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.

Wednesday, 27 August 2008


The Cinema has recently issued Staff badges to everyone who works there. I happened to be wearing mine when Mary Fellowes saw me, and she asked where we got hold of them. She thought they'd be a good idea for the Dial-A-Ride bus drivers and helpers. She's been organising Dial-A-Ride since it first started in Hay.
I dropped in to Broad Street Book Centre to leave a message for her, that the badges had been ordered from Boss Office Supplies - and for one horrible moment, Rose thought that Mary wanted them for the shop (selling pet food is going to be bad enough - but that might have been the final indignity!).

Friday, 22 August 2008

Start Your Own Booktown?

I found out today what Richard Booth has been planning.
Going through the middle of town on Islay's morning walk, we often pass an old chap who sits outside his house, or outside the Wheatsheaf, watching the world go by. Today, he called me over. "Are you looking for a job?" he asked.
"Got one, thanks - why?"
He pointed to the poster he'd put up in his front window.
"100,000 Free Books
Start Your Own Booktown"
Richard will be giving a speech at 2pm, 3pm and 4pm on the Bank Holiday and, apparently, giving books away in bulk.

He's also, according to rumour, looking to buy the function room of the British Legion, which is up for sale at the moment. I couldn't think what any prospective buyer would be able to use it for when it first came on the market, but Richard seems to have thought of something....

Thursday, 21 August 2008

Being in the Right Place at the Right Time

In the middle of Broad Street, close to the old horse trough, the raised, cobbled area in front of the houses has been covered in flowers and grasses this summer (I use the term 'summer' loosely, considering the weather we've had). Among the wild flowers growing there were teasels. I've had my eye on them for a while, wondering if I could sneak out after dark with a pair of secateurs to pick a few. They're useful to me as part of my display for medieval spinning and weaving, as teasels were used to raise the nap on cloth as part of the finishing process. They made brushes out of them with wooden frames and handles. Teasels are still used today to raise the nap on the green baize on snooker tables. Of course, those are the Fuller's Teasel, and the ones on Broad Street are ordinary teasels, but they're close enough to give the general idea.
This morning I just happened to be taking Islay out for her morning walk as a chap was starting to strim the area. I went over and asked him if I could have the teasels, and he was quite happy - it meant he didn't have to dispose of them. I went back home to get a pair of gardening gloves, and when I got back, Mary had popped across the road - she's had her eye on them for a while, too. I divided them in half - and there were plenty for both of us.
As I took Islay off for her slightly truncated walk, I met Karl Showler and told him how pleased I was. He told me that he'd had a visitor, a few years ago, who was researching teasels. He came from Virginia, where teasels had been taken over with the early colonists for their woollen industry. Now they're seen as a weed there, and he was looking for ways of controlling them.

Wednesday, 20 August 2008

Honesty Bookshop

It must have seemed like a good idea this morning, when the sun was out, more or less. All the mouldy and soggy books in the Honesty Bookshop have been removed, and fresh stock has been put out. This is all surplus stock from the Castle, and a lot of it this time was good quality hardback fiction - and they were already getting wet by the time I passed by this evening. I spent a pleasant half hour, between showers, browsing, and picked up some treats.
For 50p each (if you're honest!) I got a Brother Cadfael and a Falco mystery I haven't read yet.
The Shield Ring, by Rosemary Sutcliff, is ex-lib, but a good reading copy, about the early Norman Lake District, and it's one of the few of her books with a female main character - in fact, I can't think of another one off hand.
Salley Vickers' Instances of the Number 3 went on my pile because I loved Miss Garnet's Angel.
I've read Thrones, Dominions before, but didn't have a copy. This is the Lord Peter Wimsey story that Jill Paton Walsh finished off from Dorothy Sayers' notes - and she got it just right, for me.
Then I found Holy Fools by Joanne Harris, who wrote Chocolat. I haven't read any of her books before, so this seemed as good a place as any to start.
I have read the Number One Ladies' Detective Agency stories, by Alexander McCall Smith, but I haven't tried any of his other books yet, so The Sunday Philosophy Club joined the pile, too.
So little time - and my shelf of Books to Be Read is groaning already!
And in the meantime, there are hundreds of other books that deserve to be rescued.

Tuesday, 19 August 2008

Interesting People

One of the nice things about living in Hay is meeting all sorts of interesting people.
Today, I sold a biography of Charles Darwin to a lady who was about to take a holiday of a lifetime in the Galapagos Islands. She was knocked off her bike by a car and broke her shoulder - and the compensation is paying for the holiday. As it was a once in a lifetime experience, she wanted to get the most out of it, so she was starting off by reading about Darwin's visit there.
In the evening, I got talking to a couple who are staying at Tinto House. They asked if I knew the owner. "Did you know that he paints his dreams?" the man asked me, "but he doesn't know much about the theory of dream interpretations."

Saturday, 16 August 2008

Job Advert

Richard Booth is advertising for a Man Friday. The lucky applicant should expect "some driving, some labouring, some international travel, computer literate".
I mentioned this to Mary, and she said Richard's looking for a secretary as well - and she wouldn't work for him at any price! She'd just come over to thank me for scanning a book into the computer for them. Whoever was in charge of the shop that day couldn't manage it, and I happened to be passing, so I did the scans and sent the email - and they've sold the book.

Friday, 15 August 2008

Screen at Hay

The new leaflet is out, and very smart it looks - and the films on offer look interesting, too, including a Hitchcock mystery starring Sean Connery from 1964, Cinema Paradiso which is set in Sicily, a Chinese film, Kind Hearts and Coronets for Christmas (with film Quiz), and a Bollywood night for Valentine's Day. Members of the film club get a substantial discount for the ten films, but they are open to non-members, too, for £4 plus £1 membership for the night.
Into Great Silence, the film about the monastery of Great Chartreuse, is the film for January (they did a Buddhist film last year), and I've been wanting to see that for a while.

Thursday, 14 August 2008

Down by the River

I met Brian, walking Belle, the other day. While Islay and Belle were greeting each other in usual doggie fashion, Brian pointed down to the side of the path. "Come and have a look at this."
In a patch of sunshine (we have had some, occasionally, over the last few blustery wet days), a slow worm was lying very still. It blended in with its surroundings so well that I would never have noticed it if Brian hadn't pointed it out.
I've seen slow worms along that stretch before. They used to be at the back of Open Door, before the patch of waste ground was transformed into a garden. There was even one up in the middle of town, living under the wall of the Poetry Bookshop, for a while.

Wednesday, 13 August 2008

More on Disabled Access

Today, we successfully got a lady in a wheelchair into the building - but there was a problem when she had chosen her books and wanted to pay. The front desk is up three steps in every direction. Fortunately, she had an able bodied friend with her, and one of the staff was able to go down and sort her out, but if she'd been on her own it would have been very difficult for her. Unfortunately, that's how the cinema was built, and there's not a lot that can be done to change it.

Tuesday, 12 August 2008

Disabled Access

Let's face it, we're pretty rubbish at that in Hay. The roads are mostly narrow, so the pavements are too narrow, too - and often cluttered with signboards and stuff outside some of the antique shops, and boxes of books and rails of clothes. The buildings are mostly old, and often have steps up to the doors - which has prompted some businesses to put notices in their windows along the lines of "If you can't get up the steps, give us a shout and we'll come out to you." Where there's no room for ramps, there's not much else they can do.
The Cinema Bookshop has disabled access round the side of the building. It's not ideal, especially as the buzzer for the person in the wheelchair to call for assistance keeps getting vandalised. We had a complaint today - and it was justified. It was just a pity that the man had got angry enough with us that he wouldn't accept any apologies, and went away threatening to write to the disabled press to complain about us.

Sunday, 10 August 2008

Steam Rally

I was having lunch yesterday when I heard the whistle and smelled the smoke - a traction engine was trundling down Broad Street to the turning at the Three Tuns. It was the first of three that were making their way to the Steam Rally across the river under their own, literal, steam. And it's quite a climb up the hill to Boatside, for a vehicle that was built in 1913.
For the first time I can remember, I wasn't working this Sunday, or away from home, so I walked up to have a look.
The day has been - blustery, is probably putting it most kindly. There have been moments of sunshine, but also sudden downpours, and drizzle. The show went on regardless. I think it must be a peculiarly British thing to dress up in raincoat and wellies and slog through muddy fields to have a good time.
I wasn't expecting it to be so big. It wasn't just traction engines - there must have been over a hundred vintage cars, plus motorbikes, bicycles, tractors, lorries and buses, and little stationary engines that pumped water or, in one case, powered a milking machine. There were stalls selling waterproof clothing and local photographs, the inevitable burger vans, including the local XOX Organics - their refreshment tent was very popular in the showers. There was a craft tent with people demonstrating - two ladies from Open Door were there, one spinning at a wheel, and Jean making woolly hats on a Knatty Knitter. Another lady was selling felt goods and spinning on a CD hand spindle, and another was doing five stick weaving, and selling cushion covers as fast as she could make them! There was a chap making stained glass art from old bottles, and displays of model cars and tractors - and the biggest selection of different nails that I've ever seen!
There was an old fashioned fun fair for the kids, with a roundabout and hall of mirrors, a selection of different breeds of chickens and ducks, and a display of birds of prey.
As well as the parades of various vehicles in the main arena, there was also Magnus and his bed of nails (and broken glass). I didn't see him doing any fire breathing, but it was dangerously windy. I did see him lie down on the broken glass, with the bed of nails on his chest, and a young lady from the audience standing on top of that.
I stood, just about up wind of the flying sawdust, watching a man with a chain saw who was making a sculpture of a bird of prey - he'd already done a barn owl and, as the sign said, it did take him only about twenty minutes. He used two chainsaws - one for the rough cuts and one for the fine details. In the same roped off area, two men were using a machine to cut boards from a tree trunk one at a time, each of them about an inch thick and as wide as the tree trunk. Under a canopy, a woman was wood turning, and there was another traction engine harnessed up to a huge wood saw, though I didn't see that in action.
It was a pity for the stall holders who were selling music CDs and old tools and so on - most of the time their stalls were covered with plastic - and the candyfloss seller couldn't have done much trade either - but it was well worth the £5 entrance fee just to see all the old engines.

Saturday, 9 August 2008

Warren Club 'Picnic'

When I passed the Buttermarket on Islay's evening walk this evening, it was full of people. Tables of drinks and food had been set up, and small tables with people huddled around them in deckchairs, though everyone seemed to be having a good time, despite the drizzle.
It was the annual Warren Club picnic. They were supposed to have it on the Warren (the Club was originally formed to raise money for the upkeep of the Warren), but it's been so wet they couldn't even put a marquee up there. Hence the Buttermarket.

Tuesday, 5 August 2008

News about Wyeside

I got an email last night, as one of the people who signed the petition to get funding for the Wyeside Arts Centre in Builth Wells. They are pleased to report that they have secured funding for the rest of this year - the size of the petition (around 8,000 people) secured them a face to face meeting with the relevant committee of the Welsh Assembly. However, next year is still very uncertain, so they still need all the support they can get.

Sunday, 3 August 2008

Oxfam took over the Buttermarket on Saturday for their annual fete - which wasn't as good as the ACES one last week, I thought, even though Ken the Town Cryer was there. I got a lupin; it was one of my gran's favourite flowers, but the last one I bought was eaten to the ground by slugs. I'm hoping for better luck with this one.

Meanwhile, the landlord was clearing some trees at the back of our back gardens that had started to interfere with the electic cables going overhead. The difference is astonishing - we now have about half the garden again that is light enough to plant things! (Hence the lupin, for starters).
He did start burning some of the wood he'd cut, until Gordon from round the back came round to complain that his house was full of smoke and he was an asthma sufferer. So that was the end of the pyromania.
I only realised later that 1st August is the Pagan festival of Lammas, or Lughnasad, which is often celebrated with bonfires.

Saturday, 2 August 2008

Sad news

The flat above the hairdresser's in Lion Street is being refurbished, after the sudden and unexpected death of the tenant.
It's the sort of thing that can happen even in a community like Hay, where everyone knows everyone else's business. He lived alone, and no-one noticed that he wasn't around for a few days.
He had two cats, Popeye and Olive Oyl. His daughter came to collect Olive Oyl, but Popeye, a ginger tom, was missing. At about the same time, a ginger tom appeared in the gardens behind Broad Street, and no-one was sure whether it was Popeye or Bruce, who has also gone walkabout again. Eventually, the cat rescue people caught him - and it was Popeye - but the following morning, he had to be rushed to the vet's, where he died a couple of days later. The post mortem revealed that he had been poisoned - a terrible thing to happen at any time, and a big worry in an area with so many pet cats.