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!"