Thursday, 31 July 2008

Rocket Blast from the Past!

A couple came into the shop looking for science fiction. After they'd looked at what we had to offer, they said; "We were told to look for somewhere called Allstar, or Five Star? Any idea where that is?"
It was the association with science fiction that reminded me. "Golly, that's going back a bit! Five Star's long gone."
Originally, it was part of Richard Booth's empire - two floors of military books at the entrance to the Castle. It was called Five Star for Five Star General. By the time I got to Hay, the military books had gone to the Limited, and had been replaced by science fiction. That went on for a few years, and then the SF went to the Limited, and the building was divided - the staircase was taken out, and the lower half was rented out as a seperate bookshop, run by Alistair, and Uncle Graham's pet shop. George Greenaway has the bookshop part now, and the pet shop is now the storage for Nepal Bazaar, which moved in upstairs and is still there.
So that one building has had quite a checkered history over the past twenty years.

Wednesday, 30 July 2008

Exchange Visit

The Globe Gallery was on the front page of the B&R today, with a crowd of young people from Bahrain, the Lebanon, United Arab Emirates and Oman posed in front of it. They've been in the area for a few days as the return visit of an exchange trip that sent young people from a deprived part of the East End to the Middle East. The whole thing was set up by an organisation called Offscreen, and last year a chap from Offscreen came to talk to the Timbuktu twinning committee to see if it would be feasable to set up an exchange visit between Hay and Timbuktu.
Anne Brichto is quoted in the article, saying: "the visit allowed our children to see Muslim people in a positive light as most of our kids have very little contact with Muslims and these visits show Muslims are not all suicide terrorists."
Which can only be a good thing.

Tuesday, 29 July 2008

Viking funeral

When I took Islay out for her evening walk, there was a woman sitting on the wall by the Cheesemarket, where Shepherd's put their outside tables. She was looking quite intense - not staring at anything, but looking off into the distance as if she was thinking hard. I thought Islay would pass by, but she made a bee-line for the lady, wagging her tail, and leaning against her, as the lady scratched her tummy.
We got talking, and she said she had lived in Hay, years ago, but now lived in Kent. She had come back so she could scatter her father's ashes; the rest of the family were in the pub, but she'd slipped away for a bit of quiet time. Her father had owned the first ever canoeing centre on the River Wye - and he'd wanted a Viking funeral. They couldn't quite manage that, but they'd managed the next best thing, floating his ashes downstream in a little boat, "and he's still floating," she said.
She went away quite cheered up by Islay's attentions.
Sometimes I think I'm only here to look after Islay, so she can make people happy.

Monday, 28 July 2008

Ethical dilemmas

I saw Suzy from Pontithel walking down Castle Street the other day, dangling a drawknife from one hand.
She grinned when she saw me. "Yes, I know, it's an odd thing to be carrying about, isn't it? I lent it to some people at Primrose Farm, and I've just got it back. They were making a yurt, and they have some very strict environmental principles, so they wouldn't cut wood - it had to be found wood - and then the wood got woodworm, and because they're Buddhists, they didn't want to kill the woodworm, so they had to give up...."

Sunday, 27 July 2008

Combining Business with Pleasure

The Fairtrade Committee needed to discuss just one thing fairly urgently, which was the design or purchase of stickers to give to shops and businesses and so on who are promoting Fairtrade products, so we decided we may as well enjoy the discussion, and met at the Globe one evening over a bottle of wine.
The stickers on sale from the Fairtrade Foundation are, to be honest, a bit boring, and we wanted something that had "Hay-on-Wye, a Fairtrade Town" written on it, and a reference to local produce, too. Jackie did a marvellous job of mocking up a quick design, which we then proceeded to scribble all over, but I think the result will be good.
We sat outside under the tree until nine o'clock, when we were asked to go inside - they're being very careful about not upsetting the neighbours. It was a beautiful evening, and we could see the opposite bank of the Wye over the top of Underhill's. It's a view that will be hidden again when the new houses are built - the foundations are down now, and the walls are starting to go up. Indoors, we sat under a projection of video art - fires burning, ice melting, and so forth. We'd got a bottle between us (the cheapest glass of wine there is £4, though in fairness they are big glasses).
So, the Directories are being distributed around town, and the stickers will be available shortly, and we all had a very pleasant evening.

Saturday, 26 July 2008

ACES for El Salvador

It was the ACES jumble sale at St John's today, and they'd spread the stalls all over the street, up the two sides of the hall. Bron, who runs the charity, has been raising money to help street children in El Salvador for years, and has been over there many times. They got a good crowd, and some nice stuff had been donated - I got a lovely butter dish from Porthmadog Pottery. I'm always on the lookout for wooden things I can use in re-enactment, or pretty pottery from small potteries.
There were quite a few familiar faces there - I saw Rob Soldat picking over the books - and I met Jack, who had popped out from the Bookshop on the Pavement to say hello to Bron. She used to live close to Jack at Gypsy Castle, and Jack hadn't seen her for ten years, until she had walked into the shop earlier in the day. Something else that made her realise the passage of time was the fact that she had just started working with Marijana's eldest son, who is seventeen now - and when Jack first arrived in Hay, Marijana was pregnant with him!

Friday, 25 July 2008

New Direction for the Book Centre?

I popped into Broad Street Book Centre the other day - well, Islay popped in to see if she could wangle a biscuit out of Rose, and I followed her.
"Have you heard what Mary's done?" Rose asked, in tones that implied some un-nameable horror. "She's getting a man selling pet food in one of the units at the back!"
Mary came down herself just then, and confirmed the news. She's had a sign up in the window advertising units to let for a while now - "Wanted, Booksellers - be part of the secondhand book capital of the world" - but she's had no takers, and now another unit holder wants to leave. So when the pet food man asked if a unit was available, she said yes. He's going to go right at the back, which is kind of separate from the rest of the shop, and the books will move a bit forward as space is available. He's on the market on a Thursday at the moment, and he'll be moving in on 1st October. She's also had enquiries from a lady in Cardiff who sells vintage clothes - I think Rose would be happier selling those, but they haven't decided anything yet.
Of course, when Broad Street Book Centre opened as units, it was half and half books and antiques, and gradually the books took over, so the shop has always been adaptable.

Monday, 21 July 2008

Overheard in Hay

"With all the money pouring into this place, you'd think they'd manage to do up the Castle."
(Money? Pouring? If only that were true!)

Overheard through the hedge as I was walking past Radnor's End camp site (and these were English voices - an arguement for better Geography teaching in schools?):
"Is Herefordshire in Wales?"
"Well, they're flying a Welsh flag - and I've seen signs in Welsh."

Sunday, 20 July 2008

Tortoise Up-date

This is the tortoise that the garden wall fell on - he's back from the vet's. They had to take him to a tortoise specialist in Merthyr Tydfil, but it was worth it, because he now has neat patches in his shell, and a little orange jacket over it all for protection, with the words "Work in Progress" written on it.

Saturday, 19 July 2008

Huntington Fete

"This is Gossip Day," one lady said to me as we watched the people crowded round the little cafe tables outside the big house. The Fete is held every year in the grounds of the Court, and it was a fine turnout for such a tiny village. There was even a minibus from a day care centre. It's on the other side of the river from Hay, up narrow winding lanes the other side of Brilley, and was once the chief residence of the de Braose family, who also owned Hay.
I'd arrived early, as I got a lift up, so I saw the table in the room next to the kitchen groaning with sandwiches, sponge cakes, scones and other goodies before the hordes arrived. It all went - when I was asked if I'd like a cake, there were only a few Welsh cakes left!
It's a lovely old house, and I'd guess that the room where the food was set out was once the servant's hall - there was still a box with bells on the wall, marked Front Door, Drawing Room and Dining Room.
I was dressed up in my medieval finery as Elen the Weaver, to demonstrate spinning, weaving and lucetting. I set out my blanket underneath a thick overhanging bush - there was rain just before the fete opened, and I didn't want all my equipment to get too wet. I was quite all right in my velvet cloak. I had great fun, and talked to some interesting people - some of whom spin or knit or do other crafts themselves, which always adds to the interest for me. I think I worried one gentleman - I explained to him that the pink ribbon around my distaff meant that I was looking for a man, and that the fact that my head was uncovered meant that I was not respectable - and then I asked him if he had a castle and lands.
There were the usual stalls you get at little fetes, the White Elephant, Tombola, a rather good plant stall, a book stall and so on - and a lot of bottles of wine were coming from somewhere. They also had a little black ewe and her two lambs for a guess the weight (of all three together) competition, and a guess the number of sweets in the jar competition.
It was a lovely afternoon - and I hope I'm invited back next year!

Friday, 18 July 2008

Islay and the Builders

Islay has some new fans - the men who are working on the house next-door-but-one.
The other morning, as we were returning from the morning walk, one of the men was standing outside with the front door open. He said hello to me, and then stood aside for Islay, saying, "Would you like to see what we've been doing today?" She grinned, and wagged her tail wildly, and shot inside.
Later on, I went round to have a chat, as Islay and my neighbour were already there. "Have you seen what they've done with the bathroom?" Pam asked.
"Go on up," they said. "Islay'll show you the way."
A few days before this, one of the men was lying on the floor of the bathroom, doing something with the plumbing, when he heard the clicking of her claws on the bare boards of the stairs - and the next thing he knew, she was licking his face! They said she often comes round when she's let out, while I'm at work. She greets them all enthusiastically, has a look at what they're doing, and when she's had enough she wanders off into the garden.

Thursday, 17 July 2008

The Swans are Back!

Actually, they've not been away - but they did move downriver a bit, so they were less easy to spot.
Today, they were back by Booth Island and the canoe landing stage - and they had six cygnets with them! My sister was right - they did manage to save the babies from the flood, and they must have moved them down to another little island instead of going back to the original nesting site.

Sunday, 13 July 2008

Garden Wall Falls Down - Tortoise Rushed to Vet

We get all the excitement round here.
My neighbour popped her head round my front door the other day. "Have you been round the back yet? I think you should go and have a look - the wall's collapsed!"
Our row of houses all have back gardens which are divided from the back gardens of the next street up by an old stone wall - and when I peered over the fence, I could see that the end of Mr Pugh's immaculate garden had disappeared under a pile of rubble. The wall was about six foot tall, and it seems to have just fallen over in the night. Mr Pugh's tortoise was somewhere underneath it - I haven't heard how it is yet.
Pam thinks it fell over because the ivy was taken off it - it was probably holding the wall up.
We do now have a good view of a very pretty garden on the other side, though, until the clear up and rebuilding starts.

Saturday, 12 July 2008

Richard's Plannng Something...

but I'm not entirely sure what.
Richard is, of course, Richard Booth, who met me on Castle Street yesterday, and greeted me cheerfully with the words: "I'm living in dread of the BBC phoning me up and asking me if it's the books that bring people to Hay. It's actually the publicity about the books that brings people to Hay."
He went on to try to enlist me in some sort of event at the Castle, which I think would involve me selling SF books for him from a stall: "I'm giving away a hundred copies of H.G. Wells' The Time Machine," he said, and added that there were various options for me to make money out of it too, which he would work out and phone me about later. He always associates SF with me, ever since I worked for him and admitted to being a Trekker (the days of me wearing blue makeup and antennae are long gone, however).
Later, I saw Romy, who sells her artwork from the store room of Nepal Bazaar, down in Backfold. Richard had approached her, too - he always associates her with old maps and prints.
So, there may be something happening up at the Castle, or it might just be one of Richard's ideas that come to nothing. Either way, the girl who organised the events over the Festival won't be doing any of the organising. I saw her sitting outside the Sandwich Cellar with her Brazilian boyfriend, and they're about to go off to Brazil for a couple of months because his father is ill.

Friday, 11 July 2008

Tardis heart

When my young man comes to Hay, one of his favourite shops to visit is the Wholefood shop. He steps inside the door, and takes a deep breath of that wonderful smell in there.
Last Saturday, something else took his attention (after the big tub of hummus and the other delicious bits and pieces with which to create a masterpiece meal later). It was, after all, the Saturday of the Doctor Who finale episode, which we were both looking forward to, and the day before, we had been down to Cardiff to see the Doctor Who Exhibition (which was great fun). We would have had our pictures taken by the big fountain outside the Millennium Centre, which is of course the top of the secret, invisible lift down to the Torchwood Hub, but it was cordoned off because they were setting up a food fair around it. They had also covered the fountain itself with giant pictures of strawberries - so maybe next time.
Anyway, Doctor Who being naturally on our minds, it was no surprise that the words "tardis heart" leapt out at Mark from behind the counter. CDs are not something that the Wholefood Shop usually sells, being inedible, but in this case, they had been recorded by Alex Valentine - and his wife Jenny Valentine runs the shop now. The chap behind the counter described his music as sort of indie/folk/rock, and said that he liked it. There is a website, too.

Wednesday, 9 July 2008

Nepal Bazaar news

We got talking, last week, to the lady who was looking after Nepal Bazaar. She was making a fuss of Islay, as she'd recently lost her own dog. Nancy has finally found a buyer for the business. She seems very pleased to have found someone local (Adele Nazadar (sp?) lives in Brecon) and someone who has promised not to change the way the business is run. And it's time Nancy slowed down a little bit - she is in her 80s, after all. At the moment, they're having a sale, and the change over will be in September.

Tuesday, 8 July 2008

Hereford Beer Festival

You can't get away with anything in Hay.
I've been off enjoying myself (hence no blogging last week) and on my first day back at work Mr Parcelforce, who collects the parcels from the shop every day, said to me: "I saw you at the beer festival yesterday."
On a Sunday, there is a bus from Hay to Hereford at five to twelve, getting in at about one o'clock, and a bus back at quarter to four - which is the last bus of the day. Which leaves a nice amount of time in between to get down to the Rowing Club on the Wye, where the Beer Festival was taking place.
"I know roughly where it is - and there'll be signs," I told my boyfriend. There were signs, but they were tiny, and we were lucky to see them - and then we weren't sure which way to go when we actually got to the Rowing Club. There was the tent, but how to reach it? A couple of wrong turns, through the car park and into the Rowing Club itself, and finally we got in.
It was the last day of the Festival, and a lot of the good beers had already sold out. They had Skullsplitter from the Orkneys (which does - never again!!), lots of local breweries, and other beers from all over Britain. Amongst the foreign beers, there were three different ones from Poland.
One beer that they hadn't sold out of was Woodforde's Wherry, from Norfolk. I used to drink it when I lived in Norwich, and I hadn't tasted it for twenty years - and it was just as wonderful as I remembered.
A slightly less successful choice was the Bazen's Salford Pale Ale, which was a bit too sharp for my palate, and which I chose purely because I grew up in Salford.
More successful was the Nethergate Umbel Magna, one of the few dark beers left - nectar.
While we sampled the beers, entertainment was provided by a morris troupe, and by the Rhythm Thieves, who didn't take themselves too seriously - they were trying to promote the concept of 'disco folk', amongst other things. And they have a website:
It was a very enjoyable day out - well done to all the CAMRA volunteers for organising it.

Monday, 7 July 2008

School Fete and Fairtrade

The best laid plans of mice and men (gang aye agley).
There was nothing anyone could do about the weather, and there was periodic torrential rain. Ruth and Anne manned the Fairtrade stall, despite the absence of the new Fairtrade leaflets, which were supposed to be launched at the school fete. They sold Fairtrade Cola and had a raffle of Cafe Direct items.
Unfortunately, it seems that the leaflets were there all along - they just didn't get passed on to Anne and Ruth. After being dropped off at the school, one box of leaflets was put out when they were setting up, where the Fairtrade stall was going to be - and then the heavens opened, and in the confusion, they were left outside and got soaked. No-one knows where the other box is.
So the official launch of the Fairtrade directory for Hay is going to be delayed somewhat.