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."