Saturday, 28 February 2009


Two friends from my distant past visited yesterday - we worked out that we hadn't seen each other for about 28 years! Karen and Jeanette have kept in touch with each other since we all left Sixth Form, but they only recently caught up with me.
It was great to see them again, and we talked just about non-stop - memories of school, shouting across the shelves of one bookshop: "Do you remember what novel we did for O-level?"
"'Yes, I remember Adelstrop....'"
"That was the poems - what about the book?"
"We did Twelfth Night...."
"No, it wasn't Jane Eyre...."
And we caught up with our lives since school - the Reader's Digest versions anyway - and Jeanette fell in love with some art work at Haymakers, and Karen found that the cardigan she liked at La Maison didn't fit....
And we went in Golesworthy's. Karen now works for a hat company called Failsworth in Manchester, and as we wandered through the shop, she saw the stand of tweedy caps. "I wonder if any of these are ours?" She looked at the label. "They are! Look! We do these as well!"
Mr Golesworthy just happened to be passing at the time, and he knew her name when she introduced herself.
Another couple were shopping in there, and the chap came up and took his cap out from the breast of his coat. "Is this one of yours then?" he asked.
Karen looked at the label, noticed the reference number on it: "It is one of ours! This is a few years old, though - we don't do this style any more. Has it been a good hat?"
He agreed that it had been, and would be for a few more years yet.
Later, we passed Goosy Ganders, and Paul in there was wearing his tweed cap - and that was one of Karen's as well! He told her he loved it and hardly took it off - which is true, because I often see him wearing it around town. The tweed material comes from the island of Harris, which has just voted to become a National Park.
(Buy a tweed cap today - support Karen and the crofters of Harris!)
We had a great time - Karen even sorted out a birthday present for Molly, when Brian came up to us in the street to ask my advice. "Look behind you - this Hay Clinic - you could get a voucher for a facial or something. Go in and ask them!"
We aren't going to wait another 28 years before we meet up again.

Friday, 27 February 2009

Looking for an Executioner

I turned a few heads as I walked up through town this morning. But then, I was carrying a large axe over my shoulder, and I was wearing a long skirt and a cloak as part of my seventeenth century costume - the respectable bonnet was put on when I reached the castle. "Are you the Grim Reaper?" one chap asked. "No, but we're looking for an executioner," I said.
Paul came up with the block, and we set it up under the Norman tower of the castle for him to take photos. He also brought a big, leather-bound Bible, which I held while our stand-in volunteer donned the executioner's mask and wielded the axe, and Boz tried the block out for size. Strangely, what with the mask and the bonnet and Boz being head down on the block, all of our faces were hidden - but it made quite an effective tableau.
Boz went away to write a press release, with a job description for an executioner (Phil the Fruit said that there should be a queue of people applying for that job, and Dickie Hebbard, who was standing next to him, would do it for free! Steve Like asked if we'd be doing it for real.)
It's all in fun though - and for me at least, it's a case of any excuse to dress up!

Thursday, 26 February 2009

Fairtrade Coffee Tasting

We had six different Fairtrade coffees, banana bread, boiled fruit cake, carrot cake, chocolate fridge cake (made by Cameron, aged 7), spinach tarts....but when the Mayor and Kirsty Williams arrived, no-one else was there apart from us volunteers.
It was a bit of a worrying moment, but pretty soon people began to arrive, and the photographer took plenty of pictures, and everyone seemed to have a good time.
And such interesting people came. I had a chat to one lady who's been running Herefordshire Greenlinks for the past eight years. She had some leaflets for an event they're doing on 17th March, at the Courtyard in Hereford, called Health, Wealth and Green Living. They're looking for an amateur dramatics group to put on a short play about how economics works which sounded hilarious - lots of "It's behind you!" and audience participation.
Jo put on her Screen at Hay hat for a while when the treasurer came in - and was saying something about a film festival in September, and Francine Stock (of the BBC) offering to be their patron!
It was all great fun, and Sue even said she would'nt mind doing it again next year, even though Frankie had left a trail of crumbs across the carpet (but she is only just toddling, so can be excused from any better behaviour).

Wednesday, 25 February 2009

Tourism and Hay

I didn't go to the meeting last night at the Swan - it was the only time I had to make a cake for the Coffee Tasting Event (mustn't call it a Coffee Morning!) at the Bear tomorrow.
I did get to talk to several people who did go, though. On the first meeting they held, there were 15 people, so they'd organised accordingly - and got more like 70! The whole thing started with a procession of people carrying extra chairs in.
They now have a steering committee, and are going to look at the Hay website. I know I wasn't there, so I can't give an informed opinion, but from what I've heard it seems to me that they are treating Hay like any other tourist destination. The trouble is, all the other tourist destinations will be doing exactly the same sort of things - so how is Hay going to stand out from the crowd?
Boz and Paul said that there was hardly any mention of what makes Hay unique - and it's the unique selling points that are needed to attract visitors. That is, of course, the bookshops. At the Revolutionary Council meeting tonight, they said that it's ironic that we are the people who want to depose Richard Booth, but at the same time, we seem to be the ones who understand best what he has done for Hay, and want to continue that into the future.
To that end, we will be advertising for the position of Executioner shortly. (Given only the slightest encouragement, Richard may even join in himself! We will, of course have a body double/effigy for the actual falling of the axe.).

Library Events, and St David's Day

Gearing up for St David's Day, the Library have two events planned.
On the morning of 28th February, Rob Soldat is going to tell stories about St David and Wales, suitable for anyone from seven to seventy.
Then, on the 2nd March, Welsh novelist and poet Christopher Meredith will be giving a talk from 6pm - tickets are free, and available from the Library.

Meanwhile, at St Mary's, on 1st March, there will be a service with Welsh hymns - one to go to if you feel in fine voice!

Tuesday, 24 February 2009

Goodbye XOX Organics

A couple of weeks ago, work started on refurbishing XOX Organics takeaway. In the last few days, the red paint has been replaced by the same pale blue as red indigo, the Indian restaurant next door. I suspected that the takeaway had been taken over by red indigo, and my suspicions were confirmed today, when I passed by and saw the pile of breezeblocks on the floor, where the wall between the two properties was being knocked through.
Indian food is obviously a hit in Hay - I wish them good luck when they re-open.

Monday, 23 February 2009

Fairtrade Fortnight

Just getting the details of the events finalised over (mostly non-alcoholic) drinks at the Blue Boar this evening.
Oxfam have done a wonderful Fairtrade window, with the posters from the schools to vote on, and we decided what cakes we would be baking for the Coffee Tasting at the Bear on Thursday morning. Julia's also involved in Fairtrade pancake races at her local primary school tomorrow!

Saturday, 21 February 2009

Weapons Training

The re-enactors came down for the day - everyone went to stay up at the farm near Ledbury, and came down to Hay this morning. The plan was to have some concentrated weapons practice before the season starts, without giving anyone the chance to sneak off for a cup of tea and a chat half way through. We went down to the meadow on the Offa's Dyke path, with the dogs, and some biscuits and bottles of pop - and the swords and spears and daggers and gambesons (padded jackets that are usually worn under chainmail - though we were just wearing the gambies today) and helmets and gloves. We do try to be safety conscious. The swords may not be sharp, but they are still lumps of steel that can travel quite fast, and occasionally injuries can happen.
No bruises today, though - just a glorious blue sky, with a buzzard wheeling overhead, five dogs rootling around in the undergrowth, hoping for rabbits, or moles, and a good time was had by all.
That includes the family who walked by while we were practicing - we ended up showing the three young boys, and some of the adults, how to use the swords properly.
We finished off the afternoon at the Granary, with a meal and a beer (mmm, Dorothy Goodbody's).

Friday, 20 February 2009

Preparing for Fairtrade Fortnight

Monday marks the start of this year's Fairtrade Fortnight, so I spent most of the day trotting round town putting up posters for our events. The Coffee Tasting is the first main event, at the Bear on Thursday morning - we've got the Mayor and Kirsty Williams coming, which is rather good (and I've got to bake a cake, which may be fine, or may be an utter disaster....still, I can usually eat the disasters myself).
Slight technical hitch with the hamper that's going to be raffled from the Wholefood Shop window, but it will be Coming Soon! So will the display in Oxfam's windows, featuring the posters from local schools, so that people can vote for the best one (there is a prize for the kids).
There is another poster - "Swoon to the music of Alex Valentine", but that will be going up next week, in advance of the event at the Globe on March 6th.
Poor Islay is snoring on the window sill now - I've walked her little legs off!

Wednesday, 18 February 2009

This Week's B&R

Lots about Hay and the surrounding area this week.
Front page news is the Co-op giving Dial-a-Ride some money, and underneath that is the news that bus fares are going to go up by 5% next month.

Sir Bernard Ashley, widower of Laura Ashley, has just died aged 82. He went on to creat Elanbach, a local fabric company, and he'd only just signed a deal for a new factory at Builth Wells.

Fairtrade Hay get a couple of mentions for the events of Fairtrade Fortnight, starting with a Coffee Tasting at the Bear on 26th February (and I have yet to buy everything for the hamper that's going to be raffled in the Wholefood Shop's window - must get a move on there!).

Something I'd missed in a previous week's paper - GM crops appear to have been grown and harvested somewhere close to Hay. There are several letters on the subject this week - here's a run down of the situation from Rod Walters of Abergavenny:
"According to media reports....three local farmers have secretly planted GM maize in the Hay-on-Wye area.
Their irresponsible actions not only threaten the environment but could also damage the image of the farming industry in Wales." He goes on to point out that the Welsh Assembly have adopted a precautionary approach to GM crops, and are trying to make Wales GM-free.
And here's a quotation from a local small farmer:
"As a result of my reading, I believe that we need local and guarenteed control over our seed supplies and I believe that buying into the dream of an American based conglomeration with an appalling track record and giving them control of global seed supplies (which is what is their ultimate business goal), is quite simply, idiotic."
No letters are in favour, apart from a tongue in cheek reference to reducing the fertility of American ladies who have octuplets. Maybe supporters of GM will write in next week?

And finally, and on a related subject, there will be a Seed Swap at the Globe this Saturday, with heritage seeds available, and a talk by the manager of the Heritage Seed Library. I'd like to go to that one, but I'll be hitting people with swords at the time instead - our re-enactment group are coming down for a spot of weapons practice before the season starts.

Tuesday, 17 February 2009

Bits and Pieces

Nothing much to write about at the moment - the first flock of tourists is here for half-term (a welcome sight) - and if there hadn't been pictures of deep snow all over the papers we wouldn't have noticed anything unusual about this winter in Hay at all. I think we just caught the edge of the storms - though Val who goes to Stitch n Bitch was still snowed in last Thursday, which shows just how high up in the hills she lives.

My young man came for the weekend, so I went in to Hereford to meet him - the first time I've been into the Big City for a few months. I knew that Chadd's had closed down, of course, but it was sad to see the space taken over by Pound Shops selling tat.
It was warm enough (and I had the dog with me) to eat outside, at Alfresco in the square - very tasty soup, and Islay made friends with the family at the next table instantly!
Back in Hay, we started off by picking up some essential supplies - a box of chocolates from the Fudge Shop to nibble while watching films, and a pig's ear or two from Country Supplies for Islay.
We had a lovely time - but I was rather out of circulation for a couple of days!

Thursday, 12 February 2009

Transition Town group has a social

The back bar of the Swan was packed. Richard Booth was there, and Gareth Radcliffe. I don't know what other people were talking about, but I had some fascinating conversations.
One chap was looking through a book of old apple varieties, looking for something that would fruit in July ( and did you know that there are 50 varieties of plums?).
A man who lives in Cusop Dingle was discussing the possibilities of hydro-electricity along there. It's been done before - Brynmelin's electricity was generated by the watermill at the bottom of the hill. It couldn't be done now - the mill pond is now a rather lovely garden - but there are other possibilities, for other houses. I also learned that there is one traditional water mill still working in Herefordshire, at Mortimer's Cross.
I had to leave early, but it seemed to be a great success - and the main thing is that people are getting to know each other, and finding their common interests.
On the way out I stopped to chat with the lady who runs the Swan. She was interested, too, especially as they already serve local food there.

Wednesday, 11 February 2009

Not a Drop in Centre after all

I happened to bump into Stuart outside the little building at the back of the Council Chambers the other day. There was a big pile of bookshelves there, and he was waiting for a friend to help him get them into the building.
There was a brief panic when they realised that the shelves were too tall to fit where they want them, but then they realised that all they had to do was saw the bottom bit off them all, and they'd fit.
"I thought this was supposed to be a Drop In Centre now?" I asked.
"No, that was the painters' idea of a joke," Stuart said. It's actually going to be the nerve centre of his internet book business.

Friday, 6 February 2009


At least it's not as bad as 1963 or 1947 (yet!).
I was chatting in the street today, and there are local people who remember the snow starting around Christmas and not disappearing until April. "There was a farmer up Painscastle way found a sheep that had been buried in the snow for the whole nine weeks, and it was still alive," one chap said. "It was the talk of Hay for weeks after."
He also said that the water mains froze, and there was a stand pipe in Lion Street which was the only source of water for Hay.
There are some photos of Hay in the snow on Eric Pugh's website - Brian found a picture of the house he now lives in there, almost up to the eaves with snow.

Thursday, 5 February 2009

The Revolution Goeth Forward

Boz's shop window looks rather fine. He's got cutout figures of the Queen of Hearts and the King with a flamingo under his arm - these are obviously the Alice in Wonderland characters (I wonder where he could have got them from?). Standing front and centre is a masked executioner with a big shiny axe. A poster saying "Off with his head" with a picture of King Richard is also part of the tableau.
He was there at the meeting of the Revolutionary Council last night. Doug was there too - he used to put out Haywire, a little local paper. He hasn't done it for a while (told me he was feeling too lazy!) but now he thinks he might like to do a re-launch, with the Revolution as the lead story.
It was in Private Eye again this week, too - the latest news is that Richard would like to make an alliance with the Council of Ministers, which they have refused.
Other business before the Council was the Tourism meeting that is being held at the Swan on Tuesday 24th February at 5pm. Paul and Boz intend to go along, and show them the publicity that is already being generated for Hay, with copies of the articles in Private Eye and the Independant on Sunday - and possibly the Western Mail by then as well.
"It's all very organic, and we seem to just ramble around a lot," Paul commented near the end of the meeting, "but then things get done!"

Sunday, 1 February 2009

Clever Gardening Tip

It's almost a courtyard garden, behind Half Moon Cottage, with the back of Half Moon House looking down on it from one side, and a third house on the other. The fourth side is open to Lion Street.
So it's quite a small space - but they've certainly made the most of it. They've put up big mirrors on the wall of the house, to give the illustion that the space is a lot bigger than it really is.