Saturday, 26 December 2009

Boxing Day

I went to the Christmas morning service at St Mary's (Midnight Mass is way past my bedtime!), and it was lovely to see Curate Jimmy in his fluffy white halo. It was attatched to his collar, and wobbled every time he shook his head.

On the way back up town, I passed Jones' Hardware shop, and noticed their sign advertising Christmas closing times:
Christmas Day: Stuffing our faces
Boxing Day: We've all eaten too much
Sunday: Nursing the Hangover

This morning there was a good crowd as usual for the Boxing Day Hunt, who meet at the clock tower. I usually amble down to have a look, but this year Islay contented herself with barking at the hounds from the comfort of the windowsill, while I was listening to David Tennant and Catherine Tate on the radio. All the snow has melted, except on the very top of Hay Bluff, so they'll come back covered in mud this afternoon. (the Hunt, not David Tennant and Catherine Tate....)

Thursday, 24 December 2009

Nadolig Llawen

...or Joyful Christmas, to all.

I notice in Backfold that the Honesty Bookshop there is now the No-Name Honesty Bookshop. I have visions of Clint Eastwood in his poncho turning up to empty the Honesty box every night!

Merry Christmas, and a Happy New Year.

Monday, 21 December 2009

New Plans for Brecon Library

Last week's B&R is still hanging around the house, and there's a story on the front page which follows up something I wrote about hear a little while ago.
Powys County Council want to re-develop the centre of Brecon, and this would involve knocking down the Library. Earlier in the year, they put a bid in for Lottery Funding to re-develop the Museum site - which badly needs something to be done about it - but the bid failed.
Now it seems they intend to put in a revised bid to the Lottery for the Museum site, which would include a new Library building next door. This would clear the way to re-develop the present Library site.
Maybe the County Council just likes the idea of constant building works in the middle of town for years to come?

Meanwhile in Vita, the free magazine that occasionally comes with the B&R, there's an article about Glasu which includes a picture of Trevor Walder, a visiting engineer from Dubbo in New South Wales, standing on a soap box in the Buttermarket as part of the Hay Speaker's Corner initiative. He was talking about solar panels, apparently. This was set up by the Commonwealth of Hay, and partly funded by Glasu. The last of the three sessions will be on 27th December, if anyone wants a chance to rant over Christmas!

Sunday, 20 December 2009

Climate Change Skeptic?

I don't normally watch a lot of TV, but I did manage to catch a couple of episodes of a late night programme on climate change the other night.
As I was watching, a familiar name popped up. A film called Greenhouse Conspiracy was made for Channel 4 in 1990, by Hilary Lawson. It was casting doubt on the reality of climate change.
Could this be the same Hilary Lawson who bought the Globe?
I wonder what his thoughts on climate change are now.

Saturday, 19 December 2009

Christmas Window Competition

I happened to be talking to the judges of the competition today, at the Fairtrade Christmas Fair (see Fairtrade Hay blog, link in the side bar, for more details of that).

So, The Winner Is: Shepherds, with their giant ice cream cone.
Second Prize: Vampire Christmas at Murder and Mayhem
Third Prize: vegetable nativity at the Granary.

Sadly, the vegetable nativity has had to be removed, as it started to rot!

Friday, 18 December 2009

A Bench for Carmel

Last March, an eighteen year old girl in Hay committed suicide.
I didn't mention it at the time, though I knew about it, because it was private to her family, and no business of mine.
I mention it now because there's a picture in the Hereford Times of her family and friends clustered round a new bench on the Warren. It's really rather a fine one, designed by Danny Thomas who makes chainsaw sculptures, and with one of his little trademark bears holding each end. The money to build the bench came from a fund-raising gig at the Globe, and they also gave some money to the charity MIND.

Wednesday, 16 December 2009

Well Done, Primrose Farm!

I see from the B&R that Primrose Organic Centre, just on the edge of Felindre, has won a record six awards at the Welsh True Taste Food and Drink Awards at Abergavenny.
They got a gold award for their salad packs, which I can confirm are very good - I eat a lot of them over the summer.
I've watched from afar as the Farm has developed over the years - they've got a Celtic round house, and garden plots for local schools, and produce an amazing £20,000 worth of vegetables, fruit and salad from a 1.5 acre plot. They've also had a lot of input from WWOOFA over the years, the environmental volunteer scheme. I think that's the right acronym - volunteers go off to smallholdings and so forth for their holidays, and help with some of the hard work that goes into running them. It's a good way for people who could never have a smallholding themselves to get involved.

Saturday, 12 December 2009

Let there be Light!

I passed by Stuart at the greengrocer's this morning as he was bringing boxes of veg out to put on his outside shelves. Over the top of the shelves, he's rigged up an ingenious arrangement of lights inside half a tube of bamboo.
"It gets dark about four o-clock now," he said, "and the street lights don't go on then, and the Christmas lights are useless, so no-one can see that I'm open."

Friday, 11 December 2009

Transition Towns Social Evening

I was at the Swan early, as it was Stitch and Bitch night - not that anyone else turned up this week. This quite often happens over the winter; we save our energy for the first Thursdays of the month when someone will do a demonstration.
So I sat and knitted while I waited for the Transition Towns people to show up. The social took over the back bar - and one man came armed with a flip chart, which looked a bit serious!
As well as having a pleasant drink together, it turned out that we were also there to do a bit of brainstorming to decide what the committee should concentrate their efforts on in the coming year! Splitting up into groups was quite a good idea, as we all got to know who the other people we were sitting with were, and why they had come along. The group I was with had come from Clifford, Llanigon and Painscastle, and a lady with a house that needed altering found that the man who mends bicycles is also an architect, so that was useful for both of them!
Gareth Radcliffe was in the other group, so it was no surprise that their ideas centred around waste management. Gareth is very keen to make the Council more efficient in this regard. He was also able to give advice about the guerilla gardening ideas - there may be grants available to plant bulbs, or vegetables, around town!
One success from last year was shown by the map of where the new allotments are going to be - 16 of them on a ten year lease, just across the bridge and on the hill up to Radnor's End.
They've also signed up as a group to the 10:10 campaign, to reduce emissions by 10% over the coming year. Several individuals had the 10:10 tag about their persons, too, and a big achievement was for them to persuade the Hay Festival to sign up - though they're going to find it difficult to cut down, as they fly some of the speakers in!
Transition Hay have a page on the WyeLocal website, which they say they will keep updated with current and future projects.
There was a lot of enthusiasm, and optimism, in the room, and quite a few people new to Hay who seemed very keen.

Monday, 7 December 2009


That was the title of the free film that Transition Towns put on at the Globe last night.
The turn out was pretty low, but I did see some people I knew, and there was an interested couple from Glasbury.
The film was beautifully photographed, almost like watching the Earth being made into abstract art, and every shot was from above, so you really got a sense of the scale of things, as the tiny ship ploughed through the Arctic ice, or the combine harvesters moved across a vast American wheat field.
The point of it was to say that human beings have changed the Earth dramatically in the last fifty years, with the help of oil for transport, fertiliser and pesticides, and that the present state of affairs can't go on for much longer - with dramatic shots of the green desert in Saudi Arabia, irrigated with fossil water which cannot be replaced, drying up again.
This was where showing the planet from the air really came into its own, with shots of mile after mile of plastic covering land in Spain where vegetables are produced for supermarkets all over Europe, and vast plantations of eucalyptus trees (for paper) and date palms (for oil) replacing the diverse eco-systems of natural forests.
The film showed Qatar as the apex of the present economic system: Qatar has no water, but it has expensive de-salination plants to make salt water drinkable. It has no agriculture, but it can import food - and with all that sunshine beating down, there isn't a solar panel to be seen, while they spend their oil energy building artificial islands in the shape of palm trees for millionaires.
Of course, recent events have made this miracle in the desert seem rather hollow, as Qatar went bust just the other week.
To balance all the doom and gloom, though, the last part of the film had the refrain "It's too late to be a pessimist", and showed examples of what can be done with renewable energy around the world.
The film is available on the net, free, from

There was a lively discussion afterwards, touching on such issues as over population, which the film mentioned but didn't really go into, and whether or not to go vegetarian - and a general invitation to go to the Swan on Thursday 10th December for a social evening with Transition Towns, from about 7.30pm.

Saturday, 5 December 2009

Climate Change and the Hay Hamster Paradox

The real title was Letter to Copenhagen, and it was a talk given as part of the Hay Winter Festival by Jane Davidson, Andrew Simms and Andy Fryer. Rosie Boycott was due to appear, but sent her apologies as she was far too busy preparing for the Copenhagen summit - which, in case anyone is unaware of it, is the successor to Kyoto and the world's last, best chance to do something positive about climate change.
Jane Davidson is one of the Welsh Assembly's delegation, the Assembly Minister for the Environment - and she's certainly got her work cut out for her. Wales has only a limited ability to create legislation, and a huge public sector which has to be paid for before other schemes can even be thought of. She said that Wales has benefitted enormously from membership of the EU, because of the environmental legislation which has come from Europe. At present, Wales has cleaner rivers and cleaner air than it has had since the beginning of the industrial revolution, and that probably wouldn't have happened without Europe.
Andrew Simms is the Policy Director of the New Economics Foundation. He'll also be at Copenhagen, and he's the man responsible for the Hamster Paradox.
Apparently, the 'must-have' toy this Christmas is a robot hamster. So he got thinking about real hamsters. In the first six weeks of their lives, they double their body weight every week. Then they level off at their adult weight. What would happen if they just kept on growing, doubling their body weight every week? How heavy would they be on their first birthday? Someone in the audience guessed 7 tons, but the real number is around 9 billion! And the hamster would be eating the entire world's output of cereals.
Conventional economics is like that hamster - every country in the world (except Bhutan, which prefers a national index of happiness, and failed states like Somalia who don't have a policy on anything much), they all buy into the idea of unlimited economic growth, and it won't work for much longer.
He also talked about the 350 campaign, the idea that CO2 emissions should be stabilised at 350 parts per million - and we're already at 387, so there's a lot of hard work involved in bringing the world's emissions down, especially as countries like India and China and Brazil aren't going to get on board unless they see real movement from the rich countries, especially the US and Europe. "Stop me if I'm using too many numbers," he said at one point, and Jane Davidson said that the problem with numbers is that they are being used to obfuscate the arguement far too often, rather than clarifying matters.
One of the questions at the end of the session was about the Hay Festival starting a Festival in the Maldives - what was all that about? Andy Fryer, who works for the Festival, explained that they had actually been invited by the President of the Maldives, because his country is one of those in most danger from climate change, being on average only 2 metres above sea level. Tourists come for the sun, sea and sand, but he wanted the world to know that there is an entire culture under threat there, and inviting a cultural festival was one way of doing that.
The Festival have recently signed up to the 10:10 campaign, which involves everyone, from individuals to businesses and even government departments who sign up, in reducing their carbon emissions by 10% in one year - to show that they take the problem seriously. Hay Festival have signed up, and so has the Welsh Assembly, this being one of the last things Rhodri Morgan did in office before he retired.
It was a fascinating morning, and I hope that people like Jane Davidson and Andrew Simms are listened to at Copenhagen, and serious action taken. As they said, it's not like a health budget where you can argue about a bit more here or a bit less there - the biosphere doesn't care about the arguments, and when it's had enough that's it - it's the future of the human race that's at stake here.

Friday, 4 December 2009

New Shops

Coming back from a walk with Islay the other evening, I noticed all the lights on at the shop on Broad Street that used to be Country Pie and will soon be Herbfarmacy. It's the one opposite Broad Street Book Centre and next door to Oxford House Books. I'd seen people putting shelves up and painting in there for a little while, so I knew they were getting ready to open, but now they're getting ready for Christmas with a stained glass exhibition.
Hung up in the windows with the light behind them, the pictures in the stained glass were amazing!
They're made by a lady called Rowan McOnegal, who is also a medical herbalist, and the pictures in the stained glass are all of plants, in great detail.
They're opening every Thursday up to Christmas.

In fact, visitors to Hay (and locals!) are spoiled for choice this month, as there's also the Veronica Guest watercolour exhibition on the Pavement, and Kate Modern is showing off some of her latest paintings, too.

Up at the Castle there are changes too - as I found when I followed the trail of signs that said "New Shop". Mason's Yard shop has just opened in that part of the stables that used to be Castle Drive Books (the lady in the shop, wife of the stone mason himself, said that they'd had to shift a lot of books up to the loft before they moved in!). There were stone fireplaces on display, and a rather fine round stone dove cote, as well as smaller pieces for sale, and a few other bits and pieces for the gift buying public. The plan is for the stone mason to work in a corner of the shop that has been partitioned off, where people can see him.

Tuesday, 1 December 2009

Christmas Windows

It's the first day of Advent, so let's get suitably in the mood of preparations for Christmas by looking at the shop windows round town - or at least, thinking about them, since I can't really do pictures.
Addyman's Annexe have built a church out of paper, surrounded by Victorian style pop-ups, and in Addyman's main shop, look out for R2D2, who's hiding from a Dalek!
The one that made me laugh out loud, though, was The Granary's vegetable nativity scene! Potato people, cauliflower sheep - and a sign that says no vegetables were harmed in this production! Wonderful!

Sunday, 29 November 2009

New Town Centre for Brecon?

Front page news in the B&R this week was an exhibition "showcasing plans for a multi-million pound redevelopment of Brecon town centre."
Central to this plan seems to be the demolition of the town library, but I don't see any mention of building a new one, or moving it into an existing building. A pity, since it's a very good library - and Joan Aiken the children's author researched her book The Whispering Mountain there!
"It's claimed," says Twm Owen the reporter, "the development of the library and Market Hall site could attract high street names to Brecon town centre," and the council's senior manager for property and design services, Russell Westlake, says "A number of high street retailers have said Brecon is high on their hit list as an important market town."
I'm not sure I like the idea of a 'hit list'. It also occurred to me while I was reading the article that I'm not sure that it's automatically a good idea to attract 'high street names' to a town. Just look at Woolworths - a name that everyone knew, and seemed like a safe bet to have in the town. Then it was gone, overnight, and for reasons that had nothing to do with Brecon, or Hereford - the problems with that business were nothing to do with this area at all.
Wouldn't it be better to nurture local businesses, who have a vested interest in Brecon doing well? And isn't it better to have a recognisably local high street, rather than an identikit array of 'high street names' that could be anywhere?

And won't this mean yet more road works, which have plagued Brecon town centre for years?

The exhibition ran at the (doomed) Brecon Library from Wednesday November 25th to Friday November 27th - so hardly much time for people to find out about it and get over there to make their views known.

Saturday, 28 November 2009

Christmas Food Festival

I was on a mission this morning. Last year I got a pot of Christmas Chutney from one of the stalls at the food fair as a present, and they liked it so much they asked if they could have some again this year. That was quite easy - the stall for River View Gardens was even in the same place in the tent.
I went round twice, the first time seranaded by a male voice choir, and the second time by a brass band. There were local breweries and wine and Penderyn whisky, all sorts of chutneys and relishes, gorgeous looking meat and cheeses from local producers, and speciality breads.
Tomorrow, it's the turn of the crafts.

Meanwhile, Chef on the Run has been winning awards again!
They've been shortlisted in the quality food awards in association with Woman's Weekly and Asda, in the local food class.
And they were one of 12 finalists in the Waitrose & Country Living magazine Made In Britain awards, with their Old Fashioned Ginger Marmalade.
They won £500, a bottle of champagne, and a contract to supply local Waitrose stores!
(I think they must mean 'local' rather loosely - I don't actually know where the nearest Waitrose is!).
The Old Fashioned Ginger Marmalade must be good stuff, because it also won a Gold 1* from the great taste awards; the Rhubarb and Orange Chutney won Gold 2*.

Friday, 27 November 2009

Hay Corner

The weather has certainly been against the Commonwealth of Hay's latest venture. Last Sunday was the second time they held Hay Corner, Hay's answer to Hyde Park Corner, in the Buttermarket, and once again it bucketted down.
I quote from one who was there:
"Dismal - sitting on plastic seating, lashed by the rain and listening to a lecture on surrealism...."
On the bright side, they did have a speaker all the way from Dobbo in New South Wales the first time they did it, and apparently he was very eloquent!
Let's hope the weather is better on 27th December, when the Soapbox comes out for the third time!

Wednesday, 25 November 2009

Talgarth on Telly?

In their quest to find funding to do up the old mill in Talgarth, members of the Talgarth Mill Green Energy Project have turned to the Big Lottery Fund, and a TV programme called Village SOS. Six villages will be chosen to be on the show (another candidate is Howey, near Llandrindod Wells), and someone will move into the village for a year to help them with their business idea. They've already got some money to develop their business proposals, and this could provide up to £400,000 more!

Tuesday, 24 November 2009

Raising Money for the Play Park

Very few visitors would be aware that there is a children's playground in Hay. It's tucked away behind a high hedge, close to the Doll's House Fun shop on the edge of town. I last went down there with my sister and little nephew, and it did have this sad air of neglect hanging over it, with chipped paintwork on the equipment, and nobody else about.
Well, Emma Smith wants to do something about it, according to the B&R.
She had a little girl, Fay, who died a few years ago of a rare genetic disorder, and she thought then that it was a pity there was nothing at the playground that the little girl and her little boy could go on together. Now she's raising money for a new roundabout which will have space for a wheelchair to fit onto. She's looking for £9,000, and the first step towards that was a Wax-a-thon at Kilvert's last Friday night, supported by local football, cricket and rugby teams. Nat West have promised match funding, and anything left over will be donated to Hope House, a children's hospice in Oswestry.
If anyone would like to help, these are the numbers to contact:
07909 755202 for Emma and
01497 821436 for Cath Prosser.

Monday, 23 November 2009


I took Islay down by the river this morning, to see how high the water had risen (just about lapping the top of the bank in places).
There were three men in hard hats and reflective jackets down there, and an area of the car parking space near the sewage works has been cordoned off.
It seems that work will begin shortly on storm drains and sewerage for Booth Gardens. It'll take 14 weeks, and the drains will run down Wyeford Road to the river.

Sunday, 22 November 2009

Ways of Collecting Rubbish

It seems that Powys County Council are short of cash again (when are they not?). This means that they are putting the new plans for collecting our rubbish on hold for the moment. Presumably they can't afford to buy all the little wheelie bins that would be required for the new regime.
In the meantime, they'd like us all to recycle more.

(Thanks to the B&R)

Saturday, 21 November 2009

Hay Art Charter

It seems that the Le Crunch Art Festival at the Globe last weekend wasn't just a weekend of events that then gets forgotten (or, indeed, remembered fondly) - something more concrete has come out of it.
As far as I can make out from the article in the B&R, two 'curators of emerging talent', Pearce and Ramsey, have been talking to local art students about what constitutes art and what art means to them, and are now giving local artists the opportunity to be exhibited alongside famous modern artists (none of whom I've ever heard of, but I'm sure if someone is interested in modern art they would have heard of Richard Wentworth, tutor of Damien Hurst*).
King Richard has got in on the act by endorsing the charter, which has also been signed by Fiona Howard, Hay's Mayor.

*I have heard of Damien Hurst - I don't completely live down a hole when it comes to modern art!

Friday, 20 November 2009

Children in Need Coffee Morning

"We've come to drink coffee for Jesus!" announced the man as he entered Pam's house.
"Children in Need," she said.
"Well, them too," he grinned, and sat down to coffee and a slice of coffee cake.

Pam does a coffee morning every year for Children in Need, but this year she was away visiting her children, so it was a bit of a last minute rush to get publicity out. There weren't as many people coming to her house, but she also does a delivery service to the local shops and library and post office, where people can't get away from work to come.
And the cakes were the WI's finest - coffee, lemon drizzle and Victoria sponge.

It's actually been one of those serendipitous days when all sorts of unusual things happen.
After an interesting conversation with the man who wanted to drink coffee for Jesus and his friend, I set off for the launderette and met a local chap who has chronic health problems - and realised just how much appearances can mislead. I had no idea that he wrote poetry in French! Pretty good poetry, too, from the English stuff he showed me - but he said that he found French was a better language to write poetry in.
Having left the laundry to do its thing, I headed down to the Drill Hall to book a ticket for the Winter Festival. They're doing a talk on the Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen that looked interesting. I ran into Sally on the way, and she decided on the spot that she wanted to go too (while Islay tried to climb into her car - she loves going out with Sally).
And then I got a slightly desperate phone call in the afternoon from a friend whose son is appearing in a Victorian Christmas play at school - and could I help with the costume? She gave me a Victorian poke bonnet last year (which obviously wouldn't work for a boy) but she went away with a few items that could help the wardrobe along.

Thursday, 19 November 2009

Oyez! Oyez! Oyez! New Town Cryer Chosen!

We have a new Town Cryer, ready to step into Ken Smith's red coat and tricorne hat when Ken retires in May.
He's called George Tofarides, and he's half Welsh and half Greek Cypriot - and he speaks Welsh, so there may be some town crying in Welsh coming up! For the moment, he's shadowing Ken and learning about the history of the town - Ken also conducts guided tours of Hay as Town Cryer.
I see from the Brecon and Radnor that another candidate for the post was Rob Soldat, the storyteller - bad luck, Rob, and good luck to George!

Wednesday, 18 November 2009

Something Happening on the Pavement

Rumours have been going round about what's going to happen to the empty shop on the Pavement, which used to be the lower part of the Bookshop on the corner at the top of the hill.
Phil the Fruit told me that he'd been told that the new shop would be something that Hay doesn't have at the moment - so that ruled out antique shop, which had been the first guess.
Then the scaffolding went up to renovate the outside of the building, and painters and decorators were seen inside.
The next rumour was that it was going to be a wine merchant's.
After that, there was no activity going on that anyone passing could see, and the rumour was that the deal had fallen through.

Well, now the painters are back, and so it a little sign on the window - some definite news at last!

Veronica Guest is going to be exhibiting her watercolours there between 1st and 19th December. From the poster, the pictures look rather good.

Tuesday, 17 November 2009

In Which Lesley Becomes a Web Goblin....

The Fairtrade Group had a meeting last week (very pleasant - big soft leather armchairs at the back of the Three Tuns), and one of the things we discussed was how people could get in touch with us - which is easy if you know us personally, but not so easy otherwise. We decided that what we needed was a web presence and, as the only member of the committee with a blog, I volunteered to set up a new blog just for Fairtrade news and as a contact place for the committee.

So now we have for all Fairtrade news, views and comments.

Monday, 16 November 2009

From Little Plant Stalls....

Llanwrtyd Wells are about to start having a Tuesday Market.
What does this have to do with Hay? Well, for some time now, Jerry Monks, of Hancock and Monks music shop (found in Broad Street Book Centre) has been bringing plants along with him to display outside the shop when he spends a day at the desk.
It seems he hasn't only been selling plants in Hay. He lives in Llanwrtyd Wells, and he's started to have a plant stall on Tuesdays there, next to the mobile Post Office. This has done so well that other traders are about to join him - in fact, they held their first full market on 3rd November. According to the Free Flyer, there has been interest from local meat and egg producers and a baker, and other local traders are invited to join them in the Belle-Vue Hotel car park.
Well done, Jerry! Stimulating the local economy!

Sunday, 15 November 2009

Trip to the Big City

Well, Hereford, anyway.

I went in to see Mark off on the train, and after that, I had a bit of time to mooch around before it was time for the bus home.
There were a lot of signs up around town protesting about the proposed new shopping centre on the site of the present cattle market. With the shopping centre that Hereford already has under pressure, with stores like Chadds closed and quite a few empty shops, it seems that local feeling is that the Council should look after the shopping centre it's got, rather than spending millions on building a new one. Some of the shops had closed earlier on the Friday, to be there when a petition was handed in at the Town Hall.

I usually go in the Cathedral if I have time, and on Friday they had a display in one of the side parts - showing a pair of shoes for each person who had died on the roads in Herefordshire this year. Some were scruffy, some were smart - there was a lovely pair of evening shoes in a sort of turquoise, with matching evening bag. There were two pairs of biker's boots, too. It was a powerful reminder of the tragedies behind the road traffic statistics.

Saturday, 14 November 2009

Restaurant Review

After the convivial evening at Kilvert's, we decided to go quiet and intimate for a meal out together the following evening.
Mark chose the Three Tuns. We both had the fish cakes, with a side order of bread and olive oil dip, and the meal was delicious.
After a pause for digestion, we looked at the sweets menu. Mark chose the sticky toffee pudding and I had ice cream. He said the pudding was light, and just right after the main course - and he was glad he hadn't gone for the cheesecake (which was orange and cranberry that night). We saw two slices being delivered to another table, and they were huge!
Good service, relaxing atmosphere - and not far to go home afterwards!

Friday, 13 November 2009

Open Mic Night

I've been meaning to go to one of these for ages - but by the time I've finished work, and walked the dog and had my dinner I usually just want to go to bed! This week, however, my young man came to visit, so it was a good opportunity to take him out on the town.
They have interesting guest ales on at Kilverts now, and we rather liked the Witch's Rocket (can't remember the brewery).
The usual suspects were there in force - Tim the Gardener, Briar and Chris the Bookbinder were among the performers, and the bar was packed. It wasn't just singing to guitars either - there was a chap with a rather wonderful bouzouki with a friend playing something sitar or lute-like. Poetry was read out, among the music, including a eulogy to Biscuit, Athene English's dog who died last week, full of years.
It was also a night for birthdays. Cakes with candles were brought out for Peter and Paul - and when they found out that it was Mark's birthday too, we got a slice of cake each too!
We went out singing - and I unearthed my old song books when we got home, just in case I ever pluck up the courage to perform!

Friday, 6 November 2009

Problems with the Buses

I went up to the dentist's this morning (just the six monthly check up, thank goodness), so I passed the bus queue waiting for the Hereford bus - which was a bit late.
When I came out again, they were still there.
It seems that someone broke into the bus depot last night, and siphoned off large amounts of diesel, damaging some of the buses in the process, so this morning there were delays in the service.
The buses did turn up eventually, no thanks to the thieves.

Wednesday, 4 November 2009

National Express Memories

There was a customer in the Cinema the other day who said he hadn't been in the shop for about 35 years.
Back in the 1970s he was a National Express bus driver, and they ran a route through Hay from Cheltenham to Pembroke Dock. He used to dash down from Hereford so he arrived in Hay ten minutes early, then run round the corner from the bus stop to the Cinema to stock up on theology books (he was studying theology in his spare time).

Tuesday, 3 November 2009

Le Crunch....

...which is not an advert for French Golden Delicious apples, but a mini arts festival at the Globe.
(says she, getting the best joke over first - well, the only joke, really).

The Globe is running a weekend on ephemeral art from Friday 13th November to the Sunday, with music, talks, video art and so forth.
One quite nice touch is "a unique collaboration between local residents, Hereford College of Art and London's most promising emerging talent".
On the talks side of things, the question seems to be "Is ephemeral art the superficial product of a transient, superficial world? Or is it a profound rejection of the marketplace and a return to the authentic?" I'm sure that one will bring forth lots of different opinions.
Oh, and there's also a man who is apparently a legend in London, Brighton and Ibiza - Aubrey Fry and his dance music. The programme says 1am till late - I have a feeling the neighbours will not be delighted.

Meanwhile, for the rest of the month, the Globe will be celebrating the films of Clint Eastwood, hosting the B&R for a question and answer session, holding a Ladies Night for Jo and Annie to raise money for their (mad) scheme to run 152 miles across the desert next year (men can come as long as they dress as ladies - time for Derek Addyman to bring out that glamorous black sequinned number again, maybe!), and there'll be various kids' movies throughout the month. And more, of course. I'm just picking out the highlights that interest me.

Monday, 2 November 2009

Transition Towns latest

I got the newsletter for Transition Towns the other day, and it looks like they're keeping busy.
They've joined up as a group to the 10:10 campaign, which is aimed at reducing the participants' energy/carbon consumption by 10% over the next year. They have a website at and some good ideas about how we can reduce our energy bills and general consumption.

On Sunday, 8th November, there will be an Apple Day at Ty Glyn in Cusop Dingle, with juicing and so on, in association with Marcher Apple Network. There will be juicers and crushers and apples there, but anyone going along is encouraged to bring more and share their knowledge. For more information, phone Ainsleigh on 01497 820332.

Then on the 19th November, the Chamber of Commerce are meeting with Transition Towns in the Council Chambers. They've already had one meeting, last month, and Chattels shop said they'd almost halved their energy consumption by fitting low energy bulbs! At the next meeting, they'll be talking about trade waste and landfill.

And on a lighter note, there will be a social on Friday, 4th December, at the Swan (which is something I'll be able to get along to, and the one last year was fun).

Sunday, 1 November 2009

Busy Weekend - Hay-on-Fire

I did have various things planned for the weekend - I was going to go into Hereford for the Climate Change Hallowe'en Carnival, and there was a Fairtrade committee meeting, for instance - but all that went by the board when my sister phoned to say she was coming down for the weekend with her husband and my little nephew.
I don't get to see them that often.

So we went for dinner to Kilverts, and greatly enjoyed the steak and ale pie (and James ate almost a whole pizza! He's only four.).
In the background, there was a continuous loop of short films on the big TV screen. Hay-on-Fire 2007, the beheading of King Richard, Kilvert's beer festival, and the biker wedding, most of the films being done by Marches TV.

They couldn't stay for the whole of Hay-on-Fire - they had to be back home for Sunday morning - but they did get to see the afternoon entertainment. It started with Japanese drumming in the Buttermarket. The group is from the Abergavenny area, and the leader said it was only their second public event! They were very good - and there was even a real Japanese lady drumming with them. James sat near the front of the crowd with his hands over his ears.
There was also a parade of giant costumes made by various local schools - we'd been in Booth's Bookshop earlier, and seen two of the models, a witch and a wizard, on the big table upstairs. They had two days of workshops in there for the children to make them.
Then there was Morris dancing, with a tiny girl in a pink frock dancing away to the side of them. James enjoyed the dances where they banged sticks together. One of the dancers rather enjoyed dancing off into the back of Llewellyn's shop - and the other way into the British Legion - during one of the dances they did outside Kilvert's, re-emerging just in time to join the rest of them as the dance continued.
There were some good costumes around, too - I was particularly taken by the black cloak with thick gold embroidery, worn with a black feathered hat.

I missed the procession going through town in the evening - I was having tea with my sister just before they went home, already in my Goth dress and cloak. I caught up with the tail end of the procession by the church. The road was solid with people right down to the track to the Warren, and the track to the Warren was solid with people all the way down as well. I heard a few grumbles at the slow pace of things - until we all got to the liquid mud puddles which had been causing the bottleneck.
I got a drink at the (expensive) licenced bar - XOX Organics were there too, and an ice cream van, and a couple of other vans - and joined the back of the crowd overlooking the bend in the river where everything was set up. I thought at first that I was at the back of a crowd that was three or four deep - until I looked down the slope and realised that the crowd was actually about twenty or thirty deep!
The Japanese drummers were there, in a tent, and an a capella choir who sang 'Money - That's What I Want'. There seemed to be a money theme - there were burning dollar signs, and a pound sign on the chest of the wicker man that was burned near the end. There was a samba band, and fire poi (swinging flames around on the end of pieces of chain) and cross-dressing Morris men (I spotted Derek Addyman in a gorgeous black sequinned costume).

The fireworks were AWESOME!
They must have blown three quarters of their budget on the rockets, and they were WOW!

Hay-on-Fire's displays are always good, but I think the last time I saw anything like this was at WorldCon 87 in Brighton, when the fireworks were let off from Brighton Beach, and could allegedly be seen (and heard) in France.

Then there were the after-display parties around town, and bunches of costumed people wandering round.
A man in a sombrero asked me if I'd like to come to Cairo with him, while I was walking the dog!
A man outside Kilvert's, seeing my costume, said "If you're off to celebrate a black Satanic mass, we're coming too!"
"Damn!" I answered, "and I forgot the black cockerel!"

Friday, 30 October 2009

Yarn Bombing

The ladies from Stitch and Bitch were out last night, scattering yarn around the town. Keep an eye on for photos of what we were up to!

Monday, 26 October 2009

More Missing Street Furniture

I don't go across the bridge every day, but it was mild and sunny this morning, and Islay wasn't quite as stiff as she has been, so we headed for the Offa's Dyke Path.
On the town side of the bridge, up until now, there has been a road sign, powered by a little solar panel. When cars come across the bridge fairly slowly, it stays dark, but when they approach at over 30 miles an hour, the sign lights up '30', to warn them to slow down for the impending junction.
Or at least, it did. It's disappeared entirely now, though there is a sort of socket in the pavement where it could be put back.

Saturday, 24 October 2009

Busy Weekend at the Castle

Last night was the Help for Heroes concert, Amalgamation Reunited - and I understand that all 500 tickets were sold for it. I saw the marquees when I passed earlier in the day, and heard someone practicing. I haven't met anyone who actually went to it yet, but it seems to have been successful.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the Castle, up the steps, signboards were appearing. This is part of the 350 campaign to take action on climate change, and the steps up to the castle were an ideal way of showing what happens when the CO2 emissions in the atmosphere get higher and higher.
It's part of the International Climate Day of Action - there are 15 others going on all over Wales, and one in Hereford which is part of 150 events in the UK.
'350' is the parts per million of CO2 in the atmosphere that campaigners see as the safe limit, before global warming spirals out of control. Events like this are being held all through the run up to the UN climate talks at Copenhagen in December.
Photos from all the events round the world will be given to the UN, and will also be displayed on the big screen in Times Square in New York.

I couldn't get to this event either - a friend dropped in for a cup of tea.

Thursday, 22 October 2009

The Bench is Gone....

....from outside the HSBC bank. Can it be that the only way to fit new benches into the middle of town is to take out the ones that were already there first?
Or has it gone for good?

Wednesday, 21 October 2009

Farenheit 451

....which is the temperature at which books burn, according to Ray Bradbury's famous book.
In other words, we're having a new fire alarm put in, which involves miles of cables and large drills making holes in the walls.
And at the same time, we've had the BBC in, doing some filming for Antiques Roadshow.
They seemed very efficient, quickly in and out, and nobody got us to say things like "An e-book?!" like the people from the One Show did.

Monday, 19 October 2009

A Little Bit of History

I've met people before who remember the Cinema when it was a cinema, but today I met someone who had helped to build it! He even went upstairs to see if the ceiling he had helped to put in was still there!
(It was - the blue one with stars painted on it. He was so pleased).

He told me that the original cinema was a little bit down the hill somewhere, and that it kept on working while the new cinema was being built. This was in around 1965. The projectionist from the cinema kept coming up to the building site and scrounging wood for his fire, and after a while, the builders said: "Come on - we've given you all this wood. When are you going to show us a film?"

They chose a day when the boss visited the site in the morning, so they knew he wouldn't be back for the rest of the day. Then they downed tools and headed off to the old cinema, and settled down to watch one of the Lassie films.
When the film was over, they were going to go back to site, but one of their number wouldn't move. "We haven't had God Save the Queen yet!" he complained!

Saturday, 17 October 2009

...And Then There Were Five

The cygnets are back by the bridge, and starting to show specks of white in their brown plumage - but there are only five of them now.
It was warm and sunny yesterday, and I saw more butterflies than I'd seen all summer, Red Admirals and Tortoiseshells mostly. There were clouds of little flies over the fields above the bridge, too. I thought that this would be good fuel for the swallows as they started their journey back to Africa - until I realised that, despite the warm sun, we are in the middle of October, and the swallows are long gone. And I didn't notice them go this year.
Meanwhile, the potato trailers are about finished, but more agricultural machinery has been trundling through town with the remains of the hop harvest dusted over them.

Friday, 16 October 2009

Come to Barclays Bank....

....unless it's Wednesday.
I passed by the bank on Wednesday lunchtime and met a lady with chequebook in hand who was wondering why the doors were locked.
To be fair to the bank, leaflets and a poster have been around for some time, advertising the change in opening hours - but I had to laugh at the way they worded it. Apparently, we're not getting less service - we're just getting service "at slightly different times".
In practice this means that we have gone from 100% service on Wednesdays to no service at all.
When I first heard about it, I did wonder if this was the thin edge of the wedge and they would eventually shut the branch altogether. Then it also occured to me that some shops in Hay use the bank every weekday, so they're all going to change the way they deal with their cash.
Of course, the poster in the window says that anyone is welcome to use the branch in Brecon.
I really can't see that happening. Someone who needs change for the till at short notice is not going to shut the shop for an hour while they drive to Brecon and back - and the bus is even worse. If anyone in Hay actually needed to visit the bank on a Wednesday urgently, and could only use the bus, that's nearly an hour's journey to Brecon, visit the bank, wait around for two hours and then spend another hour on the bus coming back.

Thank goodness there are two other banks in Hay.

Wednesday, 14 October 2009

Next Step for the Commonwealth

But first, a letter from the B&R from a fervent Royalist, on the recent execution:

"Elizabeth is Knot amused

I am sending in this letter to the Brecon & Radnor Express to correct a false impression given in The Brecon & Radnor Express in the Thursday, October 1st edition.
Perhaps your reporter Nigel Evans was deliberately given misinformation by the ingrates and traitors who beheaded the effigy of King Richard Booth in Hay Butter Market just recently.
Far from being a 'relatively small but loyal band of royal supporters', those who turned out to express their love and their loyalty to King Richard far, far outnumbered the wreched malcontents who represented nobody but their traitorous selves.
The Sealed Knot had to be imported from elsewhere."

Well, Col. John Birch's Regiment is local to Herefordshire, which is why they were chosen to assist in the execution - and there may have been a lot of Royalists at the execution, but there was certainly a loud cheer when King Richard's head was cut off!
Marches TV now has film of the event, with interviews afterwards, at

And now the Buttermarket will be used by the Commonwealth again, for a less bloody occasion.
Hay Corner will be the Commonwealth's equivalent of Speaker's Corner in London, where anyone can come to stand on a soapbox (kindly lent by Kilvert's) to rant about whatever they please. The first Hay Corner will take place on 1st November, between 12.30pm and 3pm, and is aimed at attracting local speakers. For the second session, on 22nd November, some big names are being invited (watch this space!).
The Commonwealth believes in Free Speech For All.
The Commonwealth has also been given official recognition, in the form of a government grant to hire the Buttermarket for this purpose.

Meanwhile, the First Minister of Hay will be writing an official letter to the man who may shortly become the First Minister of Wales when Rhodri Morgan retires. Carwyn Jones has recently made comments about the deplorable state of Bridgend town centre - and made the point that it does not have a bookshop! Our First Minister will point out to him that, here in Hay, we know how to keep a vibrant town centre filled with local businesses - and we're certainly not short of a few bookshops! Maybe Carwyn Jones should make a State visit, to see how it's done.

Saturday, 10 October 2009


After a freezing cold day yesterday, it's turned very mild and sunny today - so I decided to do some gardening. Yesterday, I took Islay down to the Co-op and, as a reward for being able to walk so far (she couldn't have done it last Friday - in fact, we tried and had to turn back) we went in Hay and Brecon Farmers on the way back for a treat for her. While I was there, I noticed some dwarf daffodil bulbs, and thought a bit of spring colour might be nice.
So, this morning I went looking for the plant troughs I knew I had somewhere. I finally found them under the comfrey plants - but I couldn't use one of them. It was full of water, and three little heads popped up to look at me! I had no idea we had frogs in the garden, and frogs now is far better than daffodils in six months time, so I left them there, and found something else to plant the bulbs in.

We had a potter round town after that. There was a girl in Londis inviting customers to try new flavours of Tyrell's crisps (the pork and apple was very nice - and I don't usually like crisps). Next door, Simon was sitting on the doorstep of Goosey Ganders with a cup of tea balanced on top of a little classical column. He was taking a break from making a new chandelier, which is hanging in the window. When he started off, he just had the arms of it, but now he's got a couple of boxes of crystal pieces to add to it, and some lovely turquoise glass he found on the Greek island of Santorini. It's going to look magnificent when it's done.

Up by HSBC, the busker had wandered off and left his stool and guitar there. (Only in Hay!)

Meanwhile, posters have gone up all round town for Amalgamation Reunited - half a dozen bands are coming to Hay Castle on October 23rd to play in aid of Help for Heroes - and there's going to be a hog roast and a bar. Sounds like it could be a good night out.

Thursday, 8 October 2009

First Frost...

...and mist over the river, with sunshine filtered through the yellowing leaves of the trees. It was an absolutely gorgeous morning to walk the dog along the Offa's Dyke Path - where there is a new finger post, at the top of the steps on the other side of the river. Amongst other things, like the Wye Valley Walk, it tells you that Kington is 14 miles away along the footpath.
Down at the water's edge, dodging the flying seeds from the Himalayan Balsam as I ducked through them to watch Islay having a little paddle, I noticed that the mist was moving at the same speed as the water in the river.
I haven't seen the six cygnets for a while, but the adult swans have been about.
When I came up out of the woods, most of the mist was gone, and it was a beautiful sunny (and cold) morning.

Wednesday, 7 October 2009

"Who's Visiting the Cathedral?"

Nigel Evans has a fun job. He's the B&R reporter who did the piece on King Richard's execution last week - and this week he's been at Brecon Cathedral, where scenes from Doctor Who were being filmed!
They had the Tardis in a corner of the cathedral, and everything!
The cathedral is apparently standing in for a Museum of Artefacts, and was chosen over rivals Gloucester and Llandaff.
The Dean and the Verger both had their photos taken, coming out of the Tardis.

Tuesday, 6 October 2009

Last Word on the Signboards

Things seem to have settled down around the old horse trough. Jean's new laminated sign for Open Door has been unmolested, and so has the sign that was put up to advertise the rug sale at the Swan last week. At the moment there's a sign taped to the post there for the Painscastle Cider Festival, which has been there for a couple of days.
It seems all the excitement is over.

Sunday, 4 October 2009

Hay Heads

Well, I was supposed to be down a cave in the Forest of Dean, but Islay was too ill to go - I couldn't inflict two days of camping on her when she could hardly walk. She seems much recovered now.
So I was in Hay, and not working, and free to go to Eugene Fisk's exhibition at Tinto House and the Oriel Gallery.
Which was all very civilised, chatting away to people I knew slightly, some of whom had their portraits up on the walls around us. Unlike the previous two days, it's been bright and sunny and warm today, so Tinto House with it's lovely garden was a perfect setting.
Then I went up to the Oriel Gallery to find myself the only one there. The chap in charge said that the place had been full earlier - he said that Sundays were the best day to start an exhibition. On Fridays no-one wants to go out, on Saturdays they shop, but on Sundays they like to look at something interesting before or after lunch. He expected more people later - and some of the pictures have already sold.

Friday, 2 October 2009

'Vandalism' at St Eigon's

There's a little story about St Eigon's Church in Llanigon on the Way-on-High website (and in their magazine) this month. The link to Way-on-High is on the sidebar. Click on 'Church Notices' to find the article.

Thursday, 1 October 2009

After the Execution....

Tim the Gardener was inspired to write a poem:

On Monday 28.9.09
I met a moping Royalist
patrolling Hay this morning
I greeted him quite royally
but he pretended scorning,
ignoring me and strolling on
was all he could contrive
no hello, jest, jibe or blow,
he barely seemed alive
"He'll do his rounds," I thought, "and then
go home for cup of tea
amid the fitted kitchen
armchairs, sofa and TV
and dwell upon the good old days
while nursing more resent
but fail to see his own hand in
former dismal non-event."
God send us leaping Morris men
and Rodgers fit to dodge
not grown up men who snub like girls
and can't discuss the grudge
God send us laughing holy men
and a Tiny Tim who's tall
and we will cut a caper in
this waxworks 'ere we fall.
Republicans cannot be snobs
whatever else we be
for in our day all nobs are topped
or hung upon a tree
We're common men and Levellers
That structures our ambition
No-one and nothing known can be
beneath our recognition.
Meanwhile, in the press, there's a good piece in the B&R this week (page 5, with Boz being menaced by two Cavaliers), and there's a piece on the Guardian website at

Hay Heads Art Exhibition

There have been posters around town for some time now, saying that the exhibition will be 'Coming Soon'.
Eugene Fisk has been painting portraits of Hay people, and now he's ready to put them on display, in Tinto House and at the Oriel Contemporary Art gallery at Salem Chapel. Unfortunately, I'll be down a cave in the Forest of Dean on the day of the private viewing, but the exhibition will be going on from 7th to 31st October, 2pm to 5pm from Wednesdays to Sundays.
The portraits of Lucy (of the Three Tuns) and Gareth Ratcliffe are on the posters, and are instantly recognisable, and very good, as is the portrait of one of Marina's friends, so this should be an exhibition worth going to see.

Sunday, 27 September 2009

The Execution of the King of Hay

That was fun!
And I think a good time was had by all - even the Royalists!

There were a few last minute panics and alarums in the days leading up to the execution.
We did have a 'body double' for Richard, a short man who would walk under the cloak, with the fake head on a stick. However, he was seen drinking with Royalist sympathisers in the Crown - and the Royalists were overheard plotting to kidnap the head, so there were some fears that our man under the cloak might do a runner with the head.
Fortunately, there was just enough time to make an effigy to go under the cloak instead, to be carried by two guards. Oxfam very generously loaned us a wicker mannequin body (I promised faithfully to have it back at the shop on Monday morning, as that's the day they change their window display and they said they might need it).
Tim's model of the head is absolutely magnificent, and spookily like Richard when you put the glasses on - but just in case there was an attempt to take it, we had a reserve head made out of half a pillowcase stuffed with rags, with a face drawn on it in black marker pen.
(Both heads came with a handy carrying handle for the use of the executioner when he held it aloft.)
Rumours of Royalist plots were rife around town. Young Henrietta wanted to lead a cavalry charge to rescue Richard - but was persuaded out of it by Paul. Ponies, mixed with crowds of onlookers, as well as the procession - not a safe mix. In the event, she was there taking photos instead, as she wanted to enter an Under-18s photography competition.
And then there was this article in Way-on-High:

"Long Live the King, God Save our King.

On Sunday 27th September at 1pm the King of Hay, Richard Booth, is to be paraded, in effigy, through the town from Boz Books to the Butter Market, where malcontents and ingrates intend to execute him.
Members of the Sealed Knot Society are being brought in to add colour and gravitas. And to attract the press, which is what this is all about. But how could we want the press to see us as treacherous and ungrateful and cruel? How can we let them imagine we have turned on King Richard? Who could replace him? Peter Florence is busy with the Literary Festivals. Father Richard, already Archbishop of Hay, has enough to do sustaining us in our hours of need. Anyway he and Jimmy generate an amazing amount of publicity for Hay, in books, newspapers, magazines and on the television, just by being their own dear selves. Please, do come and shout 'God Save Our King' and 'Long Live the King' or support the King in any way you can, to show the media that Hay is the dear loving tolerant town that it is.
So many of us have benefitted from all he has done here. We owe him so much. Now is the moment to stand by him, and to stand by the reputation of Hay.
PLEASE, PLEASE DO. The members of the Tuesday Club are going to come, with banners."

I'm not entirely sure who the Tuesday Club are, except that they are something to do with the church, but it was they who put Royalist posters up all round the Buttermarket. I'm afraid they got taken down - Paul was feeling a bit paranoid after hearing about the other plots (which came to nothing).

The Sealed Knot, Col. John Birch's Regiment, turned out in force for us. We mustered at the entrance to the Cattle Market, close to Boz's shop - and just as we were about to march out, some idiot lit a Chinese firecracker. I was at the back of the procession, so I saw a lady come out of the house there and shout at him. I think she gave him a broom and made him clear the mess up. We all left him to it.
Meanwhile at the front of the march, a Royalist heckler (also Sealed Knot) fought a duel with the leader of the procession and died dramatically in the car park. He was next seen among the Royalist supporters, holding one of their placards! For there was a little demonstration by the Buttermarket, with placards, and a rather good Cavalier costume (considering the short notice). There was quite a big crowd altogether, which was very pleasing.
The King's head came off at a single blow (thanks to a short rehearsal the night before) and was duly held aloft, and after a short speech or two proclaiming the Commonwealth (and a few words from Shakespeare, who was present), the procession marched away back down Castle Street, and after stashing their weapons, retired to Kilvert's for a well-earned drink. (Edited to add: Kilvert's named their beer festival bar The King's Head, in honour of the occasion!)

Most people took it in good part - one chap said he was going to raise a Royalist regiment for next year (but since he was one of the plotters who intended to steal the head, I think that can be taken with a pinch of salt).
Someone threw an egg, but it didn't do any damage.

We might do it again next year.

Saturday, 26 September 2009

Climate Action Carnival

Off to Hereford this morning, with several purposes in mind.

On the last Saturday of every month up to December, when the UN Climate Change Summit takes place in Copenhagen, a local group of concerned individuals are holding a Carnival in Hereford High Town, each with a different theme. Today's was local food production.
So I was going along to get involved with that, and I was wearing Parliamentarian kit because the climate change people said they wanted people to come in costume - and I thought I could kill two birds with one stone by also taking along some leaflets for the King's Execution to give out on my travels.

I walked up from the bus station towards the town square, and the first thing I saw was market stalls. In the middle of the square there was a vast array of delicious looking Italian food, with Italian flags flying - but where was the Climate Change Carnival? Ah, yes, squeezed into a corner by Marks and Spencers was a little stall, a microphone, and a couple of bikes. It's typical really that something so important should be given so little recognition.
They did their best, though. There was a poet and a musician (who sang Wonderful, Wonderful Copenhagen with new words about the climate change summit), and a samba band led the procession round the pedestrianised bits of Hereford town centre. I found myself waving a little green flag, a sense of rhythm not being one of my strong points.
(Their website is at )

I couldn't stay for the film and talk at the Shire Hall, as I had to get back for the bus, but it was a fun morning out, and I shall be going along again for Hallowe'en, all Gothed up!

Friday, 25 September 2009

It's not Easy, Being a Postman in Hay

There's a new postman doing the round, and the other day, I saw him standing outside in the road, scratching his head as he looked at the address on a letter he was holding.
Being a helpful soul (and nosy), I went out to him.
"Where's the Tanner's Arms?" he asked.
Ah. I pointed to a nearby building that is now divided up into flats. There is no sign up at the door saying it is the Tanner's Arms, and the building doesn't look as if it were ever a pub in the past.

He needed some more help the next day, when he delivered a letter to me that should have gone to Newport Street. This happens quite regularly with different postmen - and I don't think there is a street sign anywhere for Newport Street (I could go out and look, but I'm feeling idle).

There's a lot in Hay that either isn't labelled, or needs local knowledge like that.

"The management don't help," the postman said. He was only doing this round for a week, before being moved off somewhere else for a couple of weeks - so when he came back to Hay, he'd have forgotten it all again.

Wednesday, 23 September 2009

Thank you, Hen!

I usually see Hen these days when she comes to the shop to haul her father out from a quiet afternoon's browsing. Anthony, her father, used to be known as the Mad Monk when he had a little bookshop down Backfold for a while. She's getting to the stage where she's not a little girl any more.

Today, she brought something in for me. Last year, she took a photo of Islay trotting along Broad Street, grinning all over her face - and Hen has framed up a copy and given it to me! It really made my day!

She's started selling some of her artwork to raise money to support the eleven rescue ponies she looks after, as well as various other pets. Eleven! I knew she was keen on ponies, but not that keen!

On the back of the picture, she's taped a little explanatory note, and she says: "Eventually, I'm going to have my own riding school and rescue centre." I think she's determined enough to do it, too.

Examples of Hen's work can be found at
and I wish her the best of luck!

Sunday, 20 September 2009

Revolution Photos

I wasn't just enjoying the Transition Towns bicycle day yesterday - I was also in costume in order to give out leaflets advertising the Execution of the King of Hay. Which was quite an interesting experience.
One lady tried to give me money.
One or two people felt quite sorry for the King.
Then, when I was passing the Castle, I felt like being cheeky, so I popped in and gave a leaflet to the lad on the till. He looked it over, and then said; "Huh, I'll hold the basket!"
Later, in the town square, a lady said; "It's about time somebody chopped his head off - he took our Cinema away from us!"
(Richard opened his first big shop at the Cinema)
And Old Dave at the Hourglass Gallery said that Paul, as our Lord Protector, should ride his horse into the Castle to clear out all the Royalists! "Isn't that what Oliver Cromwell did in Parliament?" he asked.

This evening, I met Paul, Boz and Tom at the Buttermarket for photos in costume. Paul has been sending emails out with press releases - and one of his targets emailed him back within about five minutes, asking for photos! I think it's one of the book trade magazines.

Saturday, 19 September 2009

Transition Towns Transport Day

There was lots going on in the Buttermarket and the Market Square when I went up to have a look. I took the old (gent's) bike I'd been given to have a service, as they were doing free servicing for the day. I knew there wasn't much wrong with it, but I've never had an 18 speed bike before, and I needed someone to explain to me how they worked in words of one syllable (I think I understand it now). The girl from Drover Holidays was there, and they now have a workshop where they will repair bikes - you could also get a 20% off voucher to use with them later if you couldn't bring your bike along today.
They had a lot of good information about cycle trails and walking routes and buses in the Buttermarket, and a chap with a stall about more eco-friendly driving habits. Of course, a lot of it was leisure use of bike or walking - and I'd quite like more emphasis to be placed on essential bike and bus use, since I don't have a car to reduce the use of. There was a bicycle powered smoothie maker, too. There was some information about car sharing, too.
Outside, the Dial-a-Ride buses were parked up, along with the electric bikes (though they weren't parked up for long because people kept having a go on them). There was also a solar powered car, with the bonnet up and a chap explaining how it all worked.
As well as all that, there was a stall with ideas for general energy saving around the home, solar panels, facts about wind farms and so on. And a clown who rode a bike while wearing stilts, and also had a little tiny bike and a penny farthing.
And there was the fancy dress bike ride for the kids (and a few adults). There was a big turn out for that, with a steward and a police car at Heol-y-dwr corner to stop the traffic for them as they went down the hill to the start of the cycle route along the river. I got up to the square again just as they were coming back, and the 'knight in shining armour' won the fancy dress prize of a cycle helmet.
It was a very good event, and they obviously put a huge amount of work into it.

Friday, 18 September 2009

Freecycle and Freegle

I first saw that there was something strange going on when I looked at the Self Sufficientish forum, which I browse through every week or so. Someone was complaining bitterly about the American founders of the Freecycle movement and how they were throwing moderators out of the system seemingly without warning. Some of the UK group moderators have thus left the Freecycle system and started their own, Freegle, which they believe they can better tailor to the needs of the local groups (by having Freecycle points at local landfill sites, for example). In this area, the Brecon and Hay group have gone over to Freegle - they more or less said they'd jumped before they were pushed, but the Hereford group seem to have stayed with Freecycle.

I don't think it makes much difference to the ordinary person who just wants to get rid of the contents of their shed without going to landfill, but it obviously has made a lot of difference to those dedicated volunteers who run the show behind the scenes.

Here in Hay, being on the border as ever, we have the choice of either or both the Hereford or Brecon systems.
I think I'd look at the Freegle option, myself, if I were thinking of joining, as it's UK based, and appears to be more democratically run than the American version, from what I can gather. As it happens, I'm now a member of both, without having done anything at all, so we'll see how it goes from here.

Wednesday, 16 September 2009

State Execution

The plans to chop the head off Hay's King proceed apace.
Tim the Gardener has sculpted a brilliant likeness of Richard Booth, and has been provided with Jacob's sheep fleece for the hair and some thick rimmed glasses to finish it off - and a gold crown out of a cracker. There will, of course, be a body double for the King at the execution, holding the sculpted head. The King himself was invited, but had already booked a holiday in Spain.
The final details of the procession of the prisoner to the place of execution were discussed (that's the Buttermarket on Sunday 27th Sept, the procession starting at 1pm). We have costume, we have the Sealed Knot (with better costume), we have flags, we have a big axe. And there's a beer festival on at Kilvert's.
It's going to be a bit of fun!

I know there are people around town who disagree with the execution, and feel rather sorry for the King, but he did say himself, in a phone call to Paul, the Lord Protector "It's all publicity for Hay, isn't it?" Which is the point - and he doesn't seem terribly upset about it.

Monday, 14 September 2009

Climate Action Carnivals

When I was at the Globe on Saturday, I picked up a leaflet for the Climate Action Carnival in Hereford.
Apparently it's been an on-going event since the end of July, and I hadn't heard a thing about it till now (that'll teach me to keep my eye on the Hereford Times!)
At the end of every month, from about midday, there are 'family friendly events and information about climate action' in High Town, followed by 'film/speakers/dicussion/make-it-happen-in-your-own-backyard workshops/information exchange' at the Shire Hall.
July was on how to reduce your carbon footprint
August was Greening our Transport
and September will be Eating the Planet Fitter, with talks and workshops on food, including a Grow Your Own local expert panel!
October will be a Monster Carnival - plus lowering the carbon impact of our homes
and November, the final one before the Copenhagen Climate Summit, will be 'STOP CLIMATE CHAOS!!'
They have a website at

I don't watch much TV, but even I'm aware of the Bangladeshi villages that are flooded out at high tide every day, with the people living on the top of the earth embankments that were supposed to protect them - and the Pacific Islands that are starting to submerge, with entire populations having to leave (one island has an agreement with New Zealand, I believe). We aren't seeing much in the way of climate change here, but there's no doubt it's happening, and that we humans, especially in the developed world, have a responsibility for it. The Hereford Carnivals are also meant to show the politicians what grass roots support there is for action on climate change, in the run up to this very important meeting of world leaders.

Wear colours or costumes, they say - well, I'll take any excuse to wear costumes....

Sunday, 13 September 2009

Klezmonauts at the Globe

I like Klezmer music, Jewish folk music from Eastern Europe, so the promise of a ten piece klezmer band with dancing at the Globe was not to be missed.
When I got to the Globe, the band (all dressed in variations on orange and black) were still having their dinner, but we soon went downstairs, where all the seating had been cleared back to make room for the dancing.
It started off simply, just holding hands and walking round in a circle - but it quickly got more complicated than that. One fun dance was supposed to be a line of drunken sailors staggering back to their ship! There was a little boy there, with an "I-don't-want-to-be-here" face, who was persuaded up for the first dance and resolutely sat out the rest - and then it was "I don't want to be here - and what are all these mad grown-ups doing?"
Having a good time, is what.
I had a chat with the leader of the dances in the interval, and it turned out that we'd met before, at a Transition Towns event. He lives in Machynlleth, but he's involved in renovating a polytunnel at Baskerville Hall in Clyro. The Hall has been very helpful, apparently, even providing the volunteers with a mobile home. He was planning to tour the area by bus and bike the next day, going up to Capel-y-ffin and ending up at Abergavenny.
The second half was a mix of music and storytelling, and the storyteller also told us about his recent trip to Poland, which inspired him to write a klezmer tune - he went to Cracow to discover his roots, and told us that, in 1939, there were 68,000 practicing Jews in Cracow - now there are just 38. He described the tune, though, as 'life-affirming', despite the shadow of the Holocaust.

Friday, 11 September 2009

Stitch and Bitch for the Autumn

Last week, we were supposed to be meeting up again to learn how to knit with wire from a visiting speaker (well, Sharon's brother). Unfortunately, he was too ill to attend, but Sharon brought pictures of his work with her on a laptop, and very impressive they looked. We had a very jolly time even without the demonstration, and a new member who had driven quite a distance - so I hope she wasn't too disappointed, or thought we were all too mad!
We have a slightly amended schedule for the rest of the year, with free-form knitting/crocheting on 1st October, more free-form, circular knitting and socialising for Hallowe'en on 29th October (so as not to clash with either Hay-on-Fire, which is on again this year, or Bonfire Night), and felt pipe cleaner dolls on December 3rd (possibly fairies, or angels, since it's so close to Christmas).
Some of us turn up on other Thursdays between 6pm and 8pm at the Swan, just to bring our own projects along and have a chat.

Thursday, 10 September 2009


There was a stall on the market today giving free bike servicing, and they seemed to be really quite busy.
This is in preparation for the Transition Towns extravaganza next Saturday, 'Celebrating Tomorrow's Transport'.
I've also seen one or two of the electric bikes that are being trialed around the area.

It won't just be bicycles, though. They are also giving advice on car sharing/pooling, Dial-a-Ride, electric cars, eco driving (whatever that may be) - and they'll even have a bike powered smoothie maker!
The local footpath officer will be there, and someone will be handing out bus timetables - so I think I'll be bending their ear with the same thing I've been banging on about for the past twenty years - evening buses, or at least something later than 5.50pm from Hereford. (It's actually cheaper to go to a Bed and Breakfast in Hereford if you miss the last bus to Hay, and get the first bus the next morning, rather than get a taxi that evening.)
There's going to be a children's fancy dress bike ride, and a circus performer who rides a bike while on stilts.

If the weather's anything like it's been today, it should be a good day out.

Wednesday, 9 September 2009

Latest from the B&R

Three people I know in the B&R this week, with pictures!
On the front page, Kate Freeman is pictured with some of her art work, as she prepares to be the artist-in-residence at Glasbury Arts again this year. She'll be running several workshops.
On page 3 is the latest news on the departure of Ken Smith as Hay Town Cryer. It seems there have been three applicants for his job, two male and one female, and the Town Council are considering how best to choose between them. It could include a 'cry off' to see which one is best. As Lesley Moore at the Council offices says - Ken is going to be a hard act to follow.
On the Arts pages, Jo Eliot is posing with a film poster (Rebecca) as she is interviewed about her life - she was the driving force behind the Film Festival in Hay.

We've also got Gurkhas parading and dancing through the streets of Brecon, and a Sergeant of the Parachute Regiment doing a sponsored walk dressed as a Roman soldier in authentic, heavy, armour.
A lady of 83 who had a stroke that paralysed her right side ten years ago has just won a prize for her embroidery - she taught herself to embroider with her left hand, with the help of the carers at the old people's home she now lives in.
And Dewi Bowen remembers the war years, with an excellent drawing of a Whitley bomber skimming over the keep of Morlais Castle, which he drew in 1942 - he grew up to be a renowned illustrator.

It may not be earth-shattering news, but it's what keeps a community together.

Tuesday, 8 September 2009

Film Festival Weekend

I've been otherwise engaged this last weekend, as my young man came up from London to visit.

One of the reasons he came was the Film Festival, and the chance to see The Wicker Man on the big screen (the original version with Edward Woodward and Christopher Lee rather than the re-make with Nicholas Cage).
Earlier in the evening, we got to go to the Launch Party on behalf of the Cinema (Deb generously said that, as I did the cinema window, I should get to go to the party). It was held upstairs in Booths, and the re-decoration had only just been finished. It used to give off a general aura of shabbiness - but now! Two-seater settees down the middle of the floor, piled with comfortable cushions and blankets, and a tree fern at the far end. New roof lights, more comfortable seating at the front of the shop - it's all very impressive.
Addyman's won the bottle of champagne for the best window (they put up a lot of old movie posters and even have a costume for Henry VIII), and Backfold Books came runner-up - chiefly, I think, for the inclusion in the display of a book about the history of the chicken in film!

The Wicker Man was great fun, and we also went to see Carravagio, directed by Derek Jarman. Which was - odd, and disjointed, and visually gorgeous, and starred a young Sean Bean. Carravagio himself, Mark informed me, also played King Arthur in Excalibur. We staggered out of that one saying "I need a drink now," and retired to Kilvert's to try to make sense of what we'd just seen!

Wednesday, 2 September 2009

Great Porthamel and the Anaerobic Digester

Some time ago, Great Porthamel Farm, near Talgarth, applied to build an Anaerobic Digester to deal with waste products from Merthyr Tydfil abattoir. They were already spreading this stuff on their fields, and the digester would be a more efficient way of disposing of it - and provide energy at the same time.
There were protests locally, inevitably - smell, lorries, and so on - and the application was turned down by the National Parks.
Great Porthamel Farm are now appealing that decision, and have a website setting out what is involved.
You can find it at

And as they publicise this in the latest Wye Local, so a letter appears in the B&R supporting them eloquently.
"We need more projects like this for our future," says Roderick Williams of Talgarth. "The trouble is that when people do not understand something the immediately panic and in turn panic others by disinformation, propaganda and sometimes deliberate lies."

Monday, 31 August 2009

Secular Sundays

For a change, I wasn't working on a Sunday, and I noticed that there was a talk on at the Globe in the afternoon that sounded interesting. It was under the heading of Secular Sundays, but it was a talk by a member of the Pagan Federation - so not exactly my idea of secular. The Pagans have all manner of gods and goddesses to worship, so maybe 'secular' just means 'non-Christian' in this context.
Only about half a dozen people turned up to listen to Richard Fox, though more drifted in and out for parts of the talk. He gave a general introduction to what paganism is, and the different varieties that have grown up, from the original Gardnerian Wicca just after the Second World War, through druids and shamans and the Northern tradition of the Norse gods. He was also honest about the varieties of paganism that he hadn't personally had experience of, when asked questions, which was good. He wasn't trying to pretend he knew everything.
One young couple who came along were walking in the area, and looking at historical monuments. After the talk, they asked about the motte in town, and I told them the story about Gerald of Wales, when he was touring Wales with Archbishop Baldwin, preaching the Crusade. He preached to such good effect in Hay (he said modestly) that the men of Hay surged forwards to take the Cross, to the horror of their wives, who tried to haul them back by their cloaks and shirts. Eventually, they had to take cover from their angry womenfolk inside the castle!
The couple decided to walk out to have a look at Mouse Castle, too, just outside Hay (the name is a Welsh pun on 'look-out').
Chatting after the talk, I found that Richard and I knew some people in common in the archaeological world, so he and his lady, Audrey, ended up coming round to my house for a cup of tea.

Sunday, 30 August 2009

Latest from the Brecon and Radnor

Can it be true?
It's on the front page.
"Community centre given go-ahead.
A long delayed youth and community centre in Hay-on-Wye has finally been given the go-ahead."
Which sounds good until you read the second sentence.
"Brecon Beacons National Park Authority's planning committee granted conditional consent for the centre, which will be built on the town's western approach."
It's the 'conditional' that bothers me.

Way back, before the Millennium, Hay needed, and wanted, a new community centre. I know of two consultations that were done, both at great expense. Nothing happened.
One of the sub-committees formed to celebrate the Millennium for Hay was concerned with lobbying for a new community centre, such as the one Clifford had recently gained, but the talks with the County Council petered out.
There were plans for a combined community and sports centre near the doctors' surgery - but the combination complicated the applications for grant money to such an extent that the idea was dropped.
Then, a little over a year ago there was a big meeting in the Parish Hall, with new plans that included a hall with a stage, a cafe, a new school over to one side, moving the council offices into the new building, and a youth centre. There was great support for it, and I remember Mary Fellowes saying that we had to push for this one, because it was going to be the last time for many years that money would be available for such a project.
And everything went quiet again.

Until now, with this piece in the B&R. The plan seems to be the one that was unveiled at that last meeting, with the community centre built next to the doctors' surgery, and partly on their car park - though there is provision in the plans for 163 car parking places to serve a community hall, foyer/cafe, secondary hall, youth lounge, and meeting and office rooms. The plans also incorporate sustainable features such as solar panels to provide hot water.
There have been objectors, of course - there always are. There are those who don't want the doctors' car park to be built over, and those who think that 'troublemakers' will use the footpath round the back of the existing houses and old people's bungalows. Which means 'kids', presumably, as the committee was told that the new centre would provide a focus for the energies of young people, and it was unreasonable to tar all of them with the brush of 'troublemaker'.
Leon Morelli (on behalf of the Sports Association to the back of the doctors' surgery) and Gareth Ratcliffe, are both in favour of the plan, and the plans were passed with a number of requirements to be met, such as the creation of a green travel plan (whatever that is) and something to do with the opening hours of the proposed cafe.

So we'll wait and see....

Friday, 28 August 2009

Open Door Sign

Friday rolls round again, the day that Open Door put their sign out to show that they're open.
Now, the other businesses that have had signs by the horse trough, especially the Globe, all have other ways of advertising themselves, but Open Door don't, and if the sign isn't there, people think they're closed, and don't go down.
So I got to thinking that I didn't want to see the sign being messed with again.
I went round to all my neighbours (except Mr Pugh, who I didn't manage to catch) and all of them were sympathetic to Open Door, and all of them like Jean, who runs it, and most of them were annoyed that someone had objected to the signboards in their name, without asking them.
So I dropped a note round to Jean telling her what I'd done, and that we'd all thought it was a good idea for her to move the sign down a bit and tie it to another post, if she wanted to, and we would all say she had our permission to do that.

As it turned out this morning, Jean put the sign in the usual place, because that was what she was advised to do by the police. Once the objector actually removed the sign completely (which he did last week), rather than stuffing it down the back of the horse trough, he was committing an offence, and the police could get involved.
She put a little note on it along the lines of "Please do not remove this sign, because if you do you are committing an offence. The police would like to speak to you."

It's been there all day.

Thursday, 27 August 2009

Anarchist Knitters in Town!

At least, that's who I think they are!
Little pieces of crochet are appearing all round town, on hand rails and benches, and wrapped round one of the posts of the new shelters in the Honesty Gardens. There's a little plastic tag attached to each one with a picture of a ball of wool and 3 knitting needles shaped like an 'A' on one side, and a website address on the other - which I can't find now I go looking for it, but is
I imagine they take photos of their handiwork and put them on the blog, so it's a pity I can't see for myself.

Wednesday, 26 August 2009

Cinema Window Competition

I sorted out some books on British Cinema yesterday, to put in our front window. The Film Society are running a competition, in conjunction with their Film Festival, for the best bookshop window with cinema books, and Francine Stock is going to judge it.
(Mind you, we've sold two out of the window already, so I hope there are some left when she comes round to do the judging!)
Jo, from the Film Society, was delighted we were taking part. So delighted, in fact, that she got Steve a bit worried! (He was behind the desk at the time). "I thought she was going to hug me - or kiss me - or something!" he said.

Monday, 24 August 2009

Saving Lives, Saving Memories

A few weeks ago, a lovely old gentleman phoned up the shop where I work, all the way from California. He'd just written a book about his wartime experiences, and wanted to know if we would stock it, as he'd spent some time in the Hay area in 1944.
We don't normally stock new books, but he had a chat with one of the managers, and was kind enough to send us a couple of copies.

The book is called Saving Lives, Saving Memories: a 19-year-old Ambulance Driver in the Wake of Patton's Army, by Jim Sanders as told to Martha Loeffler.
He talks about his training in the States, and coming across the Atlantic in the Queen Mary. Then his company were posted just outside Hay for some extra training, and to wait for the D-Day landings. He says they were staying at Camp Moor, which was the Army name for it. He doesn't remember the actual name of the castle-like big house where they were stationed, but he was told that Oliver Cromwell had lived there. (This is unlikely, as Oliver was an East Anglia man, but he might have stayed there for a bit).

He remembers that there were two companies of US soldiers stationed at opposite ends of Hay - one company was black and one was white, as the US Army was segregated in those days. The white soldiers got upset that the local girls were as happy to go out with black soldiers as they were with white ones - no racial prejudice around here in those days! - and the white soldiers started a riot because of it!

He also remembers that a local girl accused one of the white soldiers of rape, and his entire company had to line up for an identity parade along the main street (probably Broad Street?). He was quite relieved that she didn't pick out anyone from his company.

He also remembers that there were three pubs in Hay. He mentions the Blue Boar, which was being run at the time by a woman and her two daughters - both of whom later became GI Brides and went to the States to live.
I would imagine that the other two pubs were the Three Tuns and the Black Swan, as I know both of them were open during the War, though there may have been other pubs open that Jim Sanders didn't remember.

There were also, he says, a 'tea and tart shop' and a fish and chip booth - the tea shop usually ran out of food about an hour after opening, and the fish and chip shop never had many fish! There was also the cinema for entertainment.

Jim and his ambulance went over to Normandy six weeks after the D-Day landings, and followed the advancing army right across France, through Germany, and ended up in Czechoslovakia. In fact, they celebrated the end of the war in the brewery town of Pilsen! On the way, he was one of the first ambulances into Buchenwald concentration camp, and another, smaller camp.

The last chapter talks about his life after the war, back in small town California. Then, when he retired, he saw a vintage ambulance at auction which was the same model as the one he drove. He bought it, renovated it, and took it round local schools talking about his experiences. He's also been back to Europe, to attend the 50th Anniversary of the liberation of Buchenwald, and to the Normandy beaches, where he was able to find the exact location where he drove his ambulance up off the beach! He also met one of the concentration camp survivors that may have been carried in his ambulance!

It's a fascinating story, from a unique point of view, and I really enjoyed reading it.

Sunday, 23 August 2009

Signboards Again - getting serious

I took Islay down the hill past Open Door this morning for her walk. Their sign was propped up against their front door, and taped to it was another note.
This one looked far more 'official' and serious than previous notes, though it did contain the phrases "this will not be tolerated," and "People live here." It quoted the relevant sections of the Highways Act, and mentioned fines of up to £200, and started with a long list of the types of signs that "would not be tolerated", including posters for one off events, such as the Llanigon Show (that one was thrown in the bin, I think).

So that's the state of play at the moment. I think the next move is up to Open Door.

Saturday, 22 August 2009

Folk at the Globe

That's all I knew from the sign - folk sessions starting from around 8.30pm, but I felt like treating myself, so I went along.
It turned out that there was only one folk singer there, Jack Harris - and he was fantastic! In his hands, you could really see what a versatile instrument the guitar is. He sang mostly his own work, with a couple of traditional songs thrown in, and since we're such a literary lot here in Hay, he included two literary songs.
Where does the Brown Bear Go? was based on a children's picture book, and incorporated the entire text of the book into the song! ("Don't worry, it's not a long book.").
For the other literary song, he was asked to take part in a commemoration of Sylvia Plath's life and poetry (a bit different from the picture book!). He thought of doing something terribly literary and obscure and clever - but then he thought that some of Syliva Plath's best poems were about motherhood, so he wrote Sylvia Plath's Lullaby instead.
He comes from Builth, but is living in London at the moment - and I highly recommend going to see him if he's performing. He also has a CD out, Broken Yellow, and a website,

Friday, 21 August 2009

Now you see it....

I met Jean this morning, putting up the sign for Open Door by the horse trough. Then I went off to the launderette - and when I came back, the sign had gone again. This time it wasn't even stuffed down the back of the horse trough. It had gone completely.
So I went down to Open Door to tell Jean. "I thought we hadn't had many people in," she said, and went to the police.
When I passed by an hour later, the sign was back again.

Thursday, 20 August 2009

Welcome to Hay!

I met our new neighbours the other morning, so welcome to Carol, Paul and Muttley the dog!
They run herbfarmacy, with their own herb farm at Eardisley, and they've moved to Hay from Hereford, so they haven't come far. They're hoping to set up a shop in the front room, like Country Pie was for a while (the Harrises left the shelves and counter behind, too).
I thought I'd seen them somewhere before - they had a stall at one of the Fairtrade events at the Buttermarket.
I've added a link on the side-bar.

Wednesday, 19 August 2009

Helpful and Friendly Service

A friend of mine had her nephew and niece over for the week, and took them around the area to give them a good time - which led to the little girl spraining her wrist at the Play Barn in Hereford (nobody's fault - just one of those things). She had a bandage put on at the time, but by the time she'd been wearing it a couple of days, it had worked loose.
That was the day that my friend decided to bring them into Hay for the day, so she took the little girl into the local chemists'. They decided against deep heat cream, as the little girl is only seven, so the shop assistant suggested a tubular bandage. She got it out of the packet, and fitted it on the little girl (and all the time my friend was fidgetting, and wondering how much it would cost).
And the grand total was £1.95 for the bandage, and nothing for the service - and one much happier little girl.

Tuesday, 18 August 2009

Mentioned in the Church Times

It's not all news about the Church of England in the Church Times - there are light hearted articles too, such as the column on pastimes, which last week was about collecting books. And there, in the middle of the discussion of well loved old school stories, was a mention of Hay.

"You can spend days browsing second-hand bookshops for that elusive volume. In Hay-on-Wye, a town bursting with excellent bookshops, I once found a pristine book I had been searching for, priced at just 50p."

And then he spoils it all by adding:

"But this is time-consuming, and, these days, the internet can match buyers and sellers of the most obscure tomes in seconds."

Ah, well, at least he mentioned us!

Monday, 17 August 2009

Latest from the B&R

Lots of stories about Hay and area this week, starting on the front page with "Jazz is Back". Brecon Jazz, under the leadership of Peter Florence for the first time, seems to have been a great success.

So was the Steam Rally on Sunday, with around 4,000 people attending, and traction engines and vintage cars seen around the streets of Hay.

Eddie Izzard has been running through the Brecon area, on a fund raising mission for Sport Relief, waving a little Welsh flag.

The old steam engine at Erwood Craft Centre, which was once Erwood Railway Station, is about to be renovated.

And - could Cusop Hill, overlooking Hay, become a windfarm? Conservative Assembly Member Nick Bourne thinks it might be, and doesn't like the idea.

Meanwhile Lib Dem MP Roger Williams held a Big Ideas talk at the Globe on Thursday, with a talk about how big ideas affect people's lives, followed by a question and answer session.

So lots going on.

Sunday, 16 August 2009

Honesty Gardens

New signs up round the Gardens - after more than twenty years, they've put their prices up! It's now £1 for a hardback and 50p for a paperback (though the mouldy ones are still lurking out there after the recent rain).
In another exciting new development, an attempt is now being made (again, after more than twenty years) to shelter the books from the rain with a little verandah affair. Of course, they haven't got very far with building it yet, but the thought is there.

Saturday, 15 August 2009

Swan update

No sign of the cynets for a while now - but four adult swans have been hanging round the island. I have no idea whether two of these are the parent swans, or whether they're all completely different swans who have driven the original family away.

Friday, 14 August 2009

"I want to ride my bicycle...."

And Transition Town Hay is organising an event to make it easier for us, in conjunction with the Chamber of Commerce. Glasu, the Green fund raising body for Powys, is also involved, as is TRaCC - the transport consortium for Mid-Wales.
On 19th Sept, the event will take over the Buttermarket and Market Square. They're calling it Celebrating Tomorrow's Transport, and it will include a sponsored fancy dress bike ride from the centre of town to the Warren (fancy dress for the kids, and optional for adults).
There's going to be a circus performer, too, riding a mountain bike with stilts (!) and information on electric bikes and cars, community taxis, car sharing, and other ways to minimise car use.

Meanwhile, they're also encouraging local people to get a household energy survey done. Contact details are:
01588 638738 or

Phoebe Boulanger can be contacted for more information about new allotments on

and there's a possibility of a food security project in association with Presteigne - for more information contact

Finally, on Thursday 8th October, at the Parish Hall, the Chamber of Commerce and Transition Hay are holding a meeting aimed at local businesses, and what steps they can take to ease the problems of ever more expensive oil.

Tuesday, 11 August 2009

"Writing the Path With Heart"

I got my regular Writing Magazine a few days ago, and what should drop out of it but an advert for a writing course in France? A writing course that will be run by Hay's (well, Brechfa Pool's) very own Lyn Webster Wilde!
From 5th - 12th September, she'll be leading a writing course somewhere in the depths of the French countryside, with Tai Chi, meditation, relaxation and lots of writing. The website is and there's also a chance to win a free holiday course retreat.
Lyn's a very good writing teacher - I've been on several of her courses at Hay Library, and got a lot out of them..

Monday, 10 August 2009

Things to do on Saturday

I see that Anvil Productions are coming back to the Castle with their production of the Tempest - first performed here during the Festival. I really enjoyed it when I went to see it with Islay.

And as Shakespeare isn't to everyone's taste, the '2 Stubborn Women', Jo and Annie, are holding an Arabian Nights evening at Jo's house, with Moroccan food from Mata Hari's kitchen (I never knew she was into food - I thought her talents lay in a more horizontal direction!). There'll also be belly dancing and an Arabian souq - and Arabian cocktails. This is to raise money for the Macmillan Nurses and the North Wier Trust - further details available from the Wholefood shop.