Sunday, 30 November 2008

Badgers? More on the Road Works

Islay dived into the pet shop by the Blue Boar - she knows Marlene is a soft touch and always gives her biscuits.
"I'm not looking forward to driving home tonight," she said.
"Oh, you mean the road works?" I asked.
"They say they'll be there for another month," she said.
I asked if she knew what was going on.
"They say it's badgers," she said.
"Badgers?!" As far as I can gather, either badgers have undermined the road with their digging, and the road is being stabilised, or the authorities are putting a badger tunnel in under the road for them - or it might be something else entirely.

Saturday, 29 November 2008

Festival Weekend

I missed the turning on of the Christmas Lights last night - I was having my dinner before I went out to the Nepal Bazaar Fashion Show. I did meet Richie earlier in the afternoon, though - he was muttering darkly about the decision to hold the ceremony in the marquee for the Food Fair rather than the Buttermarket, where it's always been before.
I was slightly concerned about the 'free cocktail' part of the ticket for the fashion show. I hardly ever drink cocktails, so I had no idea what to ask for. Fortunately, there wasn't a choice - it was Buck's Fizz. We also got a little goodie bag, made from Indian newspaper, with a stick of incense and one of those tiny, taster books, by Vikram Seth, and a few flyers. The Globe was packed out - I sat by my neighbour, Pam, and she said there had only been three tickets left when she went to get one.
Adele had brought together about twenty people to act as models for her - and she'd chosen some fabulous clothes. And a huge cow bell, for some reason. The finale was three little girls and a young teenager (because I'm sure she'd hate to be called a little girl) who were wearing dresses made out of the hand made paper Nepal Bazaar also sells. They scattered confetti over the audience, and they looked fantastic.
And what a talented group of people they all are! As the compere introduced them, the words 'author', 'musician', 'photographer', and 'artist' came up again and again. Later, I saw Adele, and she was giggling about the fact that she hadn't told the compere ahead of time what the models were wearing, so he had to make it up on the hoof - "a brown, trousery - thing - and a shirt!"
Nancy was there too, looking good in a red wool Punjabi suit with lots of embroidery, and she was delighted with the whole thing. She said that Adele was just the right person to take over the business. She was glad not to have the responsibility any more, too - but she isn't retiring quietly. She's starting to do sculpture, and early next year she'll be going out to Nepal with Adele to visit some of the producers of the clothes and other goods.
Later, Jont sang (and his CDs were available behind the bar).
Later than that, downstairs, a folk band from Manchester were playing - Black Velvet Band - but I didn't stay around for that.

This morning, I headed into town to do some leafletting for the Fairtrade Fair in a couple of weeks time, while it was busy. The Brecon Town Concert Band were providing musical support, and there was a wonderful smell of mulled cider. There were three different local breweries represented in the tent, including one Jack (as long time member of CAMRA) hadn't heard of, and lots of preserves, and cheese and meat and chocolates. Jack admired my new coat with the cape, and I said I'd chosen it partly because my young man said it made me look like Jon Pertwee. "Talking of the Doctor," Jack said, "I saw Sylvester McCoy a couple of weeks ago, in the shop. He was looking a bit wobbly and walking with a stick, but he must be getting on a bit now."
Outside there were more stalls, with meat and herbs and fresh veg, and a takeaway van and coffee, and small wooden furniture and canal barge painted buckets and watering cans.
In the Buttermarket, there were hats, and woollen goods and gorgeous carved wood - and Islay made friends with everyone.
When I went into Silent Voices, the first thing I saw was a silk wall hanging of a Welsh dragon, all in oranges and browns - it would look so good in the big tent of my re-enactment group! There were some absolutely gorgeous bronzes there too, of little birds, perfect in every detail. "People think this is all there is," said Mr Havard, who was minding the shop. "They don't realise there's a downstairs as well," and he sent me down to admire the other wall hangings that the lady who made the Welsh dragon had on display. "I don't know how many sewing machines she's worn out!" he said.
Adele had recommended that I go to see Tylluan Pendry, who was doing rune readings in the little shop now known as Spellbound, under Nepal Bazaar. It's the first time I've had a rune reading, though I have a friend who is very good with the Faery Oracle, and I've had Tarot readings at various times over the years. She was lovely, very chatty and down to earth, and it was a very interesting reading. There's a good selection of books in there, too, and things like sage smudging sticks that are useful in rituals.

Friday, 28 November 2008

Knocking down the old house

The builders at Millbank are taking down the old house on the site. The roof is mostly off now.
It's a shame, because it's a perfectly good house, or was up until the garage closed.
I stood with Brian for a while this morning, watching them work. He asked why it was being demolished.
"They say subsidence," I said.
"Oh, that's an old trick," he said. "When I worked for the railways, and they wanted to get rid of an old stationmaster's house or something, because it was surplus to requirements, they always said subsidence."
Before the subsidence report was put in, an arguement was put forward that the corner around Heol-y-dwr was dangerous, and the road needed to be widened there. They couldn't take anything off the Globe side of the road, because it was a graveyard, so they said they needed to knock down the house. I seem to remember our MP was quite keen on that idea, and wrote to the B&R to defend the decision.
That corner is awkward - but the accidents that happen there are overwhelmingly the sort where cars bump into each other at low speeds and smash indicators. Maybe there have been injuries there, but I've never heard of any.
Anyway, the time for objecting is long gone (and some of us did object) and now the house is going.

Thursday, 27 November 2008

Happy Thanksgiving!

More international links, Thanksgiving not being a traditional Welsh celebration. Jackie told me today that the AWA, or American Wives Association as they call themselves, will be meeting on Saturday for a proper Thanksgiving meal. That's all three and a half of them! (One is a Brit who lived in the States for a time).

Wednesday, 26 November 2008

Road Closed

There are Road Closed and Diversion signs up along the road that goes out of Hay past Cusop. I don't know how far out of town the road works are, but I did meet several people today who had been trying to get to Hay along that road, and only found they couldn't get through when they were on top of the roadworks. As opposed to somewhere useful, like a place they could turn off for a detour. One family had backtracked to Letton to get round. "Well, at least we saw more of the countryside," they said, resignedly.

Monday, 24 November 2008


I met Jenny and her deerhounds as she was bringing them back from a walk.
"Have you seen what King Richard's done to my ivy?" she asked, without preamble, and with great indignation.
Richard has been on a hack and slash campaign against the undergrowth around the Castle recently. It looks as if he might have got a bit carried away.
"Was that your ivy then?" I asked.
"Yes, it was," she said. "I wrote a letter to him to complain, but he hasn't replied. Just wait till I see him!"

Sunday, 23 November 2008

More stuff happening over the Weekend

It really is going to be busy next weekend!
Julia is going to be in the Buttermarket on Sunday with her Fairtrade bags, along with stalls selling bric-a-brack, books, cards, aloe vera products and so on - all in aid of Clyro Village Hall. That's on from 10am to 4pm.
Kilvert's are having a mini Beer Festival, with 5 real ales plus ciders and perries.
Rob Soldat is telling stories about St Andrew at the Library on Saturday morning.
The Globe has a big sign up saying 'crunch art for the new era' - as well as all the events, they seem to be having an art festival.
And Spellbound, under Nepal Bazaar, are playing host to a visiting white witch. Tylluan Penry will be reading runes and signing copies of her new book 'Seeking the Green'. The little handout says she's 'Witchfest International's Tylluan Penry'. I've been to a couple of Witchfest events as a re-enactor (pity they didn't have any weather working witches along for the second one - the rain was appalling). The people were mostly very nice (an exception being the woman who drank most of a bottle of mead that wasn't hers as she sat by our campfire) - and it was the one show where we knew we didn't have to explain what widdershins was when we were demonstrating how the quern stone works. It turns anti-clockwise, or widdershins, to grind the corn.

Saturday, 22 November 2008

More on Phil the Fruit

There's a little poster on the door of the shop with an article from one of the national papers - I think it was the News of the World - saying that Phil the Fruit is a retired motorcycle designer. Motorbikes to fruit and veg seems like quite a leap, but then I got talking to Mary Fellowes, who said she had known Phil years ago, when he worked for a big fruit and veg company in Hereford as a rep. "We used to get all our fruit and veg for the Cafe Royal from them," she said. Which is going back a bit - but it shows that Phil the Fruit does have previous experience to draw on.

Friday, 21 November 2008

Hay's International Links

We're not just a village in the middle of the Welsh Borders - Hay has direct links all over the world.
I was reminded of that when Jackie was so excited about the American election - not only is she a real, live, American, but she comes from Illinois, the same state where Obama is senator.
Then Chris the Bookbinder asked me if I knew anyone who would like to put on a puppet show. A few months ago, the Brazilian lad - who helped to organised the Hay Castle part of the Hay Festival - went back to Brazil because his father was ill. Now he wants to come back to the UK, and his visa has been refused. If someone wanted to see the puppet show he was involved in, though, it would be a valid reason for him to be allowed back. He only had a couple of weeks to appeal the decision, though - and that may not be enough for his friends to organise anything.

Thursday, 20 November 2008

Change at the Dentist's

Steve was wandering around work the other morning looking vaguely anxious and depressed - he was contemplating a phone call to the dentist's surgery to ask if there were any places on his NHS list. The whole building is being refurbished, with the main entrance being moved around to the side (well, technically the entrance that was being used was the side entrance and this will be the front entrance). Rumour has it that a new dentist is being taken on, "and they're putting a hygenist in the cellar," said my informant. I didn't even know the building had a cellar!
Meanwhile, the little building at the back of the Council Chambers is being refurbished too, to re-open sometime in January, and I think that's where the Drop In Centre that used to share the dentist's building is going to move to.
I hope the dentist's receptionist manages to move into something a bit bigger than the tiny cubbyhole she's crammed into at the moment.

Wednesday, 19 November 2008

Winter Festival

No sooner have I said that I haven't seen any of the leaflets for the Hay Festival Winter Weekend, than they appear all over town!
So, at the same time as Nepal Bazaar are having their fashion show, Screen at Hay are showing Persepolis in the Parish Hall, and the Morriston Phoenix Choir are singing at the Community Centre.
Libby Purves and Rosie Boycott are at the Community Centre on the Saturday, and the winner of the Hay short story competition will read her story Roadside Tapestry. Marcus Brigstocke and Andre Vincent will be performing too - and around town shops are going to be holding a Happy Hour with festival discounts, there will be Festival merchandise in the Buttermarket and a nearly-new clothes sale in the Parish Hall in aid of Hay & District Community Support.
On Sunday I'm afraid it's a lot of people I've never heard of, but one event is subtitled Ten Technologies to Save the Planet, there's an interview with a soldier who has been stationed in Afghanistan and wrote a book about it (An Ordinary Soldier) and a jockey who has ridden Red Rum and Shergar. Something for everyone, as they say - and a two day workshop for children based on the Borrowers.

Tuesday, 18 November 2008

A (partial and subjective) What's On Guide for Hay

It looks like being really busy in town on the last weekend of November.
There's the Hay Winter Festival - though I haven't seen any pamphlets for that yet.
At the same time, there's the Winter Food Fair on Saturday 29th November and a Craft Fair on Sunday 30th, in a marquee on the town square.
On Friday 28th, the evening starts off with the official switching on of the Christmas lights, at 6.30pm at the Buttermarket, and later in the evening Nepal Bazaar are holding an exotic fashion show, with music and cocktails, at the Globe. It's all in aid of the Macmillan Nurses, and the lady at Nepal Bazaar said the people at the Globe had been really helpful. Tickets available at £5 each from Nepal Bazaar, each individually hand crafted after an evening spent with glue and scissors.
On Thursday 27th, there's another special event at the Globe, as the Hay medics who went over to Timbuktu are holding a musical evening. With a grant from the Welsh Assembly, they've brought over Dr Albouhary Toure, the only doctor in Timbuktu, and Mr Elmehdi Ag Wakini. Music will be provided by Dr Pete and Claire - I'm not sure if any Malian music will be happening. I'm sure serious medical things will be happening too - it's not just going to be a jolly for the Timbuktu doctor - but this will be the fun part of the proceedings.
More music at the Globe will be provided as part of the Winter Festival by Alex Valentine, who is launching his new album A Short Album About Love from 10pm onwards on Saturday 29th. That's a bit more expensive, at £9 a ticket from the Hay Festival Office.

Monday, 17 November 2008

Christmas Lights

I met Richie and Ian putting up the Christmas lights.
"This year is the fastest they've ever been put up," Richie said, with Ian cracking an imaginary whip behind him.
"And if anyone complains that we've got Christmas lights on while the street lights are still off - these use almost no power. They're all LED."

Sunday, 16 November 2008

Children in Need

Pam next door holds a coffee morning for Children in Need every year, just in her kitchen. And if she's still got cake left by lunch time, she goes round the local shops and post office and so on, offering to bring slices in for the staff. This year, she went out to the workmen who were digging up the road just outside. They did make the excuse that they'd just had a big breakfast from the Mixing Bowl, but she took the cake out at lunch time for them instead.
She also had some Christmas cards to sell - a lady she knows had made them, and gave them all to her. They were beautifully done, some with decoupage, and recycling bits of old Christmas cards. If I tried anything like that, it would look as if a nine year old had done it - these looked professional.
Pam is also a member of the Camera Club, so she'd invited them along. There seem to be rumblings of discontent there - one lady said that there were some 'difficult' members - and difficulties with communication over the Christmas dinner. I don't know the people involved, so that's really as much as I gathered from the conversation.
Mrs Williams dropped in from over the road, too. She said she was very glad that their shop was continuing as a butcher's. They didn't really want it to go as anything else. The new people have a 12 month lease, with an option for a further year, at the moment.
The cakes, by the way, were made by Mrs Coles of the WI, and not by Pam, who claims her sponges are like biscuits with jam in the middle!
When I next saw Pam, she said she'd raised £120!

Saturday, 15 November 2008

Muttering about Millbank

The traffic lights have just disappeared again, after a few days of reducing the road to a single lane while a firm called Daniel did something with the water pipes. There were muttered complaints from some people on Broad Street because this meant there was nowhere for them to park while the work was going on, and they were blaming the house builders on what used to be Underhills Garage, and is now called Millbank. There was a mill there before the garage, which makes it a logical choice of name - an old lady who was interviewed for the local history book "...Nobody Had Heard of Hay" remembered falling in the mill pond once when she was a little girl, and having to be rescued.
Even worse, yesterday motorists were passing the traffic lights, and immediately meeting the tree surgeons down Newport Street, where their little lorry was parked, with the wood chipper, while they cleared trees from the bit of waste ground along the road there. This was once the site of the Boat Inn, which was a coaching inn at one time, though it must have been a fairly titchy coaching inn with stables somewhere else, because there isn't a lot of room there.
Today, though, everything is back to what passes for normality in Hay. The first four of the new Millbank houses now have their roofs on, and the second block of four are getting to that stage - and they don't look as bad as some people thought they might. At any rate, they're an improvement on the tin sheds that the garage had there for years.

Tuesday, 11 November 2008

Phil the Fruit

Stopped outside the shop that has just ceased to be Hay2Go this evening to say hello to a couple of ladies who are friends of Islay's. They've just adopted an elderly lurcher, to go with Barney the little Tibetan terrier, and all the dogs had to get aquainted. While this was going on, all the lights were on in the shop, and the new people (presumably Phil and a number of kids in Hay School uniforms) were sorting the shop out. They already have the sign up, which is how I know who they are.
Also up today are the first Christmas lights - though they won't be going on for another few weeks.

Sunday, 9 November 2008

Remembrance Sunday

Torrential rain - but that didn't stop a brass band from turning out for the Remembrance parade. I heard them as they marched past the Cinema. Their drums were so loud that you could feel them through the floor!

Thursday, 6 November 2008

New Butcher

Small Farms/Tom Bounds opened their doors today, with an impressive selection of fine meat. It's organic, it's local (well, localish - there was beef from Devon, but a lot of the meat will be coming from Lower Porthamel and another really local farm), and they're selling game from Bishop's Castle, too. It would take a lot to tempt me away from Chris Gibbons' sausages, but I do like a bit of venison now and again, and I don't always get it together to visit the fish van from Ludlow on the Thursday market, which has been the place to buy game around here up until now. I usually end up chatting to the nice couple at the plant stall while Islay scoffs their biscuits when I do go round the market and then I run out of time to buy anything.

Islay also likes to say hello to the sheep dog on the antiques stall - this was the chap who briefly moved into the old carpet and rug shop, but couldn't display anything outside because the road is too narrow. The shop is now occupied by Adela's Dress Agency, with some very expensive looking designer label stuff. Last week, when it was bitterly cold, the sheepdog was curled up in a dog bed that was for sale, and all you could see of him was a long nose poking out from under the blanket.

Wednesday, 5 November 2008

Latest from the B&R and Wye Local

First of all, an apology to Jo from the Film Society. I did intend to mention that they got onto the front cover of the B&R a few weeks ago - but I forgot. Which is quite bad of me, since they won the Film Society of the Year award, with a distinction as the Best New Film Society. The Guardian film critic, Derek Malcolm, who presented the award at the Sheffield ceremony, said "this new society is an all-round inspirational model". So someone there is making good choices of films.

Meanwhile, Gareth Ratcliffe is still concerned about street lights - he even offered his new pay rise back to the Council to pay for more to be switched on - and he's a brand new dad! Little Lincoln was born on 16th October. Congratulations, Gareth and Stella!

Tuesday, 4 November 2008

Trip to the Big City

That's Cardiff, by the way.
Last time we went down to Cardiff, my young man complained that I hardly went into any detail about our day out, so this time I'll do it properly.
It's pretty easy to get down to Cardiff by bus - you get the 9.30 from Hay to Brecon, and the Sixty-Sixty bus is usually already waiting. It leaves about 20 minutes later, giving a grand tour of Merthyr and other points south on the way, before leaving you at a bus stop close to Cardiff Castle. So it is fairly easy to find it again - all you have to do is look for the castle.
As this was our second outing, we had a rough idea of where things were - and the first port of call was Forbidden Planet. This is a slightly guilty pleasure for me, and reminds me of the days when I was the sort of Star Trek fan who wore antennae and blue face paint*. Mark got a couple of things he wanted - I treated him to an Assassin's Creed pendant because it's almost his birthday - and he treated me to something I really wanted. Sonic lipstick. And a 'watch' that 'scans' for alien life forms. Yes, it's very, very silly, but I want to be Sarah Jane Smith. And now I can.
Off then to the Hard Rock Cafe for their excellent pork sandwich and chocolate malts, and the bus stop for the Bay was just down the road.
We had to go to Torchwood Hub.
I'd looked at the Cardiff CAMRA website ahead of time, and found that they recommended the Terra Nova on Mermaid Quay, so we warmed up after the icy blast over a pint of Brains. The pub is named after Captain Scott's ship - he set off for the Antarctic from Cardiff - the decor is quite nautical, and the beer is very good.
Then it was back to the shopping centre to pick up the new Iron Man DVD. "St David's shopping centre is evolving" said the signs, which is slightly worrying when you're thinking along SF lines, and wondering what it might evolve into. (Remember that new space station that turned into a giant jellyfish in Star Trek Next Gen?)
Back on the bus, we found that the time table is slightly optimistic about the time it expects to get into Brecon - we were only just coming up to Libanus, and were getting slightly panicky that we might just miss the last bus home. All was well though - and Islay was very pleased to see us when we got in.

*I used to dress as an Andorian at Star Trek Conventions. I'm better now (Not much better, obviously - being a middle aged lady who wants to be Sarah Jane is only a slight improvement).

Monday, 3 November 2008

Hallowe'en Fun

We were all set for a night on the town on Friday - but first, I had to go to a Fairtrade meeting at the Globe.
If this had been a normal week, I would probably have gone to the Transition Towns meeting, and the Friends of the Earth meeting as well - but I was otherwise occupied. The Fairtrade meeting, though, was one I couldn't ignore. Together with Jump4Timbuktu, we're organising the First Fairtrade Fair for the 13th December, at the Buttermarket.
Jo took the opportunity to indulge in one of the Globe's sticky cakes. She also commandeered a complete stranger's laptop in the middle of the meeting! None of us had remembered to bring the quotes for printing the posters and flyers with us, so she quickly looked up her emails, and found the information.
The Camera Club have put on their annual exhibition at the Globe this week, and some of the pictures are very good indeed (my mind wasn't wandering - I took full minutes of the meeting!)

After dinner (pumpkin ragout with chorizos - we had a lot of pumpkin to use up after carving the heads) we got changed for the evening. Since Hay-on-Fire wasn't happening this year, we decided to make a night of it round the town.
I had thought of wearing my Goth dress, but decided I'd freeze - so I was a pirate instead. Mark has a rather fine black leather doublet, which makes him look like an executioner, and he'd brought his LARP vambraces and greaves with him too (that's Live Action Role Playing - protection for lower arms and lower legs).
We started off at Kilvert's - we had their special meal there on Wednesday, coq au vin with pint or glass of wine, two meals for £13.50, and very nice it was too. While we were there, we noticed that they would have Hobgobin on draught in the next day or so, and also Howling Ale (which we didn't like as much). The Hobgoblin was wonderful, though. They were supposed to be having a fancy dress party with live music in aid of the Macmillan Nurses, but we didn't see much sign of that, so we moved on to the Crown.
The Crown has the best selection of whiskies in town, I think, so it was a Talisker for me and a JD for Mark. There were a few more people in fancy dress there - and Adey, who tried to sell us a sword and helmet from his re-enacting days. We were hoping to see Richie and Jackie there - Jackie told me she had a cat costume ready - but we must have missed them.
The Globe had live music on - the start, apparently, of a new live music season. Little Rumba were doing a mixture of blues, tango and klezmer. I got quite excited when I saw this on the posters - but I've had to explain what klezmer is to everyone I've mentioned it to. East European Jewish music, heavy on the clarinets and fiddles, isn't really known about in this area - but I love it. They were very good indeed - but Mark found it a little strange that the clarinet and saxophone player looked just like his old co-ordinator at work. Also on the bill was Dirty Ray, who plays guitar with hands going so fast they blur. Someone I spoke to said that Dirty Ray worked at Tom's Record Shop for a while.
We rolled home about midnight - a good night out.

Our Hallowe'en celebrations didn't stop there though.
Rob Soldat was telling children's stories at the Library at 11am the following morning, and Mark was keen to find out what he was like as a storyteller. There were around half a dozen kids there, a couple of mums, and me and Mark sitting on the adult chairs to one side. Rob started off with a local story, about a ghostly bull in Llanigon, and went on to Ireland, with the tale of how Cu Chulain (whose real name meant 'he who knows the way') got lost with all the Men of Ulster, and ended up having a party in an iron house that their enemies were busily setting fire to outside. They escaped, of course.
Then another Irish story about a shapechanging old woman/weasel and a pot of gold, and for the latecomers a quick funny one about a spooky house and a toddler who was too small to be scared.
Next month, he's doing Scottish stories.

Sunday, 2 November 2008

A Few Changes

I don't know - I stop blogging for a week (the young man was here) and all sorts of things have changed round town.
The shop by the British Legion which was formerly known as Sigi has now been taken over by Janette Hill the solicitor. From bras and knickers to conveyancing....
The Wheatsheaf pub now has a big sign outside saying 'Business to Let' - so if there's anyone out there who fancies running a pub in Hay, here's the chance you've been waiting for.
Hay2Go, the travel bookshop near the clock tower, has closed down.
And so, finally, has Denny Parry's little gift shop on Castle Street. Islay will miss that one - she won't be able to go in there to play with Jasper the spaniel and get biscuits any more.
Underneath Nepal Bazaar, where Graham used to have his pet shop, appears to have been taken over by a witch. There's now a rather fine crystal ball in the window, lots of books inside, presumably of an esoteric nature, and it has been renamed Spellbound - with a little sign about sorcery and the imagination. Could be interesting.

Meanwhile in the B&R, there was a very good write up about retiring butcher, Mr Williams. He started working at the shop as delivery boy when he was ten years old - which would have been in the early 1950s - a different world! He finally bought the shop, and slaughtered his own meat round the back originally. He and his wife now live in the converted slaughterhouse, and have a lovely garden that goes right down to the riverside path.
Small Farms Ltd have bought the shop, and it should be open again soon.