Friday, 29 February 2008

The Future of Stitch and Bitch

There was a big turn out last night to talk about the group, and how we all want it to develop. One of the things we decided was to use the first Thursday of every month for demonstrations and informal teaching, while the rest of the time we just bring our own projects and chat as normal. Several people said they'd be prepared to teach techniques they know, so our spring programme is as follows:
April 6th, Liz and Tracy will demonstrate knitting on four needles and knitting with circular needles.
May 1st, Val will demonstrate Fair Isle (people will need to bring along several different coloured wools to join in with that one)
June 5th, Jenny will demontrate crochet.
The circular needles should go down well with at least one new member. When the group started, quite a lot of people left their names and phone numbers at the Wool and Willow shop, and when I rang round, it reminded one lady that she would quite like to start knitting again. Her name is Amanda, and she still has a strong New Zealand accent, despite living in the UK for many years. She's also blind, but she used to knit when she was sighted, so she has a head start in learning again. She went away with a borrowed set of circular needles, saying that she wanted to get the wool and start NOW.
I've never tried crochet, but after seeing the blanket that Val brought, all in creams and browns and made of lots of different sized squares linked together with crochet, I think I want to learn now.
Jenny brought some wonderful stuff too. Most of the time, she has left us to do ballroom dancing with her husband, which is on the same evening. And she's in a music group, and she does watercolour painting at Doll's House Fun. She's been experimenting with her peg loom, though, and brought a lovely little evening cape with lots of fluffy sparkly bits round the edge, all done as wedges on the peg loom and then stitched together. She also had a hat, and a scarf done with a Rowan (or possibly Collinette) yarn which is more of a narrow ribbon, all multicoloured and velvety.

Thursday, 28 February 2008


I have been incredibly stupid.
I was convinced that the meeting about the Cheese Market was tonight, and this morning I found out that it was actually on Tuesday, and I missed it.
Apologies for misleading everyone.

Wednesday, 27 February 2008

"Too much gossip; not enough long walks."

That would be Islay's assessment of the day, anyway.
Last night Pauline came round to invite me to the coffee morning at Pear Tree House. It was in aid of the campaign to get cancer treatment in Hereford, rather than having to go all the way to Cheltenham for treatment - a journey of three hours for some, which is why some people have refused treatment or failed to finish their course of treatment. The journey was just too arduous. The good news was that the money has been raised for a chemotherapy unit in Hereford, and it should be built and up and running by 2010. There is also room in the plans for radiotherapy machines, but this would cost more millions. At the moment, the Health Authority are looking at Hereford, Worcester and Cheltenham as possible sites for these machines, and the decision should be made by June. The chap who is leading the fund raising said that, even if the decision goes against Hereford, he will continue fund raising to get the machines independantly. So every coffee morning counts.
It's a slight shock to go to something like this, and mingle with people who are obviously local - but who you don't recognise at all! Pauline and I both felt this. We recognised a couple of people, but most of the thirty or forty people there were strangers to us.
Still, the cakes were very nice, there were some very good prizes for the raffle (including a £20 gift voucher for Shepherds - that's a lot of ice cream) and a bring and buy table. I got talking to a lady from Rhosgoch who has something to do with organising Huntington Fete, and when she heard that I did weaving workshops in medieval costume, she asked for my name and phone number. So I might be appearing at Huntington Fete this July, which should be fun.
After the coffee morning, I collected Islay and a shopping bag and went to pick up the ingredients I needed for banana bread, which I'm making for Fairtrade Friday in the Parish Hall.
Rob Soldat was in Londis, and stopped to chat (while Islay sat on the pavement looking mournful and scratching herself). He was discussing Hay Festival with the chap who now runs Londis, and the possibility of re-routing the shuttle bus to go through the town square, so that Festival-goers were dropped off in the middle of town rather than round the periphery. Slightly scary to think that it's time to start planning for the Festival already. One of the ladies at the coffee morning was considering the possibility of letting out rooms in her house for it, but was a bit put off by the thought that she wouldn't know what her house guests were like until it was too late, as it were, and they were there.
"Now you can have a walk," I told Islay, as Rob and I parted company.
We got as far as the Castle, and Tracy came out to speak to me about Stitch n Bitch. We're meeting tomorrow night to discuss what to do with the money we collected last year in membership dues - a trip to the Collinette shop in Newport has been suggested. Islay sat down on the grass, looking mournful.
"Right, this time we'll do it." Across the car park, into Cae Mawr - and there's Sally's mum, walking Alfie. So Islay got to play with Alfie while I chatted to Sally's mum - and she was on her way back from a walk, so we didn't go far.
Back up through the car park, and I decided Islay deserved a treat, so we went into Country Supplies. She's got the routine off pat now - dashes in, barks, runs to where the pigs' ears are, sits until she's given one, and then she dashes round the shop in triumph while I go to pay. Everyone thinks she's cute.
We went down Backfold, and I happened to spot Susy in Bedecked. So I left Islay to eat her pig's ear outside in the sun, and I went in to make sure she'd got the book I left on her doorstep the day before.
"So what's this about the Cheese Market?" she asked, after comparing the merits of Neil Gaiman and China Mieville, and Phillip Pullman and Ursula Le Guin. It seems the County Council want to sell the building - but we'll all know more on Thursday evening at 8pm, at the meeting at Shepherds.
I left her and the Bedecked lady discussing the possibilities of enrolling at the Art College as mature students in order to pick up young and good looking men.
I'd been there so long that Islay had finished her pig's ear.

Tuesday, 26 February 2008

Lent Talks and other ecclesiastical things

Father Richard has got some interesting speakers throughout Lent, at Sunday evensong. I've seen the posters around town, but I haven't got round to paying attention to them until now, so I've missed two of the speakers.
The theme is "My Faith and my Work", and coming up on Sunday is His Honour David Glyn Morgan, a High Court Judge, followed by Tony Jeremy, a lawyer specialising in canon law, the next Sunday.
That brings us up to Palm Sunday, when the service starts with a short procession, beginning at the Login Waterfall near the church.
St Mary's is also playing host to the Women's Day of Prayer this year, on 7th March. The service has been put together this year by Christian women of Guyana. The order of service comes from a different country every year, and different churches and chapels around Hay take it in turns to host the service.

Monday, 25 February 2008

Council Offices

While I had the washing on in the launderette, I went round town delivering Fairtrade Friday leaflets to all the churches and chapels in town. I was also asked to put a few flyers in the Council Offices, so I thought the table in the pay office was probably the best place to put them.
As I went in, a lady from the Housing office stepped out and stopped me. "That office is closed now," she said. "You can't pay council tax here any more." She pointed out the posters on the door - instead of going to the Council Offices, now people will have to go to their local Post Office to pay. Which is good for the Post Offices, in these days when all the small, rural ones are under threat, but not so good for the Council Offices. People went in there for other things than council tax, like getting extra bin bags, and I don't know if those other services will still be available there yet.
I did leave the leaflets, though.

Sunday, 24 February 2008

Drover's Holidays and the Cheese Market

Back in November, Drover's Holidays moved out of the little shop by the Blue Boar. I assumed that they'd move back in when spring came, but I passed by today and found that the shop is now occupied by a new pet shop. Drover's Holidays is still trading, however, and have some new flyers out advertising the holidays they offer.

Meanwhile, it seems that something is finally going to happen about the Cheese Market. The building is listed. It was built in around 1835, and the town council have met in the upper room, as well as the followers of the preacher who later had the chapel now known as Globe Gallery built for him. More recently, the Camera Club met there, though they've now moved to Open Door. The building is seriously in need of maintainence - and now there's going to be a meeting in Shepherd's on Thursday evening at 8pm to talk about what to do about it.

It's going to be a busy evening for me - Stitch and Bitch are meeting earlier in the evening at the Swan to decide what to do with all the membership dues we collected last year. A coach trip (or at least, a mini-bus trip) to the Collinetts shop in Newport has been suggested.

Friday, 22 February 2008

Brilley Promises Auction - results

The people of Brilley managed to raise more than £10,000 with their promises auction!
Star item was a weekend in a narrowboat, which raised £380.
The total cost of the field is £30,000, and they now need another £13,000 to be able to buy it.

Thursday, 21 February 2008

More roadworks in Brecon

Just as we thought the roads in the town centre had settled down, up they come again! It's not Brecon without roadworks everywhere! This time I think it's gas pipes.
While I was walking round Brecon, I passed the Ticking and Toile shop. They've recently set up a branch in Hay - but now the Brecon branch is closing down. The sign on the window said that some of the goods they make, like cushions and aprons and so on, will be available in Morgans, the antique shop on the Struet which always has wonderful things in it.
As I went down the Struet, I passed the bookshop which has been there since I first visited Brecon, many years ago - and it was well established then. No longer, sadly. When I looked in through the window the shelves were being cleared and boxes were being filled. The sign on their door said that 'Oh!', a gift shop which is presently situated on the road beneath the library, will be moving in soon.
It will still be possible to buy books in Brecon. Andrew Morton's second hand shop is still there, and new books of Welsh interest are available in the gift shop on the Bulwark, opposite the church. Still, it's always sad to see an independent bookseller closing down.

Wednesday, 20 February 2008

Brilley Village Green

I was right about Brilley having lost its school. However, Herefordshire Council have offered the old school field to the village to be used as a village green. The Village Hall commitee and the Parish Council are leading the efforts to raise the money to buy the field from the Council, and on the 15th they had a Grand Promise Auction.
I saw Jo from Brilley the other day, and she said it went very well - and some of the Promises!

A week in a town house in Marrakesh
a walking tour in the Willandra Lakes World Heritage Area of Australia
a boat trip round the islands of Pembrokeshire (that one went for between £300 and £400, I believe)
an introduction to gliding
half a fresh lamb
the opportunity to sail in a 1904 Bristol Pilot Cutter boat
and much more!

They're a generous lot in Brilley.

Brilley Mountain Eco

Brilley is one of those "blink and you miss it" villages. It doesn't have a shop or a post office or a pub; it used to have a school, but I think that's been closed down now. What it does have, in spite of these handicaps, is a great community spirit - and great environmental awareness.
Hence Brilley Mountain Eco, the group which is having a meeting in the village hall (they still have one of those!) on Monday 25th February at 7.30pm.
Bobbie Hadley, the Hereford Council (I presume that's what HC stands for) Strategy and Development Officer, will talk about the best way to cope with our rubbish.
Maureen Richardson will talk about the Rubbish Collectors of Cairo - mostly Christian people who make their living by sifting through the vast rubbish heaps to find anything at all that is worth recycling.
(Maureen Richardson is a paper maker of great skill and artistry, and she lives in a turf roofed, self-built house in Brilley.)
Finally, Richard of Wiggly Wigglers will "take the mystery out of" Composting and Wormeries.
And there's a free goodie bag for everyone.

(Well, we have to make our own fun round here)

Seriously, though, it sounds like an interesting evening.

Monday, 18 February 2008

Fairy Promises

Susy had her fairy party on Saturday, and it was great fun. People had put a lot of effort into their costumes, and there were a lot of multicoloured net tutu style skirts and some very impressive wings. My green tights arrived two days before the party (thanks for the uktights website, anonymous), and my young man brought his vampire fangs and his scary bloodshot albino contact lenses, which were much admired.
As the theme was fairies, the drinks table couldn't be complete without absinthe, the Green Fairy itself. Susy had provided some proper absinthe spoons, which are slatted. The idea is that you put a sugar lump on the spoon and drip water over it until it all dissolves into the glass of absinthe below. Mark has drunk absinthe at vampire parties in London, and showed an alternative method, where the sugar lump is drenched in absinthe and set alight. Later, a jug of Bohemian cocktail was made, which involves absinthe, pink champagne and other ingredients I'm a bit hazy on. I stuck to the pink champagne.
I took my Fairie Oracle cards, and told fortunes, which seemed to go down well. I got each person to choose three cards - and one couple each chose the same two cards, with only the last one different. I promise I shuffled the cards well!
It was nice to see Amo again, who had come over from Hereford, but a bit scary to realise that she's coming up to her fortieth birthday! I first met her when she was in her early twenties, and she doesn't look a lot different now.

Saturday, 9 February 2008

Fairtrade Friday

We held a planning meeting for the Fairtrade Fortnight event at Shepherd's this morning. Fairtrade Friday is on the 29th Feb, so it's getting quite close. We could have a full Parish Hall, though. Nepal Bazaar will be there; Bishopston Trading are sending a box of goods for us to sell on sale or return (they sell fairly traded clothing), and the people who are organising the Plastic Bag Free Hay campaign will be there. I'll be there with a weaving workshop, talking about weaving and spinning in the third world rather than as a Viking or Medieval lady, and we have yet to hear from Oxfam and some other shops around Hay.
There'll be tea and coffee and cakes (made with Fairtrade ingredients - I'm making a banana loaf), and entertainment. Fynnon Gynnydd School will be singing Welsh and international songs - it'll be their second perfomance of the day, as they're going to a local eisteddfod earlier. Manu, a musician who lives in Peterchurch, will be doing drumming and percussion, and a speaker from Love Zimbabwe will be talking about the situation there.
There'll be a competition for all the local schools to decorate Fairtrade bunting, too, with the judging taking place on the day and a prize of a Fairtrade football for the winning school. All the local schools except Clyro are registered with Fairtrade.
We'll also be launching the Fairtrade Directory for Hay - we saw a draft copy today, which looks very professional.
It should be fun, and hopefully it'll cover the costs and maybe even make a bit of money to pay for the printing of the Directory.

Friday, 8 February 2008

Railway Memories

I went into Brecon on the bus the other day, and happened to sit next to Jean Mar, so we got talking.
As we came up to the turning to Talgarth, Jean pointed down the slope to where the little industrial units are, and Black Mountains Activities - and the old station house. "That was all Three Cocks Station," Jean said. "There were all sidings there, and a branch line going off to Llandod (Llandrindod Wells). I remember just after the Coronation, the Royal Train came through here, and all the school children got taken down to stand on the platforms. The train slowed right down as it came through, and we all waved our little Union Jacks."

Jean would have been about 13 or 14 then, and she went to Brecon High School for Girls on the train every day from Hay. The school building burned down a few years ago, and there are new houses there now, opposite the hospital. They had an old girls' reunion before the school was pulled down, and they did have a chance to go in and look around, but no-one wanted to do it. They all preferred to remember it as it had been.

Tuesday, 5 February 2008

Green tights

I've been invited to a Fairy Party.
"Easy!" I thought. I had a length of green material, printed with leaves, that was just big enough to make into a little tunic, and I could get some green tights. Costume sorted.
Except that it wasn't. The tunic is fine - looks a bit junior school play, but that was the intention (honest).
Green tights, on the other hand, are almost impossible to find.
No, make that entirely impossible - I've been in every shop in Hay and every shop in Brecon, and on the market, and not one place has green tights of any description. Dorothy Perkins has some red and purple tights, but that's it as far as colour goes.
Who would have thought that it would be so hard?

Monday, 4 February 2008

Myth and Magic at Hay Library

Before Christmas, Lyn Webster Wilde led a talk about the Welsh legend Math, son of Mathonwy at Hay Library. She told the tale of Lleu Llaw Gyffes, who was cursed by his mother so he would never have a name, never be armed and never have a human wife. We were told how Lleu's Uncle Gwydion tricked his mother into giving him a name, and arming him, and left the story just as Gwydion and Math were working out how to give Lleu a wife.
Tonight, the story continued, with the help of Rob Soldat, who told us of Blodeuedd, the woman made of flowers, and how she married Lleu, but fell in love with another man, and how they plotted together to kill Lleu.
Being a magical hero, Lleu could only be killed in a very specific way, which involved him standing with one foot on the edge of a bath and the other on the back of a goat, at a spot by a river in North Wales - and he could only be killed by a spear which had been forged on a year of Sundays, when everyone was in church.
In the discussion afterwards, Rob pointed out that, despite the murder plot, there were no villains in the story, and that all the Welsh legends were similarly psychologically sophisticated. The lover got his come-uppance in the end - the places were reversed, and Lleu (who did not die) got to throw the spear at him, and the woman of flowers became Flower-Face, the owl - and you can visit the site of the murder attempt even now, and see the stone that the lover had put up between himself and Lleu's spear throw. A stone with a hole through it where the spear passed straight through (so, you see, it must be true).
It was another very enjoyable evening, with discussions taking in solar heroes like Siegfried and Achilles, both of whom were also invulnerable apart from one small spot on their bodies (the Achilles' heel, and there was one bit of Siegfried which was not splashed with dragon's blood).

Next time, Arthurian Myth - and the Welsh Arthur is rather different from the wise and heroic king of Camelot.

Sunday, 3 February 2008

New Boss for Father Richard

The new Bishop of Swansea and Brecon has just been elected. He should settle into the diocese quickly - he's the Dean of the cathedral at the moment, the Very Rev. John Davies. He'll be the ninth bishop of Swansea and Brecon, and he became a priest after being a solicitor. He's starting off in the job with a bang - he got to welcome the Archbishop of Canterbury to Brecon Cathedral today!

Saturday, 2 February 2008

Restoration of the Town Clock

Good sense has prevailed in Powys Council, and no-one is about to knock our, or Knighton's, precious clock tower down. In fact, restoration work starts on Monday, and is expected to go on for about 12 weeks.

Meanwhile, a hardy busker set up today outside HSBC - and you could hear his xylophone all over Hay. I don't suppose he really thinks this weather is cold at all, though, as the sign up beside the xylophone said he was a Russian student from St Petersburg. He had some CDs to sell as well, and was really very good.

Friday, 1 February 2008

Signs of Spring?

The severe weather hasn't arrived here yet. There's a powdering of snow on the Black Mountains, and there were a few flurries of snow in Brecon this afternoon, but nothing worse than that yet.
On the other hand, the pair of swans has been back around Booth Island, checking out their nesting site - which is only a couple of inches above the river level at the moment. They raised five cygnets last year, but I think they must have lost them all in the summer floods - they'd left the nest by that time, but they usually hang around until they get pretty much adult size, and last year they all just disappeared.
There are snowdrops out all over the place now, my favourite spring flower by far, and up on the Wyecliff, there is a bank covered with golden yellow flowers that look as if they might be related to buttercups. They're not in my Observer book, so they might be a garden escape, and they really brighten up a shady corner.