Monday, 27 April 2009

Hay Festival

The brochures have arrived!
Though it has been possible to book online for a while now.
Lots of good stuff, as usual - most expensive seems to be Desmond Tutu at £50 a ticket! And there's a learn to knit workshop that costs £10. Other events are more reasonably priced, though (and I'm sure Desmond Tutu will be worth the money). The Chief Rabbi and Archbishop Rowan Williams will be there too - he's talking about Dostoevsky. And Tibetan monks, who will be dancing and chanting.
There's a full children's programme, including our own Jenny Valentine, and lots of other good children's authors. Alex Valentine will be singing, too, and Father Richard (and choir) will be playing the organ at Llanigon church.
As usual there will be a shuttle bus around town, this year sponsered by Booth's Books, and a Sky Shuttle bus for the surrounding villages, which should make car parking a little bit easier. There will be extra bus services to Brecon and Hereford, too.

Let's hope the weather is better than last year!

Saturday, 25 April 2009

1,000 Bikers

"Have you heard about the thousand bikers?" The lady across the road sounded a bit agitated. Her friend had just phoned her to tell her that a thousand bikers were due to descend on Hay on Saturday for a Biker Wedding!
On reflection, she admitted that her friend might have been exaggerating a bit.
This morning, I thought there must be something to the rumour, though, as police cones were in place all round the Council Chambers (where weddings are also held) and there was a police van there.

I missed all the excitement - I went off to Wonderwool with Tracy, and was very happy to come back with everything I'd planned to get there, and a few extra things like weld and madder, to show children what Viking and medieval dyes look like, and some new flax to spin.

There were a few Harleys and Triumphs parked around town when I came back, and quite a few people wandering round wearing leathers and carrying helmets.
"What about the thousand bikers, then?" I asked in Broad Street.
"Oh, there weren't that many - maybe more like a hundred."

Thursday, 23 April 2009

This week's Brecon and Radnor

There's a letter from one Patrick Keylock, a fervent supporter of the King of Hay. He was there, he says, when Richard declared independence, and criticises the members of the Revolution (including me) for jumping on Richard's 'gravy train' and "now they feel the need to raise their profile for their own gain they have the nerve to insult Hay's most recognisable figure whilst all three would have difficulty being noticed in their own mirror." (!)

It's quite amusing that he thinks we're doing it for personal gain. I don't expect to gain a single penny from it - but if it raises the profile of Hay nationally (and internationally) then I'll be more secure in my job, and that's really the point of it all - raising the profile of Hay, rather than any individual.

He also says that, in the early days of Richard's reign, "we even had our own ice cream and passports, but you would need to be local to remember that."
And that is precisely the point - we need more than the locals remembering that. We need to tell the world.

Sunday, 19 April 2009

A Touch of the Wild West...

...when canoes full of Red Indians came paddling down the Wye yesterday.
At any rate, they were dressed in buckskin and doing the redskin war whoop!

Saturday, 18 April 2009

Waste Not, Want Not

The Transition Towns group, along with the County Council and Hay Friends of the Earth, took the Buttermarket today for a variety of stalls on a green theme.
The Council are particularly interested in reducing the amount of rubbish they collect every week - it's costing them a lot of money per tonne over a certain amount just in fines, so they have a serious incentive to try to collect less, and to encourage people to recycle more.
Composting is one solution, for kitchen and garden waste, and they had compost bins there, and a competition to win a compost bin. I went round with my sister, her husband and my little nephew, and one lady got James to pull cards out of a box and then tell her whether the picture on the card was compostable or not. He did quite well for three and a half - but they do have three compost bins at home.
At one end there was a table for kids' art activities, and a video screen showing short films about waste.
I picked up a couple of leaflets for Sustrans, now that I have a new bike (new to me, anyway), to give me an idea of where the local cycle tracks are. I know about the one by the river, but I'm not sure where Route 42 goes after that.
And after the serious business of waste disposal and compost, there was the fun side of recycling, with stained glass products made from old wine and beer bottles, and little windmills made from old tin cans.

Friday, 17 April 2009

Building Work around Hay

I noticed today that work had started on the old estate agent's office next to Kilvert's, that's been on the market for about a year now. Chatting to the ladies at the Mixing Bowl next door on the other side (while Islay made herself known to them in a "Hello, I see you're opening the fridge...." sort of way), it seems that Sal from Fleur de Lys antiques will be moving in there soon, now that her present shop, rented from Booths, is due to be converted into toilets.
Meanwhile, in Booth's, men in hard hats have been wandering round in a purposeful fashion, and a mini digger has been seen out the back. Plans for the 70 seat theatre are obviously in hand - and on Monday and Tuesday the shop will be closed to allow scaffolding to go up.
And the first of the Millbank houses now has a 'Sold' sign up. They're putting the roofs on the latest block of four houses, but they've put top soil down on the land that was originally intended to be the other 20 or so houses in the development, so maybe they aren't intending to build those just yet.
Down at the site of the old Ship Inn, just a bit further along the road, there are plans to put new housing up there as well, but no work has started yet. I can't work out how people will get in or out - the ground surface is at least three feet above the road, with a retaining wall.

And finally, goodbye to Silent Voices. The blinds are pulled down and the sign has been painted out.

Thursday, 16 April 2009

Planet Hay

It's been a wonderful day!

Last week, I had a look at my spinning equipment - and found that the antique wool carders I use have finally given up the ghost. One of them has split right across the back. You use them to comb the raw wool so that the fibres are all in the same direction, to make the wool easier to spin. When I go into schools, kids love doing this - but they do tend to be a bit rough! I'm going to be a Viking again next week, so there wasn't time to look around for another antique pair. I got a modern Ashford pair instead (very good company for all sorts of spinning and weaving supplies, based in New Zealand - fortunately there are shops over here that stock their stuff).

So, this lunch time, I got home from work to give Islay her usual trot round the market, to find a note from the postman saying the parcel was at the Post Office. Yippee!
Outside the Post Office, I ran into Huw Parsons, who has been writing a book about Hay - and the copies have just arrived from the printers! He was going round town giving out the complementary copies to all the people who have helped him - including me, so I got mine signed there and then!
I then spent all afternoon showing it round. It's made my day!

There's lots of good stuff there - and Huw really is a very good photographer! He's talked to all sorts of people around Hay, like Jean Miller the artist, Jayne the Loudest Librarian in the West, and Roger Morris who keeps pigs and makes cider. He spent some time with Gifford's Circus when they came last May, and went up to the Steam Rally. The Festival is there, of course, and some of the bookshops, but also Golesworthy's and the Thursday Market. Father Richard and Jimmy the Curate get a mention (and a photo), and so do the couple who run the local bakery.
And Anita Evans did some serious research for pieces on the old workhouse and the Second World War graves in the cemetery.
And there's more, of course, but you'll have to read the book for that.
The launch party is at the Globe on May 16th.

Tuesday, 14 April 2009

Sunday Trading

The Cinema Bookshop, and Booth's Bookshop, were closed on Easter Sunday, by law. During the rest of the year, both shops are only able to open for restricted hours on Sundays. (I think The Bookshop on the Pavement may come under this legislation, too). It's because of the floor space - the shops are so big they come under the same rules as supermarkets for the purposes of the Sunday Trading Laws. There are so few bookshops of that size that I suppose nobody thought about it when the law was being drafted.
On Sunday, a gentleman came up to the Cinema and found that he couldn't get in. He came back on Monday, and we had a little chat while I served him. "I'm an MP," he said, "and, do you know, I voted for the Sunday Trading Law. If I'd known then that it meant I couldn't get into a bookshop on Easter Sunday, I might have thought twice!"

Saturday, 11 April 2009


Easter Saturday, and the sun is shining, and crowds of tourists throng the streets of Hay.
A flautist was busking outside HSBC this morning, and selling copies of his CD, which meant that the girl with the guitar, who has been in that spot lately, moved into Backfold. There was a spot up in the Castle where, if you moved a few yards either way, you could hear first one, and then the other.
Down in the Castle Gardens, the old and mouldy books have finally been removed, and a few new ones put out, and there was a display of art for sale.
In the Buttermarket, the cat rescue charity were having a jumble sale.
And on our walk this morning, I saw the first stitchwort in flower in the hedgerows near Radnor's End

I hope we get the same sort of weather tomorrow.

Friday, 10 April 2009


The lady I was serving in the shop looked vaguely familiar. "Didn't I see you this morning outside Black Swan Cottage?" I asked. "You were helping to back a car out and I was walking past with my dog."
"You've got a good memory," she said. "Yes, that was me - we had the holiday cottage for last Easter too. I don't remember your face though - I only remember the dog and the rabbit."
On the way up to Radnor's End that morning, Islay had found a rabbit, recently dead on the road. She was very good, and didn't leave the pavement, but she was watching it so intently I half expected it to levitate and come towards her. Fortunately, I was there to do it all for her, so I ran into the road, picked up the still warm bunny, and carried it home for her (well, she's getting old - and if she was given it straight away, she'd just have eaten it straight away. I wanted my breakfast, too.).
So that's how I came to be walking past Black Swan Cottage cradling a dead rabbit in my arms.

When I did give it to Islay, she swaggered round to the back garden to eat it as if she'd caught it herself.

Thursday, 9 April 2009


Just a couple of shop signs I saw around town yesterday:

At the mobile phone shop near the Clock Tower:
"Shop closed Wednesday - my horse is running @ Hereford races."

At Gym and Tonic near the Cinema:
"No aerobics tonight - cat not well."

Wednesday, 8 April 2009

Latest from the B&R

We're on Page 3! (Good job the B&R isn't the Sun!)
There's a wonderful write up about the trial of King Richard, entitled "King of Hay brought to book in kangaroo court", with a picture by the 'court artist' showing Boz (with what appear to be ass's ears, or possibly he is the kangaroo), me, Rob Soldat and the king (crowned). The axe is prominent behind me.
"While reading between the lines and admitting this was a novel idea, The Brecon and Radnor Express observed the letter of the law and witnessed another page in Hay-on-Wye's history. Was the town ready to turn over a new leaf?"

Tuesday, 7 April 2009


As I passed by Shepherds yesterday evening, I saw Marijana waving to me from where she was chatting to a group of people. Shepherd's isn't normally open that late in the evening, but yesterday they were holding a reception to launch the new exhibition of Books4Looks, a method of displaying interesting and beautiful book covers as works of art. And you can still read them, too.
Marijana did this in her shop in Backfold last year, but needed a new venue this year as she gave up the shop some time ago. I'm not sure of the name of the artist she's working with, but it's a welcome change from the floral fabric fish tails which formed the window display of the last exhibition at Shepherds (I kept looking at them as I went past and thinking "But what are they for?" Which I'm sure wasn't the point, but that's just me).

Monday, 6 April 2009


On Friday, I went into Hereford to meet my young man. I took Islay with me - she likes going to different places, and she loves going on the bus.
We picked up pork rolls from the butcher's round the back of All Saints, and a coffee from one of the outdoor cafes on the square. While we were wandering around, at least four different people came up to make a fuss of Islay, and have a chat - mostly telling us about their pets, and asking what medication Islay is on for her arthritis, that sort of thing. Islay took it in her stride, and accepted the fuss as her due, and I chatted to the people who came up to her. It's quite normal in Hay, so I wasn't surprised that it happened in Hereford, which is also a friendly place.
Mark looked on with mild amazement. "This would never happen in London," he said. "Anyone doing that in London - you'd think they were a nutter!"

Thursday, 2 April 2009

The Trial of the King

It was packed out at the Council Chambers - I don't think there was a spare seat left, and people were overflowing onto the landing! Richard turned up with a number of supporters, who occasionally shouted "Shame!" and "Long live the King!" during the proceedings. I couldn't find a gavel, so I used one of my wooden drop spindles (not that anybody took much notice).
Actually, it all went very well, and everyone took it in good part. Boz has clearly been hiding a long held ambition to be Perry Mason - he gave an excellent speech as prosecuter. Not only did he bring charges against Richard for an untidy Castle Gardens and talking about sending books as beermats up to the Scottish booktown of Wigtown - there were far more serious matters that he brought to our attention. By buying up "all the readable books in America", Richard had single-handedly created an illiterate United States, so that the illiterate people voted (twice) for an illiterate President - and therefore Richard Booth was indirectly responsible for the Iraq War!
When Richard was asked to answer the charges, he made a speech (in which the words 'not' and 'guilty' did not appear - Rob Soldat, his defence counsel, commented that it was a good job the charge against him wasn't one of irrelevance!). He did tell an amusing story about his uncle, who was Keeper of Oriental Ceramics at the British Museum - but said that the ceramics were irrelevant to popular culture. What was far more important was the cheap Japanese prints that the ceramics were wrapped up in. He used to play cricket in his stock room....
Rob, on Richard's behalf, pretty much admitted the charges, but added that the untidiness of the Castle Gardens didn't matter too much, and the beermats proposal was only a thought crime, and you shouldn't have your head cut off just for thinking things. He added that, far from being a tyrant, Richard was entering a more constitutional phase of his monarchy - in which Richard said whatever he wanted, and the people did whatever they wanted, so everyone was happy.
When the jury was asked to go outside to consider the verdict, half of Richard's supporters went out with them.
Tracy came back to say that some people out there were taking it way too seriously - and proceeded to attempt to bribe me with wool and a trip to Wonderwool. However, I had already been bribed with Smarties....
The foreman of the jury brought in the expected Guilty verdict, and I laid aside my white bonnet (I was the only one there in 17th C costume, though Rob had come in a rather smart velvet jacket, and Boz was wearing quite a sharp suit). I put on my black bonnet and pronounced the sentence of death - to shouts from the floor that this was a Stalinist show trial.
It was all very entertaining. There were even two 'members of the press' there - a chap in a trilby with a Press card stuck in the band (saying Brecon and Radnor Express), and a lady in a beret with a pencilled on moustache, who was acting as the court artist. They were asking for people's names afterwards, so maybe they really were press!

Tracy went in to see Boz this morning - he cringed a bit, apparently, since she was one of the main Royalist supporters - but she'd only dropped in to say how brilliant she thought his speech was!