Monday, 28 April 2008

Booksellers' Leaflet

Tom came round today, taking the numbers off shop doorways so that he can shuffle them round and give each shop their new number when the new booksellers' leaflet comes out.
"What number are we going to be? 666?" Greg at the Cinema asked.
This is the first year I can remember when the leaflet didn't come out at Easter - but then, Easter was very early this year. It's coming along slowly, Tom said.

Sunday, 27 April 2008


A day out at the Royal Welsh Showground yesterday, with Tracy and her husband Ian.
Last year, Wonderwool was part of the Smallholder's show. This year, they are sharing with Mid Wales Mouthful - so wool at one end and delicious local food and drinks at the other. It took me about an hour and a half to do one circuit - partly because I stopped to chat with Susy from Hay on the way round, but it really was big, and there really was a lot to see, and by the time I stopped for a cup of tea my eyes felt as if they were swirling round like a dazed cartoon character.
I did my shopping on the second pass around, and got everything I wanted, just about all of it stuff I couldn't find anywhere else. So I now have fleece ("This is from Hettie the Hebridean. She had twin lambs this year"), a cheap niddy-noddy and lucets and shuttles to use with kids, a hook to go with my spinning wheel which also has a measured inch gauge on the handle for measuring how many wraps per inch my yarn is, some more silkworm cocoons (I left my last lot behind in one of the schools where I used them as my "mystery object").
There was other stuff that I would have liked, but I was on a strict budget. There were a lot of alpaca breeders there this year, and I love spinning alpaca because it is so soft. There was yarn made out of sari silk, and a whole stall given over to hemp.
I found out how to make a sock on a Knatty Knitter, too, which seems much easier than trying to turn a heel in proper knitting, so I'm keen to give it a try now. Apparently you knit down the leg to the length you want. Then you go almost all the way round, and miss out a peg, turning back on yourself instead of carrying on round. At the other end of the row, you miss out the second peg, and go back, missing off a peg each time until you have only two pegs left with knitting on them. Then you start increasing again, by one peg each row, until you're knitting in the round again. The lady who showed me said that this is how old sock knitting machines worked.
There were things I'd never think of using, too - giant knitting needles as thick as broom handles, for instance
Tracy was launching her new project there, on the Bedecked stall - Patterns on a Postcard. She's got four hat designs with knitting instructions on the back of the giant postcard. Mittens and fingerless gloves will follow soon, and she met some interesting and useful people there, too, who might want her to design for them.
I found that I'd finally been published in the Coloured Sheep Breeders Newsletter, too - I wrote the article, on medieval lucets, last year - so I was very pleased to get a copy.

Saturday, 26 April 2008


If I hadn't been walking down Castle Street at just the right moment, I would have missed it.
As I got close to the HSBC Bank, I saw the police car parked on the double yellow lines, and the police woman standing on the pavement, looking up at the bank.
She was talking to someone inside - someone who had climbed up onto the windowsill and was peering out of the little window pane at the top of the window, which is the only one that will open.
The bank was locked up, and the cleaner was still inside!
The police woman left, promising to get someone to see to the problem, and the cleaner climbed down and disappeared.
I hope they didn't leave him in there too long.

Friday, 25 April 2008


When I came home for lunch yesterday, I couldn't help but notice the pile of furniture sitting outside my next-door-but-one neighbour's front door.
I'd seen Chris and a friend taking stuff away for the past couple of days, so I knew he was moving out. Now, however, the landlord was there, clearing the house of all the stuff that Chris had left behind. Quite rightly, he wouldn't say why Chris had been asked to leave, but he did say that there were "issues". Chris had been living there for years, so the house will be completely refurbished before it's let out again.
As people passed, the landlord invited them to take whatever they wanted from the pile; it would be less for him to take away himself. I saw Dickie Hebbard walking off with what had once been a rather nice dining chair, that just needed the seat re-upholstering (Dickie is good at that sort of thing). There's still a small wardrobe sitting outside now.

Today I passed Chris's shop, and he was in there as normal, as if nothing had happened.

Tuesday, 22 April 2008

CCTV at Nepal Bazaar

I popped into Nepal Bazaar this morning for a quick browse, and got talking to the lady in charge. Outside, a couple of chaps were climbing about, fixing a new CCTV camera over the front little courtyard. They used to have one up there before, but every time they put the canopy over, it blocked the camera's view - which was obviously not ideal. In the summer they have quite a lot of clothes, cushions and rugs out there, out of sight of the counter. "It's not really a problem," the lady said. "Anyway, it's not the locals that are the trouble - it's the visitors."
She told me about an incident last summer, when two young men were keeping her talking at the desk while a third was trying jackets on outside - and she just happened to notice him stuff one of the jackets under his own coat. She ran outside, and leaned over the railings to catch him as he came down Backfold. "Here - that's my jacket you've got! I want it back!". She held her hand out to take it - and to her surprise, he gave it back to her. Then he and his friends ran off. When she talked to the police later, she found that there were actually five of them going round - which would have given her pause, if she'd known at the time - and they'd taken stuff from several shops round Hay over the day.

Monday, 21 April 2008

"Important Developments"

A couple of days ago, a lady I know from dog walking came and knocked on my door (so of course, I know the dog's name, but not her's). She was looking for someone to look after the dog while she went away for a few days, as the person who usually did it had let her down. I suggested a couple of names of people who might be able to help - I couldn't do it myself.
"I'm not going away for enjoyment," she said. "But there have been Important Developments. You know what I mean, don't you?"
I did know. About twenty years ago, her son was murdered in London, and she's been pestering the police, and our MP, and anyone else who'd listen, to get the case solved, ever since.
Tonight, I found out what the Important Developments are. I heard the news on Radio 2, about the murder of Daniel Morgan, who was found in a pub car park twenty one years ago with an axe in his head. Five people have now been arrested in connection with his murder, one of whom was his business partner.
I hope that this turns out to be the resolution his mother had hoped for.

Trees and telephone lines don't mix

I was just getting ready to go back to work after lunch - so it would have been nearly half past two - when a little drama unfolded outside my front window.
A white van came along the road, towing a trailer which held three tall trees, standing upright. And these were trees, not little saplings. They made it under the first three telephone wires that are strung across the street just about okay - but snagged the fourth and pulled the mounting off the wall.
They stopped, and laid the trees down in the trailer to get under - but it was too late by then, and they left the length of wire trailing across the street like a skipping rope. And just drove off. Okay, they had to get out of the way because there was other traffic backing up - but they didn't come back that I saw.
Just after they left the scene, a Hay and Brecon Farmers lorry came along, and the wire caught between their cab and the body of the lorry. Fortunately, they'd seen it and were moving very slowly, so they were able to stop and hook the wire over the top of the lorry and carry on.
I had to leave then, and when I came back this evening, I saw that the wire had been snapped, and was tucked out of the way behind the lamp post.

I did manage to get the first half of the van's number plate - L344, and all of the trailer's number plate X59 XTU - so if anyone's looking for the people who did it....

Saturday, 19 April 2008

Banks in Hay

I mentioned recently that the building that houses our local Barclays Bank is up for sale. It occurred to me later that we actually have quite an odd set up for the bank here in Hay.
The bank itself is on the ground floor of the building, which is listed, like most buildings on Broad Street, and has a Victorian frontage on an earlier building. The bank shares its front door with the flat up above. That's not the oddity, though - the manager's office is technically next door! It opens off the main bank, but when you go outside and look, it's actually in a corner of South Bank House, next door. Now it's completely cut off from the house, but in 1926, the manager lived in South Bank House, so it must have been convenient for him to have his office in his own house (or the bank's house - they seem to have owned it at the time).

The Nat West also has a flat over the top of it, though they have a completely separate entrance. Legend has it that the house was originally bought by one of the Earls of Oxford, who had land locally. He fell in love with a woman he was unable to marry for some reason - and bought her house instead (or possibly bought the house for her - I'm suffering from inaccurate memory syndrome today, and can't get in touch with the person who would know just now).

The HSBC is built on the site of a pub called the Fountain Inn, which was demolished in 1870 and replaced by a bottling plant for soft drinks, run by Thomas Stokoe, the local chemist and vet (and grocer, and agent for a wine and spirit firm, and if all that wasn't enough he ran the Crown inn in Broad Street too!).

Friday, 18 April 2008

Apologies.... Malachy, (not Malachi), who complained that I'd turned him into an Old Testament prophet. As a person who's spent my life having my sex changed by mistaken spelling (Lesley/Leslie), all I can do is promise not to get it wrong again.

Meanwhile, the swans have finally started to build their nest on the island by the bridge. They started to look at the site around January, and it's a good job they didn't start to build then, as the whole island has been underwater several times since then. Now, finally, though, it looks as if spring might really be coming properly, and the swans have decided that now is the time to start thinking about settling down.

Across the road, the Old House is having a new roof. At the moment it's all bright blue with battens, but there are piles of slates waiting to go on.
Around the Clock Tower, the scaffolding there has been joined by more around Golesworthy's, where they're pointing the stone work, and there's more opposite the Cinema around the big house at the corner of St Mary's Road. The florist's has re-opened, though, painted a tasteful pale green, and the vets' at Lamb House is being re-painted in the new corporate colours of white and a sort of purply blue.

It's only six weeks to the Festival, and the leaflet still hasn't come out yet.

Saturday, 12 April 2008

Hay-on-Wye, Town of Scaffolding!

That's what it looks like from here, anyway, with the Clock Tower at the end of Broad Street still swaddled in green netting, and the Old House next to the Three Tuns with new scaffolding right across the front - I'm not sure what they're going to do there. Then there's the Demolition company down at Underhill's, still demolishing, and they're still working on the florist's (the sign on the door saying they'd be re-opening on Wednesday was a bit optimistic).
Still, Spar has re-opened, with all new, shiny shelving. To be honest, there's not a lot they could do to change the layout in such a long, narrow shop, so they haven't. The middle shelving is higher, which makes it all feel a bit claustrophobic, but there's more space near the counter. There were a lot of people in there having a nosy this morning (yes, including me).
Sigi's now has their final sale on, as the building has been sold - and the building containing Barclay's Bank is also up for sale (business not affected).

Wednesday, 9 April 2008

The Strand in Talgarth

I noticed in the estate agent's window that The Strand bookshop and cafe in Talgarth is now for sale. It's been an outlier of the Hay bookshops for many years, on a corner just by the road that leads up to the old Talgarth Hospital and Pwll-yr-Urach nature reserve.
What I hadn't realised, looking at the building from street level, is that the roof is flat, and done out in decking, so you can stand up there and look out over the roofs of Talgarth as if from the prow of a ship.

Tuesday, 8 April 2008

Half-pipe Gone

I went round the back of the community centre this evening, where there's a bit of a field - and found that the skateboard half-pipe has been demolished.
I remember it being built - it was the kids of Hay who lobbied for it, but those kids have grown up now, and the present crop of young teenagers don't seem to be as interested in skateboarding. The half-pipe had got quite shabby and unloved.

Meanwhile, more refurbishment - this time at the hairdressers' by the Drill Hall.

Monday, 7 April 2008

Stilts...paint...and watercress

Spar isn't the only shop having a refurbishment at the moment - the Florists is too. When I looked inside this evening, one of the workmen was walking about the shop on stilts - presumably so he could get up to work on the ceiling. It looked more fun than scaffolding!

As I walked the dog around the path that links Forest Road and the car park, I came upon a patch of white paint beside the back gate to the school grounds, together with a little wardance of white footprints. One set of footprints headed off towards Forest Road, and the other set, with most of the paint, got almost as far as the car park before it petered out. There was no paint pot on the scene, so they obviously fled with the evidence.

I took Islay along the path behind the alms houses, past Swan Well, and found the Desert Rat standing in the stream just below the spring. "Watercress," he said. "That'll make a nice sandwich. You've got to be careful you don't get any brooklime in with it."

Saturday, 5 April 2008

New Launch for Wool and Willow

With a lot of new, colourful stuff. There are felted small animals, new woven rugs, and some rag rugs by Jenni Stuart-Anderson, who used to exhibit in Rogue's Gallery at the other end of town (now the HourGlass Gallery). There's also some rather gorgeous hand dyed mohair that I've got my eye on when I've finished at least one of my other craft projects.
I hope they make a go of it - the work being exhibited is certainly of a very high quality.

Meanwhile Hay Cat Rescue took over the Buttermarket for their jumble sale, teas and tombola stalls. I overheard one small boy coming in and asking "Where are the real cats?"

Friday, 4 April 2008

We Don't Know How Lucky We Are!

Stitch and Bitch last night was our first try at a demonstration evening - and it went rather well. I arrived too late to try knitting with 4 needles, but successfully mastered circular needles, which I had previously been rather wary of.
Tracy came to the Swan more or less straight from her last day at the Castle. To celebrate her leaving, she had afternoon tea with Richard (she made the cake), and he gave her a book she wanted on dyeing and batik, and flowers. She's about to try out a new career designing knitting patterns. Big companies produce knitting patterns that are designed to be used with only their own wool. Small wool producers don't have the resources to do that, so Tracy will hopefully be filling a gap in the market.
Sara was just back from seeing her new boyfriend, who was once her boyfriend when they were both sixteen, and who still lives in the town where she grew up. She found it much changed. In the local shopping areas, satellites to the main town centre, all the Post Offices have closed down, so everyone has to go into the centre if they want to buy a stamp. The smaller schools have closed down - or estates have been built with no school provision - so the children have to be bussed miles to huge schools. One of Sara's old friends said that she would be happy if her sons came out of school without a criminal record or a drug habit - qualifications would be a bonus, of course. The gardens by the river that runs through the middle of town are strewn with rubbish, and the river itself has silted up. Sara offered to buy cakes for her friends one afternoon - and found that there are no baker's shops anywhere in the town. She eventually found some jammy doughnuts in the local Mini Tesco - but what she found really disturbing was the security guard on the door. Even more disturbing, her friends thought that having a security guard on duty was normal.
She was very glad to get back to Hay, which has a primary school, and a Post Office, and bakery, and a river without rubbish strewn about - and no security guards in the shops.

Thursday, 3 April 2008

Power Cut

I was kneeling in front of the Ancient History shelves in the Cinema Bookshop, trying to get some sort of sense into the shelving of the books, when all the lights went off.
For some minutes, I could hear people moving slowly and carefully from the back of the shop, a bit like a very undramatic Poseidon Adventure. After all, it was a Cinema - there aren't a lot of windows!
The power was off for an hour, all over Hay. Some people were blaming the workmen who are re-fitting Spar, but this could just be a scurrilous rumour. One old chap said that he'd gone all through the Second World War in Swansea, and the power had never failed once!

Whoever put the books out originally must have had no idea about ancient history (the Anglo-Saxons really shouldn't be under Prehistory), but the funniest mistake was in the Ancient Greek section, where I found The Wooden Horse. Full marks to the shelver for knowing about the wooden horse at the gates of Troy - not so many points for not knowing that the book was about tunnelling out of a prisoner of war camp in World War Two!

Wednesday, 2 April 2008

Wyeside Battles On

I've just picked up the latest brochure for Wyeside, for April to June, and giving details of films, bands, children's shows, comedy - and even a silent film, The Passion of Joan of Arc, with live piano accompaniment. And Germaine Greer talking about Shakespeare's Wife. If there isn't something to please everyone there, they're probably dead!
The Arts Centre is still looking for help to prevent closure. Despite 7,500 signatures on their petition, they would still like people to write to their AM, local Councillor, MP and MEP. They are also asking people to become Friends of Wyeside for £5 a month (or more).
They're trying very hard to stay open, and it would be a great loss to Mid Wales if they were to close.

Tuesday, 1 April 2008

Building Work

Spar has closed for a couple of weeks - and they've already ripped out all the shelves. The shop is having a serious re-fit, so it should re-open looking completely different!

Meanwhile, the diggers have moved onto the site of Underhill's garage. The Wye Valley Demolition Company are taking down all the old garage buildings, so it looks as if building work on the "new, exciting development" should finally be going ahead.

And finally, Wool and Willow has a little poster in the window announcing that they are becoming a new craft co-operative - so they should be up and running for the Festival.