ticket from the Hay Festival Office.

Monday, 17 November 2008

Christmas Lights

I met Richie and Ian putting up the Christmas lights.
"This year is the fastest they've ever been put up," Richie said, with Ian cracking an imaginary whip behind him.
"And if anyone complains that we've got Christmas lights on while the street lights are still off - these use almost no power. They're all LED."

Sunday, 16 November 2008

Children in Need

Pam next door holds a coffee morning for Children in Need every year, just in her kitchen. And if she's still got cake left by lunch time, she goes round the local shops and post office and so on, offering to bring slices in for the staff. This year, she went out to the workmen who were digging up the road just outside. They did make the excuse that they'd just had a big breakfast from the Mixing Bowl, but she took the cake out at lunch time for them instead.
She also had some Christmas cards to sell - a lady she knows had made them, and gave them all to her. They were beautifully done, some with decoupage, and recycling bits of old Christmas cards. If I tried anything like that, it would look as if a nine year old had done it - these looked professional.
Pam is also a member of the Camera Club, so she'd invited them along. There seem to be rumblings of discontent there - one lady said that there were some 'difficult' members - and difficulties with communication over the Christmas dinner. I don't know the people involved, so that's really as much as I gathered from the conversation.
Mrs Williams dropped in from over the road, too. She said she was very glad that their shop was continuing as a butcher's. They didn't really want it to go as anything else. The new people have a 12 month lease, with an option for a further year, at the moment.
The cakes, by the way, were made by Mrs Coles of the WI, and not by Pam, who claims her sponges are like biscuits with jam in the middle!
When I next saw Pam, she said she'd raised £120!

Saturday, 15 November 2008

Muttering about Millbank

The traffic lights have just disappeared again, after a few days of reducing the road to a single lane while a firm called Daniel did something with the water pipes. There were muttered complaints from some people on Broad Street because this meant there was nowhere for them to park while the work was going on, and they were blaming the house builders on what used to be Underhills Garage, and is now called Millbank. There was a mill there before the garage, which makes it a logical choice of name - an old lady who was interviewed for the local history book "...Nobody Had Heard of Hay" remembered falling in the mill pond once when she was a little girl, and having to be rescued.
Even worse, yesterday motorists were passing the traffic lights, and immediately meeting the tree surgeons down Newport Street, where their little lorry was parked, with the wood chipper, while they cleared trees from the bit of waste ground along the road there. This was once the site of the Boat Inn, which was a coaching inn at one time, though it must have been a fairly titchy coaching inn with stables somewhere else, because there isn't a lot of room there.
Today, though, everything is back to what passes for normality in Hay. The first four of the new Millbank houses now have their roofs on, and the second block of four are getting to that stage - and they don't look as bad as some people thought they might. At any rate, they're an improvement on the tin sheds that the garage had there for years.

Tuesday, 11 November 2008

Phil the Fruit

Stopped outside the shop that has just ceased to be Hay2Go this evening to say hello to a couple of ladies who are friends of Islay's. They've just adopted an elderly lurcher, to go with Barney the little Tibetan terrier, and all the dogs had to get aquainted. While this was going on, all the lights were on in the shop, and the new people (presumably Phil and a number of kids in Hay School uniforms) were sorting the shop out. They already have the sign up, which is how I know who they are.
Also up today are the first Christmas lights - though they won't be going on for another few weeks.

Sunday, 9 November 2008

Remembrance Sunday

Torrential rain - but that didn't stop a brass band from turning out for the Remembrance parade. I heard them as they marched past the Cinema. Their drums were so loud that you could feel them through the floor!

Thursday, 6 November 2008

New Butcher

Small Farms/Tom Bounds opened their doors today, with an impressive selection of fine meat. It's organic, it's local (well, localish - there was beef from Devon, but a lot of the meat will be coming from Lower Porthamel and another really local farm), and they're selling game from Bishop's Castle, too. It would take a lot to tempt me away from Chris Gibbons' sausages, but I do like a bit of venison now and again, and I don't always get it together to visit the fish van from Ludlow on the Thursday market, which has been the place to buy game around here up until now. I usually end up chatting to the nice couple at the plant stall while Islay scoffs their biscuits when I do go round the market and then I run out of time to buy anything.

Islay also likes to say hello to the sheep dog on the antiques stall - this was the chap who briefly moved into the old carpet and rug shop, but couldn't display anything outside because the road is too narrow. The shop is now occupied by Adela's Dress Agency, with some very expensive looking designer label stuff. Last week, when it was bitterly cold, the sheepdog was curled up in a dog bed that was for sale, and all you could see of him was a long nose poking out from under the blanket.

Wednesday, 5 November 2008

Latest from the B&R and Wye Local

First of all, an apology to Jo from the Film Society. I did intend to mention that they got onto the front cover of the B&R a few weeks ago - but I forgot. Which is quite bad of me, since they won the Film Society of the Year award, with a distinction as the Best New Film Society. The Guardian film critic, Derek Malcolm, who presented the award at the Sheffield ceremony, said "this new society is an all-round inspirational model". So someone there is making good choices of films.

Meanwhile, Gareth Ratcliffe is still concerned about street lights - he even offered his new pay rise back to the Council to pay for more to be switched on - and he's a brand new dad! Little Lincoln was born on 16th October. Congratulations, Gareth and Stella!

Tuesday, 4 November 2008

Trip to the Big City

That's Cardiff, by the way.
Last time we went down to Cardiff, my young man complained that I hardly went into any detail about our day out, so this time I'll do it properly.
It's pretty easy to get down to Cardiff by bus - you get the 9.30 from Hay to Brecon, and the Sixty-Sixty bus is usually already waiting. It leaves about 20 minutes later, giving a grand tour of Merthyr and other points south on the way, before leaving you at a bus stop close to Cardiff Castle. So it is fairly easy to find it again - all you have to do is look for the castle.
As this was our second outing, we had a rough idea of where things were - and the first port of call was Forbidden Planet. This is a slightly guilty pleasure for me, and reminds me of the days when I was the sort of Star Trek fan who wore antennae and blue face paint*. Mark got a couple of things he wanted - I treated him to an Assassin's Creed pendant because it's almost his birthday - and he treated me to something I really wanted. Sonic lipstick. And a 'watch' that 'scans' for alien life forms. Yes, it's very, very silly, but I want to be Sarah Jane Smith. And now I can.
Off then to the Hard Rock Cafe for their excellent pork sandwich and chocolate malts, and the bus stop for the Bay was just down the road.
We had to go to Torchwood Hub.
I'd looked at the Cardiff CAMRA website ahead of time, and found that they recommended the Terra Nova on Mermaid Quay, so we warmed up after the icy blast over a pint of Brains. The pub is named after Captain Scott's ship - he set off for the Antarctic from Cardiff - the decor is quite nautical, and the beer is very good.
Then it was back to the shopping centre to pick up the new Iron Man DVD. "St David's shopping centre is evolving" said the signs, which is slightly worrying when you're thinking along SF lines, and wondering what it might evolve into. (Remember that new space station that turned into a giant jellyfish in Star Trek Next Gen?)
Back on the bus, we found that the time table is slightly optimistic about the time it expects to get into Brecon - we were only just coming up to Libanus, and were getting slightly panicky that we might just miss the last bus home. All was well though - and Islay was very pleased to see us when we got in.

*I used to dress as an Andorian at Star Trek Conventions. I'm better now (Not much better, obviously - being a middle aged lady who wants to be Sarah Jane is only a slight improvement).

Monday, 3 November 2008

Hallowe'en Fun

We were all set for a night on the town on Friday - but first, I had to go to a Fairtrade meeting at the Globe.
If this had been a normal week, I would probably have gone to the Transition Towns meeting, and the Friends of the Earth meeting as well - but I was otherwise occupied. The Fairtrade meeting, though, was one I couldn't ignore. Together with Jump4Timbuktu, we're organising the First Fairtrade Fair for the 13th December, at the Buttermarket.
Jo took the opportunity to indulge in one of the Globe's sticky cakes. She also commandeered a complete stranger's laptop in the middle of the meeting! None of us had remembered to bring the quotes for printing the posters and flyers with us, so she quickly looked up her emails, and found the information.
The Camera Club have put on their annual exhibition at the Globe this week, and some of the pictures are very good indeed (my mind wasn't wandering - I took full minutes of the meeting!)

After dinner (pumpkin ragout with chorizos - we had a lot of pumpkin to use up after carving the heads) we got changed for the evening. Since Hay-on-Fire wasn't happening this year, we decided to make a night of it round the town.
I had thought of wearing my Goth dress, but decided I'd freeze - so I was a pirate instead. Mark has a rather fine black leather doublet, which makes him look like an executioner, and he'd brought his LARP vambraces and greaves with him too (that's Live Action Role Playing - protection for lower arms and lower legs).
We started off at Kilvert's - we had their special meal there on Wednesday, coq au vin with pint or glass of wine, two meals for £13.50, and very nice it was too. While we were there, we noticed that they would have Hobgobin on draught in the next day or so, and also Howling Ale (which we didn't like as much). The Hobgoblin was wonderful, though. They were supposed to be having a fancy dress party with live music in aid of the Macmillan Nurses, but we didn't see much sign of that, so we moved on to the Crown.
The Crown has the best selection of whiskies in town, I think, so it was a Talisker for me and a JD for Mark. There were a few more people in fancy dress there - and Adey, who tried to sell us a sword and helmet from his re-enacting days. We were hoping to see Richie and Jackie there - Jackie told me she had a cat costume ready - but we must have missed them.
The Globe had live music on - the start, apparently, of a new live music season. Little Rumba were doing a mixture of blues, tango and klezmer. I got quite excited when I saw this on the posters - but I've had to explain what klezmer is to everyone I've mentioned it to. East European Jewish music, heavy on the clarinets and fiddles, isn't really known about in this area - but I love it. They were very good indeed - but Mark found it a little strange that the clarinet and saxophone player looked just like his old co-ordinator at work. Also on the bill was Dirty Ray, who plays guitar with hands going so fast they blur. Someone I spoke to said that Dirty Ray worked at Tom's Record Shop for a while.
We rolled home about midnight - a good night out.

Our Hallowe'en celebrations didn't stop there though.
Rob Soldat was telling children's stories at the Library at 11am the following morning, and Mark was keen to find out what he was like as a storyteller. There were around half a dozen kids there, a couple of mums, and me and Mark sitting on the adult chairs to one side. Rob started off with a local story, about a ghostly bull in Llanigon, and went on to Ireland, with the tale of how Cu Chulain (whose real name meant 'he who knows the way') got lost with all the Men of Ulster, and ended up having a party in an iron house that their enemies were busily setting fire to outside. They escaped, of course.
Then another Irish story about a shapechanging old woman/weasel and a pot of gold, and for the latecomers a quick funny one about a spooky house and a toddler who was too small to be scared.
Next month, he's doing Scottish stories.

Sunday, 2 November 2008

A Few Changes

I don't know - I stop blogging for a week (the young man was here) and all sorts of things have changed round town.
The shop by the British Legion which was formerly known as Sigi has now been taken over by Janette Hill the solicitor. From bras and knickers to conveyancing....
The Wheatsheaf pub now has a big sign outside saying 'Business to Let' - so if there's anyone out there who fancies running a pub in Hay, here's the chance you've been waiting for.
Hay2Go, the travel bookshop near the clock tower, has closed down.
And so, finally, has Denny Parry's little gift shop on Castle Street. Islay will miss that one - she won't be able to go in there to play with Jasper the spaniel and get biscuits any more.
Underneath Nepal Bazaar, where Graham used to have his pet shop, appears to have been taken over by a witch. There's now a rather fine crystal ball in the window, lots of books inside, presumably of an esoteric nature, and it has been renamed Spellbound - with a little sign about sorcery and the imagination. Could be interesting.

Meanwhile in the B&R, there was a very good write up about retiring butcher, Mr Williams. He started working at the shop as delivery boy when he was ten years old - which would have been in the early 1950s - a different world! He finally bought the shop, and slaughtered his own meat round the back originally. He and his wife now live in the converted slaughterhouse, and have a lovely garden that goes right down to the riverside path.
Small Farms Ltd have bought the shop, and it should be open again soon.

Thursday, 23 October 2008

Preparing for Hallowe'en

Jackie at Broad Street Book Centre was pleased when I went in there - she'd just sold all the Hallowe'en decorations in the window to the lady from the Crown, to use at their Hallowe'en Fancy Dress party.

Meanwhile, at the butcher's, the builders are laying a new wooden floor directly over the old wooden floor.

Tuesday, 21 October 2008

Lots to chat about

How did I become this person who can have long conversations with anyone?
I used to be a shy little thing!

Last week, it took me an hour to get from the launderette to home (a five minute walk), and I spent most of my time in the launderette talking, as well.
One of the ladies from Stitch and Bitch came in at about the same time as me. Her house is being renovated, so she's using the launderette while the work is being done. She told me that she'd got so annoyed about the state of the launderette, with machines often breaking down and so on, that she'd got in touch with the owner and demanded a meeting with him.
"Do you know, he wasn't a bit like I imagined - utterly charming, and not defensive at all," she said. "He told me he'd had trouble getting hold of his mother's money, but when he did he had plans to do up the launderette."
(His mother used to own the launderette, and died a little while ago.)
(And call me cynical, but pushing a broom round the floor occasionally would be a step in the right direction).

Then I caught up with the news from Brecon Job Centre, from a chap I met when I was on one of the courses they send the long-term unemployed on. People on these courses tended to polarise into two groups - the youngsters with no skills who didn't really want a job, and the highly intelligent, over-qualified people for whom there were no local jobs available (which makes me sound rather snobbish, since I'm obviously not one of the kids with no skills - but my main point is that this chap certainly isn't). Anyway, he told me that one of the trainers on the course, who had been applying for more jobs than the unemployed people on the courses, had finally escaped, and was now much happier in a new job - and that the Job Centre itself was expecting cuts in staff.
He also told me about an A4e success story. When I was there, a lad with a criminal record was sent on the course from the Job Centre - despite the protests of the trainer, as the course was not set up for people like him. However, he was sent, and he was found a job placement - and he is now thriving. His new employers were impressed enough with him to take him on full-time, and are now talking about sending him to college on day release.

Later, on the way home, I met two ladies who I'd seen in the shop the night before. They stopped to make a fuss of Islay, and things went on from there, the conversation taking in Brother Cadfael books and Shrewsbury and all manner of other topics. They liked the idea of setting up a specialist science bookshop - one of the ladies was a mathemetician - but not with any very serious intent.
At one point, I asked them where they were staying. "The Bridge," they said, "and - this is not a criticism - but you do become surrogate grandmother to the children there, and when you come down in the morning, you're likely to find toys left on the stairs. It's like staying with a family more than a B&B."

Monday, 20 October 2008

"Oh yes he is!" "Oh no he isn't!"

The Brilley panto has started rehearsals. I forgot to ask what they're performing this year, but Jo has landed the part of panto villain - and demonstrated a wonderfully wicked cackle to prove it.
Derek Addyman is going to be the Dame - plenty of scope for over acting there! - and he and Jo are going to be doing the duet from Gigi 'Ah, yes, I remember it well,' with Derek presumably going for the Maurice Chevalier part. Though it would be funny the other way round.

Sunday, 19 October 2008

All Change at Williams' the Butchers

Yesterday was the last day in the shop for Mr Williams. For the next two weeks, the shop will be closed while it's refurbished, and then it re-opens under new management.
So good luck to Mr and Mrs Williams in their well-earned retirement, and good luck to the new people. It's good that there will continue to be two good local butchers in Hay.

Friday, 17 October 2008

Busy in the Swan

Sometimes I feel as if I need to clone myself....
Usually on a Thursday, I finish work at 7pm and walk straight across the road to the Swan to join in the Stitch and Bitch session, which starts around 6pm, so I can get in an hour or so of knitting and chatting - and a much needed drink! It's the start of my 'weekend', after all.
Yesterday evening, I went over with my knitting, as usual. I would have got a drink, but there was a party waiting to go into the restaurant, and they were about three deep at the bar. They go to the Swan bi-monthly for a meal and a speaker, from all over the Wye and Usk area. They've tried other hotels and restuarants, but this one suits them best.
After about half an hour, Jo arrived from the Fairtrade group, and I scurried off to take minutes (as it turned out, 'making elaborate doodles' was nearer the mark). It was the only time enough of us were free to have a meeting, and we were also meeting up with Chris Armstrong from Jump4Timbuktu. They have already booked the Buttermarket for a Christmas Fair for the 13th December, and asked us if we wanted to be involved in organising it as a Fairtrade event.
It was a very pleasant evening, as we discussed the merits of mulled wine (for which we would need a license, so we plumped for mulled apple juice instead), the best ways of making Fairtrade mince pies, and looked through leaflets that Chris had picked up from the recent event at Abergavenny for who we could invite. Tools for Self Reliance was mentioned, and Love Zimbabwe, who were at our Fairtrade Fortnight event in February with some wonderful pottery and craft work. Jump4Timbuktu will be selling Tuareg jewellery and so on, of course.
Chris used to organise the Haymakers/Handmade in Hay Fairs, so he has plenty of experience at this sort of thing. He even offered to supply some of his own apple juice - he has it made at a place near Ledbury, where he's involved in the running of a woodland. His 'day job' is making wooden furniture.
He's also found a lady who sells Fairtrade bags, and will ask her to come along - Julia, who used to be on the Fairtrade committee and also sells Fairtrade bags, had already committed to the Leominster Victorian Christmas Fair on the same day. She may get back to me to borrow a cloak - she's trying to think of a costume that will be practical for unloading and loading the car, and warm. Meanwhile, I am in charge of the Lucky Dip, which went down very well in February.

Wednesday, 15 October 2008

Regional Transport Plan

Something interesting inserted in the B&R this week - the TraCC Regional Transport Plan. TraCC apparently stands for Trafnidiaeth Canolbarth Cymru, and the area it covers is really quite large - down to Ystradgynlais in the south, Cardigan to Porthmadog along the Welsh coast, and up to Blaenau Ffestiniog in the north, and taking in Welshpool and Newtown and Knighton and Llandrindod Wells. I'm not sure from the map if Hay is included or not - it must be at least on the fringes.
The Welsh Assembly now has powers to plan and improve the transport system in Wales, and they want to improve bus services (hooray!), and rail services, and improve accessibility for tourism, with half an eye on the idea that car use needs to be reduced if possible to reduce carbon emissions. There's a questionnaire included.

I'll be watching with interest - I've been banging on for years about the need for an evening bus service between Brecon and Hereford. The local bus service is fine as far as it goes, but the last bus to Hereford is quarter to five in the afternoon at the moment, which is not helpful when I go off to re-enactments, and it can be difficult for my young man when he comes up from London to see me - the taxi fare from Hereford is about £40.

Sunday, 12 October 2008

Husband Creche!

Passing Kilvert's this morning, I noticed a small sign by the entrance. The gist was something like this - for all the women who were tired of their husbands complaining when they went shopping, why not leave them at Kilvert's and shop in peace?

In my experience, though, it's usually the other way round. I hear a lady say "I've lost my husband," roughly once a day at work. They've had enough, and are ready to move on, while hubby is hidden away somewhere deep in the shelves, happily going through the railway books or similar.

Saturday, 11 October 2008

More on street lights

It's certainly got people talking - and it seems that the scheme, of leaving certain street lights in darkness to save money, could still do with some fine tuning. Some of the comments I've heard:

"Why are they lighting the dustbin area at Carlesgate? Who on earth takes their rubbish out at dead of night?"
"There's one stretch where there are four lights off and then three on in a row - why not do them alternately?"
"There's a junction with two lights on it, and they've turned one light off. That's sensible - but if there's enough light to see by from one, why did they put two up in the first place?"

Friday, 10 October 2008

War Memorial

I was walking up through town this morning when I saw Gwen from the British Legion scrubbing at one of the War Memorial's brass plaques. The area around the cenotaph was wet, where she'd already been down on her hands and knees scrubbing the flagstones. "They get moss," she said, as she took a piece of fine sandpaper to the plaque. It was coming up beautifully shiny. "Do you know, I've been here all morning," she said. "Mr John from Oscars came by, and he gave me a gallon of bleach. I've been doing this 40 years. No-one else wants to know. They'll all come for a drink at the Legion, but that's as far as it goes. The Council are supposed to do it," she continued, warming to her theme. "I asked James Gibson-Watt, when he was in charge, and they sent a man with a power hose. Well, he hosed it down and went away again - that's not what's wanted." When she'd finished the plaque on the front of the cenotaph, there were two others on the sides and two more mounted on the wall behind it. "I'm not doing those," she said. "My son's doing them. I'm not supposed to climb ladders. I've got two plastic shoulders and a metal rod up my leg - and I'm waiting to go in for my knee at any time. That's why I'm doing this while I can."
As we were talking, Richard Booth came past. "You should get an OBE for this, Gwen," he said, in greeting.
"Will you send off and get me one, Richard?" she asked.
He actually wanted to talk to her about the rooms at the back of the British Legion, which he's interested in buying. The phrase "military museum" was mentioned, and Gwen is one of the trustees responsible for the sale. "I don't mind as long as you don't want me cleaning in there," she said. "I've done enough of that over the years."

Tuesday, 7 October 2008

Street Lights

I'd noticed a couple of stories in the B&R about how Powys Council are shutting off some of the street lighting across the County to save money, but I hadn't really paid much attention. Some residents of an estate in Brecon (I think) had complained that they didn't feel safe at night, but that didn't seem very relevant to Hay.
Until the other night, that is, when I took Islay out for a late night walk. I'd been taking her out at around dusk, but that night it was nearly ten o'clock by the time we set off.
That was when I realised that the street light opposite my house wasn't on (great powers of observation, me!). However, it was light enough to navigate down Broad Street, and really, the Powers that Be seem to have got it broadly right - the places that need to be lit are lit, and only some side alleys are completely dark.
As I came by the Library, I looked up and saw the Plough. Before, when I've wanted to go out and look at the stars, I've gone out to Nantyglasdwr, with the fields around me (but just enough light for me to study the Ladybird book of the Night Sky from the few houses along there). Now I can just go outside and look up.

Monday, 6 October 2008

More from the Transition Towns meeting...

... but nothing to do with Transition Towns.
I did a lot of talking that night, some of it with the man I sat beside to watch the film. He now lives in Clyro, but was involved in the Transition Town movement before he came to live here, in Worcester. His son is now in the Sixth Form at Gwernyfed, and is looking forward to a trip to Timbuktu in the next few months. Apparently, there will be a BBC film crew tagging along as well!

Sunday, 5 October 2008

Athene's Pigeon

At the Transition Towns meeting the other night, I got talking to Athene. She'd headed off to Dorstone that afternoon, to take her son to a music class - at least, that was the plan.
There was a white pigeon sitting on the roof of the car, and it wasn't moving.
"Never mind - we'll set off slowly, and it'll lift off and fly away."
They moved off. They looked up through the sun roof. The pigeon was squatting as close to the roof of the car as it could manage with its wings spread, as if it was trying to hold on.
"Oh, this is silly - we'll have to stop."
The pigeon was quite happy for Athene to pick it up - and then it huddled itself on her shoulder. And stayed there all the way to Dorstone (her son drove).
When she got back, she went round to her sister's. "I know you like animals...."
"I've got cats."
"So you wouldn't want...?"
She did provide some grain for the poor bird, though, and when Athene went out for the meeting, the pigeon was eating quite happily, and looked as if it had moved in for good!

Saturday, 4 October 2008

Brecon Beacons Food Fest

A day out in Brecon today, for the Food Fest.
We've had a Food Fest in Hay a couple of times, and they were really quite fun, with entertainment as well as amazingly wonderful food, so I was expecting something similar in Brecon.
It was a lot bigger. Stalls filled the Market Hall, and at the far end, when I was there, a chef was demonstrating on stage. The Secretary of State for Wales, Paul Murphy was there, and Kirsty Williams and Roger Williams, our AM and MP, were around somewhere as well, with Derek Brockway the BBC Wales weather man, and the Aberhonddu Male Voice Choir. There was meat, cheese, bread of all sorts, chocolate and fudge, wine and beer and cider, and cakes. Outside on the Struet and up to the end of St Mary's Church on the Bulwark, the stalls continued - poor souls; the weather was awful, but at least they had some shelter. By the church were the arts and crafts, pottery, leather bags, knitted hats and so on.
Then, down the other way was the Green Fair. Here you could find out all about solar panels, thermal fleece for insulation, lime wash and natural paints, wood burning stoves and biodiversity.
It was all very interesting, and it's a pity the weather wasn't better for them.

Friday, 3 October 2008

"It's not the technology - it's the human relationships."

The first meeting held by the new Transition Towns group happened last night in the Parish Hall, with at least 50 people there - some familiar faces, some new, and very few of the Usual Suspects who get involved in everything. Which is probably a good thing, because most of them are rather too busy already.

So, what's a Transition Town, and why should we want to be one?
Basically, it's all about oil. Our present civilisation is based around oil - take oil away, and the whole thing collapses - no petrol - so no travelling, no fertiliser for crops, and so on.
Peak Oil is the idea, based on the work of oil geologists, that there is a finite amount of oil on the planet, and we're about half way through using it. From here on in, oil becomes gradually more and more scarce, while demand keeps going up.
So the Transition is to learn how to live with a minimum of oil, before it all runs out and we have no choice.

The model for this is Cuba, and a film was shown about how they have adapted to their changed circumstances. Their oil supply, from the Soviet Union, was cut off in about 1990, when the Soviet Union collapsed and turned into Russia and associated republics. Cuba went through a very difficult time, but they have come through it with great creativity. Anyone who saw Monty Don going round the world's gardens will have seen organic vegetable gardens, almost small farms, in the middle of Havana.
It's not just food, either - there used to be 7 universities in Cuba. Now there are about 50, decentralised, so it's easier for the students to travel to them. And they imported half a million bicycles from China, and got some of the old farmers to train the younger ones in how to use oxen instead of tractors.
And even in this very difficult time, when the average Cuban lost 20lbs in weight because of the food shortages, they still managed to maintain the same life expectancy as the USA, and they also have 11% of all the scientists in Latin America despite having only 3% of the population.

In the question and answer session after the film, someone made the point that Cuba could do all this very quickly partly because they had to, or starve, but also because they are a dictatorship. On the other hand, it's the sort of thing that we in Britain had to do during the Second World War, and we managed it then very successfully.

The first speaker of the evening, though, before the film, was Gareth Ratcliffe, our County Councillor. Recently he's been out with the bin men, learning just what happens to all the stuff we throw away. On the day he went round, the bin men collected 12 tons of rubbish from Hay. 2 tons were recycled, but 10 tons went into landfill - and the County Council had to pay a fine of £200 a ton because of that. Over a year, they pay £250,000 just in fines - our Council Tax just thrown away! Think what we could do with that money!
It was the most shocking fact of the evening for me - I had no idea that this was going on.
Even worse, the landfill site will only last, at the present rate of use, for another 7 years. After that, as Gareth said, what do we do? Start shipping our waste to China? Because that's one of the alternatives, and why should we dump our rubbish on someone else?
There is a bright side to this though - Gareth also went out around Newport and Welshpool, where they are collecting food waste separately in the rubbish collections to fuel a bio-digester. It's a win-win situation - the food waste doesn't go in landfill, and is used to make electricity.
So there are things that can be done.

Presteigne has been doing things for a year now, and one of their organisers, Richard Pitt, had come down to talk to us. At their big launch meeting, last March, they got 90 people, including 7 local farmers. They've been doing carbon audits to help local people reduce their energy use, and worked out what the carbon footprint is for the whole community - and how much land they need to be self-sufficient.
They're starting car sharing and a hitching scheme - the cars taking part will have a token in the window, and the hitchers will hold the same token to show they're genuine locals who want a lift.
They've started an oral history project, getting older people to share their knowledge of how things used to be done in the 1930s, 40s and 50s. Out of that they're starting storytelling sessions.
They're also looking into a community agriculture scheme and a community orchard, and getting people with gardens who haven't got the time or ability to look after them together with the people who have the time and ability and want a garden. They're about to launch a Seed Swap scheme - someone mentioned that vegetable seeds outsold flower seeds for the first time ever last year, so people generally are thinking more about growing their own food.
He was very keen to stress that they haven't been doing this all on their own. Where there were groups already doing this sort of thing, it would have been pointless to re-invent the wheel, or set up a rival group. What they have been doing there is finding out what people are doing already, and putting them in touch with one another - they're not in the business of telling people what they can and can't do.

Back to Gareth, who said that the Local Council, County Council and National Park - and possibly the Welsh Assembly too - are already interested and supportive, and seven out of the thirteen major towns in Powys have either already started a scheme or are interested in doing so.

In the question and answer session, Gareth mentioned that the farmer in Talgarth who applied to build a bio-digester has been given permission this week, and there was a brief discussion about the technology, for those of us who know about bio-digesters only from listening to the Archers.
A farmer in Presteigne has one up and running - someone in the audience said they'd be interested in visiting one - and he also makes bio-diesel which is sold at the garage in Bishop's Castle.

To finish up, Gareth reminded us all of the recycling bins in the car park. All the money made from those comes back to the local community in the form of grants for good local causes, so we're already benefitting there.

Athene English put in a plug for the new Friends of the Earth group, too, who are also interested in things like carbon audits, seed swaps, and litter. Their next meeting will be on October 30th, 7.30pm, at Kilverts.

And the evening concluded with some very nice soup and fresh apple juice.

(The quotation in the title, by the way, was a quotation from the film The Power of Community).

Tuesday, 30 September 2008

"No Worries"

The lady who's taken over Nepal Bazaar seems to be full of new ideas. Here's one of them - they have Guatemalan Worry Dolls in stock and, as Hay is now known as one of the happiest towns in Britain, they are re-naming them the "No Worries" dolls.

The idea is that, instead of telling the dolls all your problems - well, it's probably better to quote the little flyer:

"...instead of telling these poor little people your problems then stuffing them under a pillow to suffocate while they solve your problems in abject misery, HAY-ON-WYE 'NO WORRIES' DOLLS work in a different way.
"You simply tell them about all the things that are GOOD in your life, then sit them on a windowsill where they can breathe properly and enjoy the view. Then, while you sleep, they AMPLIFY the positive aspects of your life with no discernable effort on your part! EASY! FAR more sensible! Fair Trade for all, including inanimate objects!"

With ideas like this, I think she'll go far!

Monday, 29 September 2008


....to the Jenkins family. I heard today that Ken Jenkins died suddenly over the weekend. He sat outside his house, or outside the Wheatsheaf, watching the world go by. He was in his eighties, but his death was still unexpected.

Wednesday, 24 September 2008

The Confusing World of Publishing

I met a man the other day who was carrying a piece of cardboard with an address scribbled on it.
"Do you know this lady?" he asked. "I knocked at her door, but there's no-one there."
As it happened, I did know her, but I have no idea of her movements from day to day.
"She's a published author, and I need her help," he explained. He's written a book, though he didn't tell me what it was about - but he had "written to London three times, and had no reply".
What he wanted was for someone to retype the first third of it, and edit the rest.
I couldn't really see Betty being too keen on that idea.
Then he asked about Book Clubs - would they do it for him?
I didn't think so. "I don't think they'd work on anyone else's book - they'd be more likely to write their own stuff and bring it along to read bits out." (It occured to me later that I was really describing Writer's Clubs, but it did seem to be the kind of thing he was thinking of). "What you really need is a typist, to start with," I suggested, not terribly helpfully.
It can be a very difficult thing to get a book into print - there are an awful lot of authors out there, and only a limited number of books by first time authors published each year. He might have written something really good, but he didn't seem to have much idea about how to progress from the point where he was - although he seemed to want to self-publish from his own computer once he'd got the typing and editing sorted out.

Monday, 22 September 2008

Prehistoric remains

I was walking across the car park with Islay, when a young chap came up to make a fuss of her.
Having made friends, he turned to me. "Where's the nearest stone circle?" he asked. "Is there one?"
I laughed. "There is - but it's yay high!" I held out my hands about three inches apart.
Up on Hay Bluff, on a piece of flat ground just below the summit, is a car park, which is so well used in the summer that an ice cream van regularly parks up there. Very few people notice the stone circle just to one side of the car park, with a magnificent view of the Wye Valley. You really do have to bend down among the heather and search out the rounded tops of the stones. I imagine that originally the stones were taller, and have become earthed up over the centuries. Once you've found a few, though, it becomes reasonably easy to trace out the rest of the circle - and you do feel that you're discovering something that very few people know about.
For something more substantial in the way of prehistoric remains, I suggested the young chap and his girlfriend could visit Arthur's Stone - a Neolithic tomb, and nothing to do with King Arthur apart from the habit of our forefathers of naming anything impressive after a famous hero.

Saturday, 20 September 2008

Changes in Backfold

I was wandering up Backfold the other day, on the way to get a pig's ear from Country Supplies for Islay, when the lady from the Opticians stopped me. She had a sheaf of notes on her desk for all the people who were due for an eye test. "It'll save me popping down to post it through your letter box at lunchtime," she said. That's the sort of personal service you don't get in many places.
Outside, George was working on some of the shelves that had come out of Marijana's shop. New shelves, in a new arrangement, are being put up in the shop. "Are you expanding?" I asked.
"Paul Harris is," he said. Paul has Oxford House Books in Broad Street, and I'd seen him struggling with shelves the night before.

Thursday, 18 September 2008

Free entertainment at the Co-op!

It's Rose's last day in the bookshop today - she lives quite a distance from Hay, and she wasn't looking forward to arriving and leaving in the dark again this year. However, she has left a little tin of biscuits under the desk especially for Islay, when she comes in.

Later, I went up to the Co-op. A lady outside told me that they'd had a theft recently of something like 30 wire baskets. Who wants that many supermarket baskets, unless they're setting up a supermarket themselves?
Inside, I queued up at the till behind a disabled lady - she drags one foot and can't use her arm on that side - and I was glad I did. She was buying a big pile of shopping, and at one point, she had three assistants running round after her. "And they're all young men, too!" The lad on the till was keeping up a running commentary: "I've got two bananas here - how many did you have, Maggie?"
"I had three."
"Here it is, under here."
"And don't fill those bags too full," she said. "My mother-in-law nearly had a heart attack last time she tried to lift one."
Eventually, it was all bagged up and paid for, and young Luke turned his huge smile onto me. "Sorry to keep you, madam. Glad you decided to shop at the Co-op. And are you enjoying your shopping experience?"
"I am today!" I giggled.
"I'm not paid any extra for all this," he added.
He should be - he brightened up the day of everyone who could hear him.

Gold Medals

Front page news in the B&R! (There's success for you).
Chef on the Run and Old Stables Tearooms owners Mike and Rachel Carnell won six gold awards at the Great Taste Awards in London. They got two gold stars for their Seville marmalade, and five gold stars (one each) for their beetroot and ginger chutney, Welsh leek chutney, quince jelly, wow marmalade and pear and rose scented syrup - and they got the producer of the year award as well!
They're obviously Very Pleased Indeed.
They're also going to be part of a TV series with HTV soon.

Wednesday, 17 September 2008

Customer Highlights

I find people endlessly fascinating, and I'm lucky to meet so many interesting people in the bookshop.
In just the last few weeks, I've met some lovely people.

There was the Dane who was writing a travel guide book.

There was a physicist who was buying aviation books because he's about to go to New Zealand to re-train as an airline pilot.

A man from Norfolk got talking over a guide book to Peddars Way. He thinks he has a book at home on the archaeology of Norwich with my picture in it! (When I was an archaeologist, I worked on the Castle Mall dig, and got into the Eastern Daily Press holding a Saxon pot).

Then there was the lady who has a Bible museum in Australia. She was buying Bibles in languages I didn't even recognise (and I've worked in Marijana Dworski's shop - I thought I'd seen everything!).

A man from Jersey bought some books about the Channel Islands that included pictures of people he knew. One was the son of the local photographer, with a crowd of lads around a machine gun. He turned to an article in one of the booklets entitled "Do They Ever Come Back?" and told me about one retired German schoolmaster who had. Local archaeologists have opened up some of the World War Two bunkers to the public, and they got talking to this old chap while on the official tour. He hadn't always been a schoolmaster - during the war he had been the commanding officer of those very bunkers! The archaeologists were delighted to meet him, and asked him if they had their interpretation right? He said it was very good, and that there had been a trench in one place, and barbed wire somewhere else - and told them a lot about the German occupation of the Channel Islands that would have been impossible to find out in any other way.

Coming in to sell books to us was the ex-head of the Political section of the BBC, who had worked with John Cole and John Sargent.

And a couple buying American Civil War books told me about the battlefields they'd visited - and that they were lucky enough to go to a full scale battle re-enactment of one of the major battles. "It was in a corn field," they said, "and when we got back to the hotel, we had a shower, and the dust ran off us in grey rivulets."

Tuesday, 16 September 2008


I was standing by the cash machine chatting the other day.
"I had a bit of excitement the other day," one of the chaps said. "I took £100 out of the cash machine, and I went into the Legion, bought a round...." He mimed searching his pockets for the money with ever increasing panic. "Oh, my God - I left it in the machine! I ran back to HSBC - it's not far, after all - and there was a couple standing there by the machine. I said; 'Have you seen £100?' and he put his hand out and said 'Here you go.' I tried to give him £10 of it, but he wouldn't take it. Aren't there nice people in Hay?"

Monday, 15 September 2008

Time for Hay to Become a Transition Town?

We've got Fairtrade Status, we're trying to ban plastic bags, and a new Friends of the Earth group recently started here - so it seems a logical step for Hay to join the Transition Town movement.
Transition from what to what, though?
Well, at the moment, our entire civilisation is addicted to oil - and the oil is running out, and becoming ever more expensive. We need to find another way of living that is not dependant on oil, and we need to do it reasonably quickly. It all ties in with climate change, as well - finding ways of living with the planet instead of just on the planet (and as if we had a couple of spares we could move to if this one goes wrong).
Enter Simon Forrester, who is organising a meeting at the Parish Hall to start a Transition Town group.
It's at 7pm on October 2nd, with a film about how Cuba is coping with a drastic reduction in oil (the answer being really quite well - and their organic gardens are wonderful - and now I sound like Peter Sellers in the old film I'm All Right Jack, extolling the virtues of the Soviet Union with "all those cornfields - and ballet in the evening"!)
Gareth Ratcliffe, our County Councillor, will be there to give a short speech (fresh from trying out the sharp end of delivering Council services - there are photos of him going round with the bin men in the window of the butcher's on Broad Street).
Entry is free, and snacks will be provided, but people are asked to bring their own drinks along.

It won't be the first Transition Town locally; Presteigne is already doing this, and I think Brecon is too.
And anyone interested in learning more can go to www.transitiontowns.org or contact tthay@gmail.com

Should be an interesting evening!

Sunday, 14 September 2008

Crochet history

We missed Emanation on Thursday, who said she'd show us some crochet, but with the aid of the book I got at Huntington Fete (by Marsha A Polk) Sara and I managed to make something.
We got talking about the history of crochet, and I bet it was something that hadn't been invented in the 13thC - so another cool craft that I can't use for Living History - and I said I'd look up the history.

I was right - it's not 13thC, though my hopes were briefly raised when the article I found said that the Old Norse for a hook was krokr. The best guess seems to be that the technique came from China and became popular in Europe in the 18thC - when patterns were printed with the sort of instructions that made the researchers think this was an unfamiliar and new craft to the readers.
So there we have it.

Meanwhile, Silent Voices on Castle Street have just been changing their exhibition - and they now have a painting of a Stitch and Bitch group in their front window!

Saturday, 13 September 2008


A beautiful day at last!
I took Islay up the Offa's Dyke Path behind the car park this morning, and I kept noticing plastic tape, in the hedgerow at intervals, and at the kissing gates. It said "Greeneye Hayathlon". It shows how much notice I take of sport - I hadn't realised there was an event on at all.
I saw a couple of the organisers, with their plastic tape, a little later on. They said it was for charity (though I didn't find out which one) and the competitors would be running for 11 miles and then canoeing for 5 miles.
They've had a lovely day for it.

Friday, 12 September 2008

A Walk Round Hay

I've walked Islay's little legs off! She's having a little lie down now.

I was taking round the Fairtrade window stickers to all the shops and businesses that are in the Fairtrade Directory. Islay enjoyed this at first, but after a while she got the idea that I was going into shop after shop while she had to wait outside, and she started looking at me as if it wasn't fun any more. To make things worse, I walked past Country Supplies twice before I weakened and let her go in to get a treat.
It took a lot longer than I expected (silly me), and I haven't finished yet, because I kept stopping to talk.

I found out that Rose is a member of the Hedgehog Society, and that hedgehogs, badgers, foxes and sparrowhawks visit her garden near Kilpeck (and it's costing her a fortune in peanuts!).

Haydn is rejoicing in the incarceration of a local villain, presently at Her Majesty's Pleasure.

Alen asked me how my writing's getting on (slowly, but finding out about Victorian Fleetwood and the Isle of Man is fun), and told me about how one of her ancestors used to go from Preston to Blackpool for Wakes Week in a horse drawn carriage - the whole town used to close down for Wakes Week, and different towns in Lancashire took different weeks, so the hotels in Blackpool had people coming and going all season, one town at a time.

A playpen has been set up by the door of Golesworthy's, containing an angelic looking blond child who was playing with a cardboard box.

Marijana Dworski has emptied her shop on Backfold. I assume she'll be working from home again - she always did a lot of business from home.

And the workmen at Millbank Development, where Underhills Garage used to be, seem to be putting in a new footpath and flower bed. There have been traffic lights set up for a few days now, since the work has narrowed the road to one lane, and it's made quite a few of us on Broad Street notice just how much traffic goes up and down outside our houses.

Thursday, 11 September 2008

Credit Crunch

Even here in Hay, where Clee, Tompkinson and Francis, the estate agents, are closing their office and moving the business to their Brecon office instead. They often have local art or photography in their windows as well as the house details.
The spokesman for the company, in the B&R, said that he expected remote properties to drop in price - but that wouldn't necessarily be of any use to people who need cheaper housing - because they're called 'remote' for a reason. No local shops, post offices, bus routes and so forth will make them less desirable as more people will be moving in towards urban centres, and it will be more difficult to get mortgages as well. This is the prediction, anyway.

It's a lovely big office, in quite a prominent site close to Kilvert's, so I hope it doesn't stay empty too long.

Sunday, 7 September 2008

The Knitting Needle Killer of Hereford!

I went into the Council Offices to pay my Council Tax the other day. The lady there used a little guillotine to slice the paper so I could have a reciept.
"That's dinky," I said.
"It's because we're not allowed scissors," she said.
"What - in case you run amok with them?" I laughed.
"Well, in case someone else grabs them and runs amok," she said.
So I told her about Oxfam, where they no longer display knitting needles in case someone runs amok with them. I said I'd looked on the internet, but I couldn't find any real life incident where someone had been killed with a knitting needle.
"Oh, but there was a lady in Hereford! She lived somewhere up the hill from the railway station. It was about 40 years ago, and she was stabbed to death. They thought she must have known the killer though, because she let them in the house."
So there we are - not only is there a real life knitting needle murder, but right on our very doorstep!

Saturday, 6 September 2008

Dodging the Rain

I dived into the Bookshop on the corner to get out of the rain, and some of the usual suspects were doing a crossword across the counter.
"What regatta is it?" Jack asked, looking at a clue.
Pete nodded towards the window. "Just out there," he said. "Hey, we could make paper boats and race them down to Booths!"

And since Islay dives into Broad Street any chance she gets - and even more now there's pet food at the back - I met Elizabeth. She'd just taken her black scottie dog Jess to the vet's to have three teeth out. Father Richard and Jimmy the Curate had gone along as moral support "because Jess really loves Jimmy."
She was also rather pleased that she was Slimmer of the Week this week at the group she goes to. "It's rather sweet really," she said, "a bit like infant school - if you meet your target, you get a star, and I got a star for losing 12lb!"

Friday, 5 September 2008

"Apart from the weather...

...Powys has a lot going for it." (Quote of the week from the B&R Express)

So I was stomping down the road, with my brolly up - Islay had stayed, sensibly, at home - when a passing chap said, "I saw you on telly last night." He said it had been quite interesting, and Bryn Terfel had been on it.
I missed the One Show because I went to Stitch and Bitch instead. There's been something of a hiatus over the summer, but last night was a big meeting for the start of the autumn. Tracy was doing cabling with whoever wanted to learn. She went off with Richard Booth over the summer solstice. Somehow, Richard never quite remembers that you no longer work for him, when you leave, so Tracy got a phone call asking if she wanted to go with him to Norway for the summer solstice and a bookfair - and would she book the tickets, and it was in two days time! She went, of course, and had a marvellous time.
Sara and I got chatting to Emanation, who is crocheting a jumper for her five year old. She said she found it far easier than knitting ("and there's only one stitch to drop"), and the pattern was quite impressive, with a swirling star on a pentagon. Two of these pieces fold over to make the arms - and it's in bright orange because that's what the five year old asked for. Sara said she found cabling easy, but she hadn't been able to get to grips with crochet, despite Jenny's teaching session earlier in the year, so we're all going to get together next week and have another go.
Meanwhile, one of the ladies has a husband with a minibus driving licence, so the idea of having a day out to Collinette in Welshpool has re-surfaced, using the money in store from our meetings at Wool and Willow. It's probably going to be in November.
We also have a programme of events worked out, for the first Thursdays of the month, with Any Stitch on 2nd October, so anyone can bring along a knitting stitch to learn, or brush up on ones that we've tried out before.
6th November and 4th December are Scumbling. Val is very keen on this, and creates some amazing patterns with crocheting - and it's good for using up odd bits of wool, too. So it's something fun to get us in the mood for Christmas.

Wednesday, 3 September 2008

Famous in Finland

Barry Cryer was on the radio a few days ago, and one of the pieces of trivia that is always trotted out about him, apparently, is that he had a Number One Hit Single in Finland in 1958 (something about a Purple People Eater).
Well, now I, too, can claim to be famous in Finland. A couple approached me on Monday (in between the BBC being there) and said that they read my blog in Finland. They've been over to Hay several times before, which is why they have an interest in the odd goings on here. I was delighted - I still am! So, hello, Finland!
And hello the United States and Australia - I know I have readers there, too.

Tuesday, 2 September 2008


What a day I had yesterday! And I didn't blog about it immediately because I was on the phone for ages telling my sister and my boyfriend all about it!
The most exciting thing that happened yesterday was the BBC filming in Hay. They came into the shop in the morning, and spent some time upstairs with the antiquarian books - and a man in a straw cowboy hat and grey suit who was carrying a slimline electronic screen with him. It was the sort of thing pretty young yeomen on the Starship Enterprise were always handing Captain Kirk to sign, only less bulky.
Meanwhile, a chap came into the shop with a young friend. He'd last visited Hay 34 years ago, when there were only 2 bookshops, and he was showing his friend round, who hadn't even been born then. The man in the grey suit was in the entrance way when these two were about to leave, and they got talking while the e-book was demonstrated to them (with the BBC man rolling his eyes in the background, as they were supposed to be heading off to film somewhere else in Hay).
In the afternoon, they were back. By this time, it was bucketing down, and we do have a handy pavilion outside where they could film outside, but still in the dry. Deb was recruited as an extra, along with another lady. I could hear the BBC chap shouting instructions to them. "Look scared! Say 'e-book' as if you've never heard of one before. And hold it...."
After half a dozen takes, Deb managed to escape, and thrust me into the BBC's arms. "Your turn now!" she said, disappearing upstairs.
A family were sheltering from the rain and watching the filming, and they got involved as well. They got the gran to look out of the window and say "An e-book?" and then they got me to peer round the door. "E-book?"
"We'd like to do a bit of vox pop," the BBC chap said, and dragged off one of the ladies for a quick interview. We'd been standing in the background while the star of the piece, he of the grey suit, demonstrated his e-book to them. For around £400 you can carry something like 80,000 books around in the screen and a couple of computer sticks that fit in your pocket, and you can download anything from the Gutenberg Project for free (that's all the out of copyright books). You can even make notes on the 'page' with a stylus if you want to. Most impressive, and easy to read - but I don't think it'll make second hand books obsolete just yet. I said to one of the ladies, living in Hay is like living inside one of those e-books - you have more or less instant access to thousands of books, and you can keep and cherish them, or dip in and out of them, as you wish.
They had a find for the vox pop with the only man of the family. He was over from Italy, where he now lives, and he reads mostly comparative religion and Terry Pratchett - and he seemed very computer savvy. Being in Italy, he finds it difficult to get his hands on all the books he wants in English, so an e-book might be quite useful for him.
By this time, the two older ladies were getting tired of it all. "I hope they don't call us," they said. "Maybe we'll go back to the car - you can tell Chris where we've gone, can't you?" But before they managed to creep away, Chris was back - and the BBC were running out of time, so they were finishing up with the filming anyway.
After work, I let Islay out for her usual evening walk, and ran into them again, taking a few general shots of Hay. Islay was a great hit with them, and we just about got her to grin right into the camera lens for them, and then they asked me to walk down the street towards them with Islay, who co-operated beautifully.
It's going to be a 4 minute slot on the One Show, on BBC 1 on Thursday at 7pm.
Fame at last! (if I don't end up on the cutting room floor!)

Sunday, 31 August 2008

The Himalayas

I met another dog walker where the Offa's Dyke Path goes through a field by the riverbank. On each side of the path, there are purple flowers higher than a man's head.
"Any idea what those are?" the man asked.
"Himalayan balsam," I said.
"Are they local?"
They're Himalayan," I said. "They drown out the local plants. The Wildlife Trusts are quite worried about them."
"Himalayan? I've been invited to go to the Himalayas," he said, and went on to tell me that a doctor who lives near him has asked him to take part in medical experiments at Mount Everest base camp! "Trouble is, you have to be able to walk so many miles with a backpack in the UK," he said, "and I find it enough to walk down to Shepherds these days."

Saturday, 30 August 2008

Busy Day

Lots of things going on around Hay today.
There's a craft fair in the Buttermarket, with wood turned goods, and beautiful mohair sweaters, hats and cushions and woollen stuff. The hat lady was knitting, and the wool lady had her spinning wheel there.
At Health Matters on Broad Street, there's a meditation course going on, led by a Buddhist nun.
Down at the Co-op, they're having a Cow Girl Car Wash, in aid of Mind. I saw one of the girls, putting the sign up that said "Today" next to the Western style board that's been up all week at the turning to the bridge. She was wearing a checked shirt, and very skimpy shorts.
Over at the Three Tuns, there's a big birthday party going on. I know it's a birthday party, because you could hear them singing "Happy Birthday" all up and down the street.

Meanwhile, I saw Jane yesterday, and she asked me if I knew that mange was going round the dog population.
I'd seen Alfie, Islay's collie-spaniel cross friend, a day or so before - and he had huge bald patches all over his body, poor lad. Jane said that she thought the dogs might be picking up the infection on the Warren, so it might be as well to avoid the Warren for a bit.

Friday, 29 August 2008

More Interesting Visitors

An American couple were in the shop the other day, and amongst their purchases were a couple of books on Shakespeare and the Globe Theatre. I always like to chat to customers as I'm serving them, so I said: "Have you been to the Globe?"
The woman looked at her husband with some amusement, and said: "He practically built it."
"Well, I didn't exactly knock every nail in...." he said. He went on to tell me that he had helped with the design, and that he had brought a group over from California for the trial season, before the theatre was properly open, and that they had put on the first full play on that stage! He also said that, if I Googled "shakespearestaging", I would find him.
So I did, after they'd gone - and found that he's the Director of the Shakespeare Program at the English Department of the University of California at Berkeley!!!

Thursday, 28 August 2008

Happy Hay!

Or so says the BBC - so it must be true!
I missed it - I never watch TV in the mornings, so BBC Breakfast passed me by. I heard, though, that there has been a survey, and that Powys has emerged as the happiest place in the country (Edinburgh is the most miserable). So there was a roving reporter in Hay, interviewing locals to find out if we really are happier than people in other parts of Britain.
I thought it was interesting that, as well as being happiest, we are also the most sparsely populated area in Britain.
We also have one of the highest levels of dog ownership in the country. The Guardian did a distribution map a few years ago, and it doesn't surprise me. Are dog owners generally happier than people without pets?
Anyway, there's a little video clip on the BBC website, which is quite fun.
The butchers' in Broad Street has written "HAPPY HAY" with each letter on a separate paper bag, and laid them out in the window.