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!)