Monday, 31 March 2008

Red Indigo

once known as the Wine Vaults (and the Penny Bun).
I took my young man out for a meal, to try out the new Indian cuisine, and what a pleasant evening we had.
The restaurant was quite busy, but we didn't need to book, and the service was excellent. The chicken Dansak was a bit eye-watering, but the food was good, and the kulfi (Indian ice cream) was delicious!
Good Indian food is something that has been lacking in Hay for years - and now it's arrived.

Thursday, 27 March 2008

A few changes

Mikell, the shop just up from the Limited that sold high class gifty stuff, has now been replaced by Hat to Have It. A hat shop, obviously, though they still have some of the glassware and statuettes that Mikell were selling. They also sell something called 'fascinators', which are not quite hats, but seem to be little confections of feathers and twiddly bits on a comb to fix it to the hair of the wearer.

Up beyond St John's, 'Modern Kate' is staging an exhibition of her paintings. The building is now a private house, but was once the local bookies', and later (surprise, surprise) a book shop. The paintings seem to be sort of abstract landscapes, if that makes sense.

Meanwhile, Sigi is selling up - so there will soon be no more carefully fitted bras in Hay.

Sunday, 23 March 2008

Pasg Hapus

I happened to see a programme on TV the other night about St Teilo's church, which was carefully demolished in its home village, and rebuilt at St Fagan's museum. The process took twenty years, and the church was decorated as it might have appeared in around 1520, with wall paintings based on the fragments that had been found in the church, and a beautiful rood screen showing the crucifiction with the life of St Teilo underneath.
The colours glowed - they had taken something derelict and turned it into something beautiful.

When I went into St Mary's church here in Hay today, I had much the same reaction. There is a new rood, hanging from the chancel arch. The colours glow; it's beautiful - as much as anything showing such a terrible method of execution can be.
I got the parish magazine, Way-on-High, and found that the making of the rood had been a real community undertaking. The wood for the cross came from an old pew, and was made by Jumbo. Father John cut out the figures of Jesus, Mary and John. Mandy and Dick paid for all the materials in memory of their son Dick. Christina did the gilding of the haloes, but the main work, the painting, was done by Maggie Denny, who wrote an article about it in the magazine:
"It may only be paint on wood - but it becomes far more than that - every brush stroke a step along a journey accompanied by paryer, pity, sorrow and hope.... It has been a truly wonderful project, both sorrowful and joyful."

Happy Easter

Saturday, 22 March 2008

The Bull's Head at Craswall

When I was at Stitch and Bitch the other night, we got talking to the lady who runs the Swan (who was having a well earned sit down after a hard day when half her staff seemed to be off with the Dreaded 'Lergy). She told us that she and her husband have bought the Bull's Head.
Her husband likes to cook, but the Swan's restaurant is on too large a scale for him, so the Bull's Head would suit him much better. They plan to live up there, rather than have rooms to let out, as the last people there did (who disappeared, trailing their debts behind them). They need to install an entire new kitchen, as the last owners sold everything off that wasn't nailed down, by the sound of it. What's holding them up at the moment is the building work - one of the builders has broken his leg, poor man.
They intend to leave the old bar area, with the hatch in the wall, exactly as it was, which is good news for fans of old, character-full pubs.

Friday, 21 March 2008

"I see a sign!"

You couldn't miss it, in fact - Richard Booth has had a truly enormous sign put up on the outside of Hay Castle, which says "Welcome to Hay Castle Bookshop" in letters you could see from Hay Bluff!
All without planning permission, of course, though Tracy did try to explain this concept to him.

Wednesday, 19 March 2008

Famous Gardeners

Elizabeth at Broad Street Book Centre is quite excited - they've had an order over the internet from A Famous Gardener! He's collecting the New Naturalist series.
This led us on to discussing other famous gardeners who have been seen in Hay.
Bob Flowerdew came into that same shop some years ago, when my ex-husband was on the desk. He was looking for an obscure Victorian children's book about Norwich. As we had recently moved to Hay from Norwich, Allen knew the book, and had actually read it. He couldn't find another copy for Bob Flowerdew, but at least they had an interesting conversation.
Janice, who has worked in quite a few of the bookshops over the years, has also met Bob Flowerdew. She has a chronic dry cough, and he told her that, if she ate 100 different things over a week, the cough would clear up.
"However would you manage that?" Diana asked, starting to count things on her fingers (there was a whole group of us gossiping round the till). "Still, it would be a challenge to try."

Tuesday, 18 March 2008

Mobile phones

Sara has a new mobile phone. Her daughter bought it for her, and she hasn't worked out how to use it properly yet.
"Why couldn't it be like my old one?" she complained. "I knew how to work that - it was easy."
She was talking about it, the other day, to the check out girl at the Co-op.
"I don't even know how to do upper case when I'm texting," she said.
"Oh, I know how to do that," said the check out girl. And showed her.
The lady in the queue behind Sara leaned over. "Would you mind doing that again, slowly? I don't know how to do it either."
"I can't do that on mine," said a third lady, so they all gathered round the check out girl, who gave an impromptu tutorial on mobile phone use with Sara's phone.

Only in Hay!

Saturday, 15 March 2008

Pea sticks

I met Tim the Gardener on Offa's Dyke path this morning. That is, I saw Quink, Athene English's black labrador, charging up the path towards Islay, and then saw Tim behind her in the distance.
"Where's Biscuit?" I asked, as he drew level. Biscuit is Athene's other dog, quite a bit older than Quink. Tim walks them a lot for Athene.
"Tired," Tim said. "She didn't want to come out. Athene's been going out riding, and she keeps up very well, but it takes it out of her now."
He'd already taken them both out earlier in the morning, but now he was looking for pea sticks, and thought that the dogs may as well come with him. He's already found a big pile of brash down the lane to the Warren, where the hedges have been trimmed. "I got a good stack of them," he said, "but they're not terribly tall. I'm looking for some leggy hazel now. My sweet peas grow about eight feet tall!"

Later in the day, I was walking down past the Launderette with Islay when I saw a quick movement on the other side of the lane. At first I thought it was a squirrel down from the castle - but then I got a good look at it. It was about the same size as a squirrel, but black, and the tail was all wrong. It scampered past a couple of parked cars, and down the alley way round the castle to the car park in the middle of town. Islay whimpered when she saw it, but she didn't go after it.
The only thing I can think that it might me is a mink!

Wednesday, 12 March 2008

Book meme

I found this meme at Lunea Weatherstone's Blogue and Beyond the Fields we Know, and both of them invited anyone who was interested to take it up. Since it's about books, I thought I'd have a go.

1. Pick up the nearest book with more than 123 pages.
2. Turn to page 123 and count down 5 sentences.
3. Post the next three sentences.
4. Anyone else who would like a go, feel free.

The nearest book to my computer turned out to be Nancy Blackett: Under Sail with Arthur Ransome, by Roger Wardale. Page 123 is taken up with a passage from one of Arthur Ransome's children's books; We Didn't Mean to Go to Sea, which is in his Swallows and Amazons series, and one of the best, I think. To give a bit of context, I've included more than three sentences:

"Can I sound the foghorn again?" said Roger.
"No... Wait half a minute... We've got to make up our minds."
"Let's do what John says," said Titty. "Daddy'd say the same... You know... When it's Life and Death all rules go by the board. Of course, it isn't Life and Death yet, but it easily might be if we bumped the Goblin on a shoal."

Arthur Ransome wrote twelve Swallows and Amazons books, and he also did a lot of sailing himself, when he wasn't being a correspondent for the Manchester Guardian, or a spy in early Soviet Russia. This book describes how his yacht the Nancy Blackett, named for the Captain of the Amazons in his books, was found decaying in Scarborough docks, bought, and lovingly restored to it's former glory.

Monday, 10 March 2008

Return of the red bags

Last Thursday the bin men left a 12 month supply of black bin bags at every house, as they went round. That's 52 bags in a roll.
When I went to the kitchen cupboard to put it in, I found last year's roll, still unopened. And the year before that. I hadn't realised it, but I'm still using the bags from four years ago. On average, I use about one black bag a month, and even then it isn't usually full.
So, with nightmare visions of the cupboard filling up with black bags that I would never, ever use, I decided to take them back to the Council, along with an extra roll of clear bags with black writing that I'd been given when I asked for red bags (and they'd run out).
They're busy refurbishing the Council offices, but there is a reception desk where the Housing office counter used to be, and the lady there was delighted I'd come back with them - there are always people calling in because they've run out, or because the bin men missed them out for some reason.
They also had a basket full of recycling bags - including the red ones, so I went away happy, with exactly what I needed, and my kitchen cupboard is a bit emptier, too.

I wouldn't have done that if the local Council offices had closed and I'd had to go into Brecon on the bus.

Sunday, 9 March 2008

Following the Hunt

Sara told me that she'd been out last week, following the last hunting meet of the season.
In the days when she was a head groom, she used to go hunting three times a week in the season, to exercise the horses. This time, she went with her friend Derek to follow the hunt by car and foot.
They met up near Capel-y-ffin, where a sumptuous buffet, plus mulled wine and rum, was laid out on a board over two of those big round hay bales. Derek smiled at her. "You made sandwiches, didn't you? Told you you wouldn't need them."
Well fortified, the hunt and the followers went up the road by the Monastery. And up. And up. And through a couple of gated farmyards. The hounds were on the tops by this time, and the followers were watching through binoculars. "You'd think thirty hounds would be easy to spot, wouldn't you?" Sara said, wryly.
They came at last to a narrow valley, black shale down one side, green grass down the other, and a waterfall running in steps down the length of it, with the sun glinting off the rushing water. It was easy to imagine how remote the farms had been only a hundred years ago.
The idea was for the hunt to go along one ridge, turn down the next ridge, and then go round the end of the hill. They got about two thirds of the way along with this plan, when a terrier got stuck down a hole and they had to dig it out. While they were waiting, Sara and Derek ate the sandwiches. When they left, the terrier was still being rescued.

No foxes were harmed during the making of this post (or the hunt itself).

Friday, 7 March 2008

Fairtrade Breakfast at Hay School

All the committee of Fairtrade Hay were invited to the school this morning, but in the end only Julie and I could turn up. I hadn't known that Hay School had a breakfast club (it's an idea that didn't exist when I was at school), but it seems to be fairly well attended, and there were extra children there today because it was for Fairtrade. All the fruit, fruit juice, hot chocolate, jam and even banana smoothies, were Fairtrade, and the lady in charge of the tuck shop told us that most of the products they sell now are Fairtrade, like Geobars.
We all had our photos taken with a giant inflatable banana and a Fairtrade football, which the school is sending to the B&R.
(We didn't actually get any breakfast - we were just there to observe).

Thursday, 6 March 2008


The re-surfacers are out again, this time doing Lion Street. At the moment, part of the old surface has been scraped off, and when I was walking Islay last night, it was all flashing orange lights and machinery noises up there.
Still, it's only for a couple of days, and then the road will be much better.

This morning, the bridge over the Wye was closed for a short while, but I don't know why. It's open again now.

Wednesday, 5 March 2008

"Keep Watching the Skies!"

It's not unusual to see - and hear - jets screaming overhead in Hay. The RAF have been using the Wye Valley to practice low level flying for years. Usually, though, the jets fly over a couple of times, and are gone again.
Today two jets circled the town for about half an hour. They weren't the usual RAF jet fighter, either, but a delta wing plane that I didn't recognise.
What a contrast to last week, when I looked up as I was walking along Castle Street to see hot air balloons drifting silently over us.

Monday, 3 March 2008

The Joys of Dog Walking

I'm standing very still near the banks of the river, and the woods are alive around me.
In the undergrowth, a pair of blue tits is bobbing about. Above them, a robin is singing his heart out. Over to my left, three long-tailed tits flit from branch to branch. Blackbirds fly low among the brambles, and in the very top of a tree, a crow looks down. A little further away, a woodpecker is drumming.
The sun is shining, turning the river a blinding, rippling silver. As I walk back along the Offa's Dyke Path (Islay somewhere in the distance ahead of me) I see dog's mercury springing up ('mercury' because it grows fast; 'dog's' because it isn't useful for anything). A little further along, I see my first violets of the year.

Sunday, 2 March 2008

Return of the Duck Egg Lady

The ducks and hens are laying again, so the Duck Egg Lady is back doing her rounds - I discovered this by almost walking under her car yesterday (the dog is safer on the road than I am sometimes).
I've been saving up egg boxes all year, so this morning I took them all down to the Jigsaw Shop, where the Duck Egg Lady works on Sundays, for her to use. She's going to bring half a dozen duck eggs in for me every Sunday from now on.

Saturday, 1 March 2008

Fairtrade Friday

Not as many people came as we had hoped for (we had quite a few Welsh cakes left over at the end) but the people who did turn out in the appalling weather were interested, and interesting. One chap came to argue against Fairtrade, which was actually very good, because it made us think more about why we support it, and he was clearly enjoying the arguements.
Bishopston Trading sent some clothes and bags, and there was a stall from a shop in Tarrington in Herefordshire, which the girl said was the only shop in the county that sold exclusively Fairtrade goods. They had knitted items from Nepal, and a range of tiled coathooks that went very well, amongst other things. Then there were the ladies from Love Zimbabwe, who set up a film show and had some wonderful pottery mugs, and pictures, and musical instruments, and wooden statues. A farmer who is a neighbour of Ruth's sent some organic produce, to represent the local goods. His carrots went well. The Timbuktu committee had a table, and then there was me doing the weaving, close to the Lucky Dip and Pin the Banana on the Banana Tree, which was very popular with the school parties, especially as the blindfold wasn't quite thick enough.
Children from Hay School came in the morning, some of them in Welsh costume, as it was the nearest school day to St David's Day. They enjoyed the weaving, too.
Through the afternoon, I met as many people who were interested in craftwork as in Fairtrade. One lady went away, and came back with two carrier bags full of wool for me - she had promised them to me previously, but since I was there all day, she decided to gather it all together while she had me in one place. Another lady said that she had thought about coming to Stitch and Bitch, but had been put off by the name - but I was able to reassure her that we were really very nice, and didn't do much bitching at all.
I think I may be asked to speak about weaving for an old people's club in Llanigon - the lady took my contact details, anyway.
Anna, from the Timbuktu committee, gave me a spindle whorl she had found for me on her holiday in Morocco. She said she had asked about spinning or weaving items in a shop there; the man called his wife, and they rummaged around in some drawers, and came up with a spindle whorl made out of what Anna thinks is argan wood - which they gave to her for free. All I need to do is find a piece of dowling, and I can use it.
Anna's other hat is Drover Holidays, and she told me that they have arranged to move into the little barn where the vet's surgery used to be, on Oxford Road, between the entrance to the car park and the Offa's Dyke Path. It will be a better position for them - less cramped than the shop beside the Blue Boar, and they're hoping to open around 14th March (if the roof is fixed in time).
In the late afternoon, Gareth came to announce the launch of the Fairtrade directory for Hay, and the children of Ffynnon Gynnedd School sang songs from around the world - and kept me busy helping them with the stick weaving. We practically had to throw three little girls out - they were so keen to weave that they wouldn't go home!
Only one little boy tried the Quiz, though - and he was brilliant! He answered every question right. His mum was amazed. "He worked really hard at that," she said, "and he hates school!"
All in all, the day was well worth doing, and we now know something of what works and what doesn't for next time....